Hawthorn fan-favourite Jarman Impey was able to piece together one of his most consistent campaigns in 2023. We sat down with him to chat about his leadership aspirations, his footy journey to date, his relationship with Sam Mitchell and more.

Let’s take it back to the start of the year. You were named in the ‘Moorditj Kuda’ (leadership group) for the first time… what did that inclusion mean to you? 

"It was very rewarding to be named as part of the Moorditj Kuda group at this great club. But at the same time, I felt like I was a natural leader anyway, so I didn’t really need a role as such."

What type of leader do you want to be at the Hawks?

"I’m more of a lover and a carer, that is something that comes really natural to me. I bring that love and energy aspect. I like to lead by example, I make sure that my standards are really clear. Whether that’s working on the track or following up afterwards. Being that caring, loving type – wrapping my arm around someone when they need it opposed to some who are more assertive and direct. I feel like that’s why the Moorditj Kuda group works so well, there are so many different personalities and I think I play my role really well. I’ve just had to be myself, which is the best part about it."

You've battled several injuries across your footy journey – including a knee reconstruction back in 2019 – how as it having an injury-free year in 2023?

"In my first year at the club, I played 23 games, I played the whole season. Prior to that, I didn’t have too many injuries at all. I was having a good year in 2019 and then I did my ACL. But I was so determined to come back and be the best that I could be. I’m very persistent as a person, so I just got back on my high horse. Then 2020 happened with COVID-19. Then I set myself up for another good year in 2021 and unfortunately in Round 13 I snapped my ankle, which put me back as well. This year it was good to have a strong pre-season and be injury-free. I played every game but one this year. Everyone asks me ‘how come you’ve had a good, consistent year?’ And it’s because I haven’t had any niggles or injuries, that was a big part of it."

What did you take away from those experiences being injured?

"I think it helped build my character and resilience. There has always been that resilience part of me, but it did help to build character and not take things for granted. Having missed a fair chunk with injuries, it makes you grab onto the opportunities when you do have them."

You inked a new deal with the club earlier this year, how committed are you to the future of Hawthorn?

"We knew we were going through this re-build as a club, and it was a clean slate for me as well. You can see these young players and they have some talent, but at the start of the year there was some inconsistency. You see the way in which the boys are growing, the characteristics and the leadership they're building is first-class. It was probably an easy decision for me then to want to stay. I’m really invested."

You're 28 and now one of the more experienced heads at the club. Does it feel like time has flown by?

"As you’ve seen this year, we're a young and building side. I want to stay on as long as possible and play good football, so hopefully we can have some ultimate success. I feel like I was in high school not that long ago – the years go so quick and that’s why you’re got to stay in the present, stay in the moment and not take things for granted. I’m 10 years in the system now. I bring high energy, I’m always joking around, I always feel really young anyways. I came to the club the same year as Dylan Moore and James Worpel, so I sort of feel like their age."

As part of the leadership group, what are you doing to fast-track this squad to be back in premiership contention?

"Consistency is the main thing for us. We have a responsibility to be consistent most weeks and keep driving standards. If you let standards drop, that’s a missed possibility where you could’ve got better. Our coaches have been amazing with that, Sam has been really solid with that, putting players in different positions and situations to help them fast-track their football. I’ve seen so much growth with this team since the start of the year."

On the field you never hold back, where does your competitiveness come from?

"It’s a good question because I’ve never really thought of it like that. I think it comes down to upbringing and persistence through life. I don’t like letting people down. I always reflect on my teammates and want to be a player who drives the standards, who is resilient every week and can keep backing up their performances. That was a goal of mine, to play as many games as I could this year and be persistent."

Your good friend Karl Amon, who you played with at Port Adelaide, joined the club this year. What has it been like playing alongside him?

"It has been amazing and so enjoyable. I’ve known Karl since I was 15 years old, we did the Flying Boomerangs (football development and leadership program) together. I know his family really well and he knew my old man really well too. We had that connection at Port Adelaide and then we got drafted together. It’s worked out amazingly well. We didn’t have the ultimate success together at Port, but when I heard he was coming to the Hawks, I thought maybe this is meant to be. Hopefully we can chase that ultimate dream here and have success together. I love playing with Karl. He’s a tremendous character, he fits in seamlessly here."

You visited the Northern Territory during the bye week earlier this year alongside Will Day, Connor Macdonald and Dylan Moore… what was that experience like for you?

"I’ve always just connected well with the community, I think it’s always important to give back. You might not always feel like such a role model individually, but you just remember back to those days when you were younger, and you looked up to these older players. I’ve always had a soft spot to giving back where I could. This season we went up to Darwin, I was lucky to bring up my finance Annabelle as well and show her more of my heritage, my Aboriginality, and she loved that. We all had such a great time, it really opened up their eyes."

You’re a proud Yorta Yorta man and you helped design the clubs 2023 Indigenous guernsey. What did that mean for you to be involved in that process?

"It’s quite bizarre designing something that everyone ends up wearing. A goal before I finished up my career was to design an AFL guernsey and I was very lucky enough to do that this year. I wanted something that would represent the club with a big hawk across the chest, but ultimately give back to the community where they felt like they could be apart of it too, that’s why we’ve got the meeting places and past Indigenous players on it as well. I really wanted to represent my people, the Yorta Yorta mob and it was a proud moment. I worked with an artist and there was a bit of back and forth to get it to where I wanted it, but I was happy in the end. It  was surreal. We won two games wearing it so all the boys were asking if we could wear it for the rest of the year. It will be probably something I’ll reflect on more later, but I made sure to keep a couple of little jumpers just in case I have kids in the future and I can pass it down to them. I framed a couple as well to give to a few family members."


What has it been like working alongside Sam Mitchell?

"It has been really enjoyable, I feel like he’s come such a long way. Each month, he’s got better and that just shows his characteristics. A lot of the players would say the same. Coming back from my ankle injury, he could see that I wasn’t moving too well. He just said to me “Jars don’t worry about playing back, play it forward on your own instead of trailing someone, and just react to how your ankle feels. Go up there kick some goals, have some fun.” I think that’s where our relationship bonded as well, he had my best interests at heart and looking out for me in that aspect. At the start of the year he asked me “Where do you want to play?” I said “I think I’ve played my best football off the backline, I’d like to get back to playing some of my best football”, and that was pretty much it. Having him back me in like that means a lot to myself. I really enjoy what he’s been able to do and how he’s been able to coach.”

How about Kade Simpson as backline coach... what impact has he had on you this year?

“Being so fresh out of the game he understands how hard it can be sometimes. It can be easy when you’ve been a coach for a little while, you can press the pause button and say 'why were you a step off there?' But, in the moment it’s a hard game. We can relate to him really well, he doesn’t sugar-coat things. He’s got good standards, he’s a competitor, he’s played in the system for a long time. Being a half-backer, I was very excited he came across too because he can show me his ways and we’re on the same page for a lot of things. Our General Manager of Football Rob McCartney has also been really important behind-the-scenes, it’s been great to see what he has been able to do with the emerging leaders at our club."

Looking forward to 2024, what do you think we can see from this group?

"You obviously need a little bit of luck, but what we’ve been able to show this year in patches tells me we're on the right track and that the potential is there. If we’re able to keep that consistent and keep developing, we’re going to be a lot better. I feel like it can be hard when you don’t play with the same group of players, it becomes a bit inconsistent. When you have a group that comes through together as one, which is what Sam is trying to do, I think that’s when you see growth, because you know each other’s strengths. I feel like we’ve been able to do a lot of that this year. If we can keep building the camaraderie during the pre-season, the world’s our oyster."