BEING a first-round draft pick at a football club comes with a bit of pressure. It’s the world we live in – 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds expected to have an instant impact in AFL. Well, that is the the case for most. I was lucky, I was drafted alongside the much-hyped Tom Hawkins.
‘Hawk’ had the public expectation to turn into a superstar within five minutes – a teenage key forward expected to manhandle and outsmart veteran defenders immediately. It was unfair and was never going to happen. It takes time. His first two games probably didn’t help him, he kicked three and four goals respectively. He was 110 kilograms, had never done a pre-season before and went from monstering boys while playing with Melbourne Grammar to playing against men.
At first, all the outside pressure from the media and football public didn’t bother him, it just happened around him while he took very little interest in it.
I find some teenage players are very naive about the fanfare associated with their performances. It’s like they are still just playing at school or TAC Cup but just with 60,000 people watching them. Over the course of Hawk’s short career, the outside pressure hasn’t really got to him. But the high standards that he has set for himself have probably paralysed him at times.
He has just continued to work hard. He’s had patience in his development, faith that he was being taught and coached the right way, and always believed the rest was going to take care of itself.
Hawk came back at the start of his third pre-season (2009) chiselled with skin folds under 45 millimetres. I’m not sure what it was but things had changed. He went from a likeable kid who had an easy-going attitude about most things in life to a man who didn’t waste a session when he trained. He ensures that every weights, skills, speed and conditioning session is done to the best of his ability and he is getting the most out of it. He is still working hard on game reviews and education sessions – however, we all know he dreads the thought of Chris Scott or Nige Lappin asking him a question in front of the boys.
He has a real addictive, caring personality that draws people to him. He is a loyal friend who is quickly becoming a leader of our footy club. Hawk rarely sits still if he is not training. He loves playing golf any chance he can get and if it’s not golf then he is rounding up a group of boys to go out for lunch. He is the butt of 90 per cent of the jokes and pranks that happen around the footy club. Especially if it comes to the quantity of food being eaten in our players’ lounge after training, or if someone feels his hygiene issues need attention.
He is a complete romantic to his long-term girlfriend Emma. This side to him gets a majority of us other boys in trouble with our girlfriends as we are constantly being told we don’t put in the effort Hawk does.
Over the weekend, I was asked several times how a guy who hands a ball to Stevie Johnson in a grand final because he has got himself into such a panic about his set-shot kicking for goal, ends up drilling a 55-metre goal after the siren to win a big game? The answer is easy. As a playing group we have told him we want him to go back and have a shot when in range. Hawk does more work then anyone with his goalkicking. He is one of the better ground kicks in our team.
I ran over to him quickly on Friday when he took that mark at the death because I knew he was capable of kicking it. At times his teammates/coaches have more belief in him then he has in himself.
Hawk is maturing as a player quicker then ever. Several times this year he has dragged us to victory. On the weekend we played a team we really respect and without arguably their best player they fought back from 51 points down. They are premiership favourites and going to be hard to beat. He delivered for us. With Hawk, what you see is what you get.
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