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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Tom Mitchell’s Brownlow path began in WA

Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell was quick to acknowledge his WA footballing roots when he accepted the coveted award on Monday.
For many of his WA football coaches and mentors, Mitchell was always destined to be a star.
The son of former Carlton and Sydney rover Barry Mitchell, he sprung to foot-balling prominence as a teenager in Perth when his father was an assistant coach for the Fremantle Dockers.
He represented Hale School, Claremont and WA at under-age level before joining the Swans in 2011 under the father-son rule.
Mitchell was coached by former West Coast player Paul Peos at Hale.
“He was a very quiet, very driven young man,” Peos said yesterday. “He played the game how an adult would play — but against boys.
“He had an extremely high work rate. Regardless of the situation — no matter who the opposition was or whether we were winning or losing, or the weather — he wanted to play to his very best.
“He was a stand-out talent.”
Peos said Mitchell played in Hale’s first team while he was only in Year 10 — and he won the fairest and best award.
He also helped the school to two Alcock Cup victories.
“He obviously came from elite football bloodlines and was surrounded by elite football most of his life,” Peos said.
“But he was also a very popular teammate and classmate, well-liked by most.”
The stocky left-footer’s ball-winning ability was evident from a young age.
Mitchell gathered 41 disposals in his colts debut for Claremont in 2010, an effort made even more meritorious given the games had 25-minute quarters and no time-on.
The next week, he had 34 disposals in just 70 minutes for the AIS Academy against West Perth.
When still only 16, AIS Academy coach Jason McCartney said Mitchell was already good enough to play league football.
“I suppose Tom is a year away from the draft, so he doesn’t need to be thrown in against the men,” McCartney said at the time. “But next year he’ll be a very good senior player. He’s not a massive kid, so it’s best that he’s looked after. But ability wise, I’d be staggered if he couldn’t play and play well.”
Other West Australians who played with Mitchell for the AIS Academy in 2010 were Harley Bennell, Gerald Ugle, Ben Newton, Blayne Wilson and Max Duffy.
After watching him win WA’s most valuable player award at the under-16 national titles in 2009, AFL talent manager Kevin Sheehan said Mitchell was a star.
“He was in the best handful from the carnival,” Sheehan said. “He was a dominant player and won the footy magnificently.”
WAFC high-performance manager Jon Haines also said at the time that Mitchell deserved enormous credit for adjusting to WA’s bigger grounds and new environment.
“It’s an indication that he’s switched on and mentally tough,” Haines said. “He’s very much like his dad.
“He loves the contested situations and uses his hands very well. But once you get to development squad level and the nationals, footy becomes very open.
“There aren’t as many stoppages and we encourage guys to run and carry. The fact he has been able to adjust and still win his own ball is a great sign.”
While completing Year 12 at Hale, Mitchell was drafted to the Sydney Swans and would fly over to train with the team during school holidays.
“It’s a unique situation so I’ll have an advantage,” he said at the time. “I’ll get to train with the team and get to know the players.
“But I can also concentrate on my school and try to get good marks without wondering if I’m going to get drafted.”
Earlier this year, former WA under-18 coach Brad Wira credited Mitchell’s insatiable appetite for hard work as his recipe for success.
Wira coached Mitchell during the 2011 national titles when the on-baller had already signed his five-year contract to join Sydney.
“He was always wanting to do extra,” Wira said. “One day he said he was going to do some handballing across the road from the hotel with a mate.
“I looked out the window and he was doing left-hand, right-hand for an hour with Greg Williams (the dual Brownlow medallist).”