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Age no barrier to new Hawks

Isaac Smith
HAWTHORN recruit Isaac Smith has paid tribute to mature-aged trailblazers Michael Barlow and James Podsiadly for allowing older players to realise their AFL dreams.

The Hawks unveiled their draftees at Waverley on Tuesday and Smith, their first-round choice who will turn 22 before the start of his first AFL season, was delighted to have been given a chance at the elite level.

"I'm just happy that Barlow and Podsiadly have opened the door and created some hype around VFL players because there are a lot of good players running around," Smith said.

"Hopefully a couple more get picked up in the next draft."

Smith enjoyed a meteoric rise to the AFL having started the 2010 season playing with country Victorian side Redan.

Redan was instrumental in developing Smith's football abilities this year.

"The Redan Football Club is a powerhouse in the Ballarat Football League and the people they have got there can really develop young kids," Smith said.

"It's all turned out okay for now but getting drafted is [just the first part] getting a game is the harder thing."

Hawthorn continued its mature-aged theme at the draft when it snared small defender Paul Puopolo from SANFL club Norwood with the 66th overall pick.
 
"I've been working on my footy, my diet, just everything to get myself ready to take the next step," Puopolo, who turns 23 in December, said.

"I've tried my hardest to get here so I'm not going to let it go now."

Rugged midfielder Mitch Hallahan (pick 38) and rangy defender Angus Litherland (55) rounded out the club's selections at the draft.

The hard-working Hallahan was a good value get in the second round as he struggled with an ankle injury throughout his under-18 campaign with the Dandenong Stingrays.

"It's been a long year with the ankle, but I've had that scraped out and I'm into the recovery phase," Hallahan said.

"I really wanted to be a part of what the Stingrays had going on in the latter part of the year, but in the end the injury did take a bit of a toll.

"It did hinder me as my performances dropped away at times, but I think it also helps a bit because I played some pretty handy games injured."

New South Wales scholarship holders Will Langford and Jack Mahoney were also on hand to meet the press on Tuesday. Langford, the son of Hawk legend Chris, said his father had allowed him to follow his own sporting path, but was always ready with some advice when asked.

"He's pretty relaxed about it but I can go to him and ask him any questions and he'll give me advice, but most of the time he's just happy for me to learn things myself," Langford said.

"Obviously he was around the AFL for years so he's got a wealth of knowledge in terms of how the system works especially if I'm having a tough time or my form is down I can go to him and ask what I can do to improve myself.

"I suppose I always thought I was a bit of a long shot that I would end up down here coming from where I grew up [in Sydney] but to be here is a dream come true."