James Blanck handballs during Hawthorn's clash against Port Adelaide in round 12, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

HAWTHORN key defender James Blanck has secured a two-year contract extension that ties him to the club until the end of 2026.

The 23-year-old has become a regular fixture down back since being selected in the 2022 Mid-Season Rookie Draft, featuring 24 times across his first two years at Waverley Park.

After joining the Hawks on an initial 18-month contract, Blanck signed a one-year deal last July but has now been locked in for the next three seasons.

Hawthorn tried to land in-demand free agent Ben McKay from North Melbourne last year, and also had a crack at Esava Ratugolea in an attempt to strengthen the back six, but are confident Blanck can continue his development and play an important role in the club's rebuild under coach Sam Mitchell.

Blanck is member of a growing group of Hawthorn players who started at Box Hill and then earned a shot at AFL level, with 18 players graduating from the VFL program since the fruitful alignment started in 2001.

Mitchell, most famously, was the first graduate at the end of 2001 with three other players – Jai Newcombe, Ned Reeves and Clay Tucker – currently on the AFL list at Waverley Park.

James Blanck poses for a photo for Box Hill Hawks. Picture: Box Hill Hawks

Before Mitchell replaced four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson as senior coach ahead of 2022, the Brownlow Medallist coached Blanck at Box Hill in 2021, but only in two games, highlighting the backman's rapid growth in recent years.

Newcombe has become the poster boy of the alignment in recent years, while Ed Curnow (Carlton), Sam Switkowski (Fremantle), Michael Firrito (North Melbourne) and Sam Gibson (North Melbourne) are other notable Box Hill products to land in the AFL. But Blanck is the best story, according to Mitchell.

Mitchell announced the contract news at a meeting on the Hawks pre-season camp in Torquay on Monday night.