Few could have predicted Blake Hardwick’s stunning rise up the PCM leader board in 2018, with the young defender polling 127 votes to finish second behind Brownlow Medallist Tom Mitchell.
Some casual football fans may have been surprised to see the 21-year-old feature so high up, but those within the four walls of the Hawthorn Football Club would consider it due recognition after an incredible season.
Tough, courageous, and ever reliable; you just know what you’re going to get from the 44th pick in the 2015 draft.
In just his third year at the club, Hardwick polled in more games than any other teammate, including eventual winner Tom Mitchell. The Hawks qualifying final loss to Richmond was the only game that the defender did not feature in the votes.
After managing a single game in his debut season in 2016, Hardwick enjoyed a break-out campaign last year, playing in 19 of the Hawks 22 games.
A reliable defensive option, Hardwick made a name for himself as a smart decision maker and good ball user, going at 85 per cent disposal efficiency for the 2017 season, clearly the highest of any Hawk who had more than 100 disposals.
The Eastern Ranges product finished 14th in last year’s best and fairest count as he emerged as a clear best 22 option going forward.
Donning the No.15 guernsey left vacant by Premiership Captain Luke Hodge, Hardwick took his game to a new level in 2018.
One of just five Hawks to have played all 24 games this season, the 21-year old averaged 16.4 disposals, 4.5 marks and 4.8 one-percenters per game.
Not even he could have envisaged how his 2018 campaign would pan out; a top two finish in the club’s best and fairest count and recognition as the Hawks’ ‘Most Promising Player’, in a year that saw the Hawks ascend back into the top four.
There’s little doubt in the minds of Hawthorn supporters; Blake Hardwick is a star on the rise.