Emerging star Will Day looks primed to slot into Hawthorn’s midfield brigade this season after a standout performance during a feisty internal Hawks hit-out.
Most of the club’s playing list on Wednesday night took part in an intra-club clash – eight days before their unofficial practice match against Geelong at GMHBA Stadium.
After star defender James Sicily and second-year player Sam Butler were caught up in a scrap at training earlier this month, young gun duo Denver Grainger-Barras and Connor Macdonald were involved in another incident on Wednesday night.
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The pair briefly tussled after a late spoil just before half-time of the scrimmage match in Bundoora.
Players from both teams – the ‘Probables’ and ‘Possibles’ – came in to break the pair up as the siren sounded to end the first half.
“I think they all want to do that and sometimes as a coach you want to tell them not to, but I’ve sort of let it go this year,” Hawks coach Sam Mitchell told 9 News Melbourne during the game.
“They’re bringing that energy and I think the fans … they’ve all enjoyed that so far.”
Grainger-Barras, who’s played 21 games since being drafted with Pick 6 in the 2020 draft, was part of the Possibles team, with Sicily, James Blanck and Sam Frost appearing to be the first-choice key defenders.
Dual premiership Kangaroo and Fox Footy analyst David King, who watched the hit-out at Bundoora, wrote on Twitter that Grainger-Barras was “well beaten” in some one-on-one contests. “Major concern,” King wrote.
It’d been flagged in recent months that Day, who’d shown exciting glimpses as a damaging rebounding defender across his first three seasons with the Hawks, was set to be exposed in the midfield more often this season after spending a lot of the summer training with Hawthorn’s on-ballers.
Day on Wednesday night impressed during his stints on the ball, while he also spent some time on the wing.
Asked if Day would be part of the Hawks’ on-ball set-up in Round 1, Mitchell said: “We know what Will can do in the back-half of the ground and I think we’ve exposed him to more midfield minutes this pre-season. We’ll see how that pans out over the next couple of months.”
Fellow first-round draftee Josh Ward, who’s been hampered by hip and groin issues this pre-season, moved well in the midfield alongside Jai Newcombe, while Dylan Moore was dynamic across half-forward – with the odd stint in the midfield – to kick a few goals.
Delisted free agent signing Fergus Greene looks primed to slot into the chasm left by new Lion Jack Gunston. Greene, who earned his spot on the Hawks’ list after 83 goals from 26 VFL games for Box Hill, led well and was a constant scoreboard threat during the hit-out.
Trade acquisition Lloyd Meek paired up with Ned Reeves in the senior side, with the duo rotating between the ruck and a key forward role. Meek, who’s had a strong summer on the track, appears destined to be part of Hawthorn’s senior team from the start of the season.
Karl Amon, who was also picked up by the Hawks in last year’s exchange period, was a standout across half-back and wing, while Changkuoth Jiath showed trademark dash and dare.
“He’s exciting to watch,” Mitchell said of Jiath. “But I think him and Jarman Impey and Lachie Bramble and Jack Scrimshaw – that group are quite dangerous as a collective.
“Obviously CJ catches your eye with his speed, but all those guys are producing some good performances today.”
Of the 2022 draftees, Henry Hustwaite caught the eye for the Possibles with his decision-making in traffic. Cam Mackenzie and Josh Weddle started in the Possibles but were moved into the Probables after half-time. The two first-round draftees are in the mix to play Round 1.
Star forward Chad Wingard was rested from the match as the Hawks continue to manage his loads.
Injured spearhead Mitch Lewis was also on the sidelines but was the forward line coach of the Possibles’ forward line.
Mitchell this week said Lewis’ “absolute best-case scenario” was a Round 4 or 5 return from his knee injury. Lewis, though, is hopeful of an earlier comeback.
“I actually had a conversation with ‘Mitch’ afterwards and said ‘you said a little bit longer than what I’m hoping for’,” Lewis said with a laugh on 7 News Melbourne.
“There’s certainly not a timeline on it at this stage, but I’m very much hoping for the early part of the season.”
Story Credit: foxsports.com.au