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Burgoyne, Mitchell reach 250 milestone

Shaun Burgoyne of the Hawks celebrates during the 2013 AFL Round 10 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Hawthorn Hawks at the MCG, Melbourne on June 02, 2013. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Sam Mitchell and Shaun Burgoyne together after celebrating their 200th AFL match against Adelaide in 2012.

PREMIERSHIP Hawthorn pair Sam Mitchell and Shaun Burgoyne will celebrate their 250th AFL matches in Sunday’s clash against Richmond at the MCG.

The pair actually also celebrated their 200th AFL games in the same match, against Adelaide at the MCG in Round 3, 2012.

A stalwart for the Hawks for 13 years and much-loved by the fans since his debut, which was ironically against Richmond in Round 5, 2002, Mitchell in that time has developed himself into one of the game’s all-time great midfielders.

He has twice been named All Australian (in 2011 and 2013), won two premierships (2008 and 2013), won four club best and fairest awards (2006, 2009, 2011, 2012) and won the AFL’s Rising Star award in his second AFL season, in 2003.

Across his career he has developed a reputation as one of the game’s most respected midfielders because of the hard, tough and uncompromising way he plays his football.

He is a clearance king and is one of the best lateral movers in the game, who is able to change direction with a quick double-step before finding a teammate with his elite skills on either side of his body.

More recently, Mitchell has astonished those who love the game by his ability to adapt to a new role across Hawthorn’s half backline following over a decade as a pure midfielder.

His performances across half back, while spending some time in the midfield was so impressive that he was named in the All Australian team for the second time in his career but this time on the half backline.

Mitchell has played a number of outstanding games for the Hawks, including two 40 disposal performances against West Coast in 2009 but he arguable saved his best for last year’s thrilling Preliminary Final against Geelong.

Not only did Mitchell have 36 disposals in the win that took Hawthorn to the Grand Final and ultimately delivered the Club’s eleventh premiership, it was his leadership and ability to restore the confidence in his teammates that will make that performance one of his most memorable.

Across his career, he has averaged 25.5 disposals, 5.6 clearances and 3.9 tackles.

It seems like an eternity ago that Shaun Burgoyne arrived at Hawthorn at the end of 2009 following a distinguished 157-game career with Port Adelaide that saw him win a premiership in 2004 and be named All Australian in 2006.

One of the game’s most dangerous clearance players while with the Power, Burgoyne has undertaken a different role with Hawthorn in his 87 games with the Club.

But it is important to reflect on his reputation as one of the game’s elite midfielders while with the Power because from there was almost no one more dangerous around a stoppage than Shaun Burgoyne.

His relationship with ruckman Brendan Lade was among the best in the competition and he did most of his damage to the opposition at a stoppage situation.

Since crossing to Hawthorn and battling a couple of niggling injuries, Burgoyne has been used by Coach, Alastair Clarkson all over the ground because of his ability to adapt to different roles and the capability to impact a contest from any position.

More recently in 2012 and 2013, Burgoyne’s importance to Hawthorn has grown because of that talent and his impact has re-installed him as one of the game’s elite players.

In the 2012 Preliminary Final he wound back the clock and was a match-winner in the final quarter because of his clearance winning ability and led the Hawks to the Grand Final.

A year later, he did the same in the 2013 prelim, when he kicked four goals, had 24 disposals and laid six tackles. He and Mitchell were the undisputed match-winners for Hawthorn on that night.

Burgoyne has started 2014 in similar fashion and has already helped the Hawks secure a thrilling victory over Essendon in Round 2, thanks to a move into the midfield in the final term, where he won five clearances.

The Hawthorn star will be 32 in October but is showing no signs yet of slowing down.