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Billy's Hawk time up? Nervous wait for running machine

Billy Hartung faces a nervous wait - AFL,Trade,Contracts,Free Agency,Hawthorn Hawks,Billy Hartung
Billy Hartung faces a nervous wait

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SPEED demon Jarman Impey's arrival at Hawthorn could mark the end for maligned midfielder Billy Hartung's time in brown and gold.

The Hawks will use only their first three picks – 43, 68 and 75 – in this year's NAB AFL Draft, with uncontracted quartet Hartung, Jono O'Rourke, Kade Stewart and Kurt Heatherley still sweating on their future. 

Hawthorn list and recruiting manager Graham Wright has revealed at least one and up to two of those players won't be at Waverley Park next year.

The Hawks' grand plan to use Impey's line-breaking talents through the midfield spells danger for Hartung, O'Rourke – whose management is confident he will be retained as a rookie at minimum – and Stewart.

Hartung had promised to be that player for Hawthorn since it selected him at No.24 in the 2013 NAB AFL Draft, and he has had plenty of opportunities.

The 22-year-old played 56 of his 63 games in the past three seasons, but coach Alastair Clarkson dropped him for the 2015 Grand Final after he played as the substitute in two finals wins.

The Hawks openly but unsuccessfully shopped Hartung around in the NAB AFL Trade Period.

He set career highs this year in disposals (22.1), metres gained (364.5) – second at the club – score involvements (5.1), marks (5.5) and inside 50s (three), but also in turnovers (3.9).

Hartung's decision-making and hardness in the contest are understood to frustrate Clarkson, with his tackle numbers dipping from 2.1 to 1.6.

The percentage of contested possessions among his total disposals trended the wrong way each season from his debut (25.3 per cent) to last year (18.9), before a slight uptick in 2017 (19.4).

Hartung's manager, Scott Lucas, of Phoenix Management Group, said his client was naturally nervous about his AFL fate.

"Billy is in a similar position, which is not ideal, to perhaps 40 or 50 players in the competition right now, so there is a level of uncertainty for them," Lucas said.

"We hope it works out for as many of them as possible, one of which is Billy.

"I think all guys at this time of year who are uncontracted have some level of anxiety with that."