Hawthorn have all but ruled out trading Luke Breust or Jack Gunston this year, declaring that they need to maintain as much quality on their list as possible.
The club announced on Monday that triple-premiership players Ben Stratton and Paul Puopolo will both play their last AFL games on Sunday, retiring after decorated careers.
While Shaun Burgoyne has signed on for a farewell season next year, the club is yet to reveal the futures of fellow veterans James Frawley, Ricky Henderson and Isaac Smith, all of whom are to come out of contract at the end of the season. A source close to the situation has, however, confirmed that Smith has been offered a new deal, which would see him remain at the club next year.
Gunston, who turns 29 in October, and Breust, who will be 30 in November, are contracted until the end of 2022 and 2021, respectively.
Their premiership teammate Jordan Lewis has suggested that the pair be allowed to find new homes given the Hawks find themselves 16th on the ladder at the tail end of a dreary campaign.
Hawthorn football boss Graham Wright poured cold water on that idea on Monday, telling SEN that the Hawks were determined to keep their top tier.
« If you’re talking about those sort of guys, Breust, Gunston, Liam Shiels, who have been outstanding players for us and have been really good players for us, at the moment we need every good player we can get, » Wright said.
« The last thing we would want to do is take away two or three of our best players and feel like we can get value for them, that’s not what we are about. »
Captain Stratton, 31, will line up for his 202nd AFL match against Gold Coast while Puopolo is just shy of the 200-game milestone, with Sunday to be his 196th.
Hawks sources indicated that Jaeger O’Meara is a frontrunner to replace Stratton as skipper however Wright said a successor could come from any of the Hawthorn leadership group, which also includes Smith, Gunston, Shiels, Ben McEvoy and O’Meara’s co-vice-captain Tom Mitchell.
« We haven’t really put a lot of thought into that, to be honest. We’ve got seven guys who’ve been in the leadership group with Stratts, and you would think it probably comes out of that group of players, » Wright said.
Former Hawks assistant Damian Carroll said on Monday that Stratton had personified a « fight to the death » mentality and had also set an example with his work-rate and professionalism in the gym.
« We would always show a pressure tape and a pressure count on the Monday after games and Stratts would win that more often than anyone else, when he was at the peak of his powers. I suppose for me, the vision of him going back with his eyes on the ball, or running back and chasing and getting a hand on someone, we sort of called it a fight to the death mentality that he was just a leader in that particular area, » said Carroll, who became a victim of Hawks’ football department cost-cutting earlier this year.
Carroll also lauded Puopolo, who arrived from South Australia as a small defender but became an integral part of the ultra-successful Hawks side as a pressure forward.
« He was actually banned from the gym for a couple of years because he’d look at the weights and he’d put on size, » Carroll said.
« We actually named a drill that we designed after Poppy that just required repeat efforts under pressure and getting smashed by guys with a tackle bag.
« He didn’t speak a lot in team meetings but whenever he spoke, everyone stopped and listened. It was thoughtful, it was measured, it was also very open and honest. »
Paul Puopolo, Ben Stratton, Hawthorn Football Club, Australian Football League, Gold Coast Football Club, Alastair Clarkson, Career
Actu monde – AU – Gunston and Breust to stay, Stratton and Puopolo retire