James Sicily looms as the man most likely to take over as captain at Hawthorn but coach Sam Mitchell is adamant the huge exit of experienced players hasn’t left the club void of leadership.
A decision on the captain is set to be fleshed out during an upcoming four-day camp in Morwell and while there won’t be a leadership vote, Mitchell’s coaching philosophy will ensure lengthy discussions between players and coaches.
Hawthorn is looking to appoint a fourth captain in seven years after the retirement of Ben McEvoy. Sicily stands out among a playing group which has also lost senior players Jack Gunston, Tom Mitchell and Jaegar O’Meara to rival clubs.
Mitchell said those senior exits mirrored a time in Mitchell’s own playing career when superstar Shane Crawford retired after the 2008 premiership. Like the Hawks did then, Mitchell is adamant the hole those players left at the club can be filled.
“I go back to my early days and I remember when Shane Crawford retired and it was like, ‘How is this club going to run without Shane Crawford?’” Mitchell said on Tuesday.
“It was quite amazing, losing someone of such significance as him, but every club finds its equilibrium.
“We lost some experienced players and some good players, of course, but the group came together and there is 40-odd players and they just find this groove and equilibrium and energy.
“We spent a lot of time last year energising the group and flattening the leadership. We go into camp next week where we’ll start to knuckle down on what the process and structure of our leadership program will look like for the year.”
Mitchell conceded Sicily, the club’s reigning best and fairest, was the “big, obvious one” to be named captain, but wasn’t a lock to replace McEvoy.
“I’m pretty confident we’ve got a few options,” he said.
“I mean, externally James Sicily is the big, obvious one, but certainly there’s a lot of players who I wouldn’t underestimate their influence on our group
“I’ll probably keep exactly what we are looking for internal … but you want leaders to be people who inspire other people to be like them.”
Mitchell praised the club’s top two draft picks, Cameron McKenzie and Josh Weddle, for their pre-season work, declaring both “don’t look out of place in our match sim” at training.
Despite the young group, Mitchell said there was no reason his squad, with all bar three players in full training, could not progress faster than most expect them to in 2023.
“We’re not talking about where we want to finish or how many games we want to win; I don’t imagine I’ll ever be that type,” he said.
“What we’ve said to this group is there is no speed limit on where we are going. Our playing group is really clear on the direction and desire we have to get to the top and stay there.
“There’s not a quick, easy fix to get there. There’s also nothing that says we can’t do it straight away. It’s up to us to go as fast as we can in that process.”