Young defender Blake Hardwick has been lauded for his good form this year, named the Hawks’ most improved player so far in 2018 by Hawks GM – Football Operations Graham Wright.

Hardwick, who made his debut in 2016 before becoming a permanent fixture in the side last season, took over the number 15 guernsey vacated by triple premiership captain Luke Hodge this year and and has managed to live up to expectations, with Wright telling HawksTV the 21-year-old had been a standout.

“Probably the most improved player we’ve had this year would be Blake Hardwick,” Wright said.

“He’s slotted into that back half really well, (and) he’s taken on the 15 guernsey with aplomb.”

Hardwick’s form has seen him average a career-best 16.4 disposals at an efficiency rate of 81.1 in 2018, including a season-high 23 in the Hawks’ Round 6 win over the Saints, manning some of the competition’s most dangerous forwards.

“He’s hard at it kicks the ball well, he’s able to defend small and tall and he’s been an excellent player for us in the first half of the year,” Wright said.

The defender received the Round 15 Rising Star nomination last year after keeping Collingwood’s Jamie Elliott and Adelaide’s Eddie Betts to a single goal in successive weeks, and is set to be crucial this weekend as the Hawks again face Betts and the Crows, this time at the MCG on Saturday night.