A leading former AFL recruiting manager says prime Hawthorn midfielders Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara would only be worth second-round draft selections should they be put up for trade as coach Sam Mitchell insists both remain a key part of the club’s rebuild.
O’Meara, who was stand-in skipper earlier in the season, and 2018 Brownlow medallist Mitchell have spent time out of the midfield this season as the Hawks seek quicker legs and a new look in the hope of fast-tracking a return to finals.
Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara have been down on performance this season.Credit:Getty Images
Both men were put up for trade last year, but there were no suitors. Industry sources expect the Hawks to test the market again come October, despite the pair having a year to run on their contracts.
Industry sources say the Hawks would want a first-round selection in exchange for Mitchell, 29 this month, but Matt Rendell, a former recruiter with Adelaide and Collingwood, said Mitchell and O’Meara, 28, would not generate the value the Hawks may hope for.
“The Hawks are only going to get a second round for either. There are two reasons – age profile, and everyone knows the Hawks are trying to tip them out, so it’s a buyer’s market,” Rendell said.
“If they [Mitchell and O’Meara] can find a home and get two years with a club in contention, they should jump at it.”
One current recruiter suggested Mitchell could be worth a late first-round or high second-round selection, while O’Meara, whose career has been impacted by injuries, was worth a second-round pick.
As the 12th-placed Hawks (3-5 win-loss record) fine-tune preparations for Saturday’s clash against Richmond, coach Mitchell dismissed talk about the future of the pair on Wednesday.
“It’s the furthest thing from my mind. It’s round eight, they are really important parts of our club, of our team, our leadership model, of our influence and our weight of numbers in the group to try and get the best out of everyone,” Mitchell said.
“We are trying to master our craft and make progress in the direction that we would like to go and hold ourselves to the standard we think will take us to finals and be having the ability to win finals and they are going to be an important part of that.”
O’Meara and Mitchell’s production has dipped this season. Mitchell is averaging almost 26 touches per game, nine less than last year, and had only 14 against Essendon on Saturday when the Hawks conceded eight final-term goals. His metres gained has also dipped from 388 to 334.
Despite having 28 touches against the Bombers, O’Meara is averaging a modest 20 disposals per game, six less than last season, and has seen his metres gained drop from 341 to 248.
“He [Mitchell] has had a change of role. Across the last few seasons, our midfield has been a work in progress, and we are still really looking at trying to get the mix right. I think we have made significant changes through the year on how that has gone,” Mitchell said.
“We have had three different ruckmen, six or seven different guys through the midfield, as far as inside midfielders go and the wing. So, I think Tom and Jaeger are both spending less time in there but having contributions in different aspects of the game.
“I think Jaeger’s performance on the weekend was really strong. Tom had a day he would prefer to do some things differently, but he is still learning the craft of a forward as well. He is still making a contribution to the team. It’s perhaps not as strong on the stats sheet as it was in the past, but he is still a vital player for us and a vital part of that midfield group.”
Draftee onballer Josh Ward (averaging 15 disposals in seven games) has impressed, while Jai Newcombe has emerged as a star.
There is also intrigue in terms of the Hawks’ captaincy. Ben McEvoy (currently in health-and-safety protocols) remains sidelined until after the mid-season break because of a serious neck injury, leaving O’Meara and James Sicily to share the top role. O’Meara held the role for four weeks, while Sicily began his stint against Melbourne a fortnight ago. Sicily’s stint will be reviewed after round 10.
Mitchell said forward Mitch Lewis (hamstring/illness) and Chad Wingard (virus) are expected to return.
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