Clockwise from left: Jack Ginnivan after Collingwood's 2023 Grand Final win, Ginnivan during the 2023 finals, Ginnivan during R3 2024, and with Sam Mitchell as a child. Pictures: AFL Photos/@jackginnvan on Instagram

JACK Ginnivan will always be a Collingwood premiership player. But as the sun sets on Gather Round on Sunday, the box office drawcard will face the club that was happy to see the back of him. Bring your popcorn.

The 21-year-old moved to Hawthorn on deadline day of last October's trade period following a dramatic series of events. Just weeks after the Grand Final victory, the Magpies swooped on contracted Fremantle goalsneak Lachie Schultz – 12 months after signing Bobby Hill – leading to Ginnivan's abrupt exit from the AIA Centre. 

Ginnivan could have stayed, rolled up his sleeves and fought for a spot. Instead, he read the room. He had only one year left on his deal at Collingwood. Hawthorn offered the security of a four-year deal, greater opportunity and the chance to play for the club he grew up supporting. The Western Bulldogs perused, briefly, but had other trade and draft obligations to meet. It was time to go. 

When the trade period closed, Ginnivan had landed at Waverley Park, ending a turbulent year that involved plenty of scrutiny. It started with the two-game suspension for admitting to illicit drug use ahead of round one. Then there was the two-month block in the VFL midway through last season, where it looked like he might miss out on the ride to the promised land.

Then there was the decision to spend Grand Final eve at the Moonee Valley races, after being the sub in the first two finals, which led to criticism from Pies coach Craig McRae in the immediate aftermath of the win over Brisbane and in his exit meeting.

For Ginnivan, he didn't feel the love from Collingwood during a telling period, where he returned from Bali to sit down with his manager, John Meesen from Kapital Sports Management, and decide his future. He felt his best move was to move. Hawks coach Sam Mitchell wanted him, and he heard from far more Hawthorn players than Collingwood players.  

Jack Ginnivan in action during Collingwood's win over Geelong in round 22, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"It was a challenging time. I didn't really expect it to happen,” Ginnivan told after the Easter Monday loss to Geelong.

"When things happen and people move to different clubs, (there is) that sliding doors moment where you stay and fight for your spot when the coaches think someone else is better (than you), or you come to a club that really wants you and values what you bring. That's what I did.

"Sam really wanted me to come. I had so many messages from the Hawks boys during that period of time saying to come over. It was a pretty easy decision in the end."


Ginnivan has moved on now. He is still tight with a group of Collingwood players – star defender Isaac Quaynor is his best mate – but he hasn't hid his disappointment with the decision-makers at the Magpies.

"Definitely no bad blood with the players, but it has all passed now. I don't want to worry about it anymore," Ginnivan said.

"I'm absolutely pumped for this game. I get to play against some of my best mates. I'm going to line up on Isaac [Quaynor] straightaway and give him some grief. 'Bruzzy' [Brayden Maynard] and a lot of those guys are my best mates. I'm going to enjoy the battle, get under people's skin and go hard."

Ginnivan went under the radar across the pre-season. He put his head down and completed the full program at Waverley Park, surprising Hawthorn's hierarchy with just how low maintenance he was. 

He is playing higher up the ground in brown and gold, averaging more disposals (15), score involvements (5.3), marks (5), inside 50s (3.7) and tackles (2) than during his time at Collingwood. He kicked two goals against Essendon in round one and added another against Geelong on Easter Monday. Things happen when he is around.

Jack Ginnivan leaves the field under the blood rule during the match between Hawthorn and Geelong at the MCG in round three, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"I think it definitely has helped my career, especially as a forward. There is a bit more opportunity here. I've had a crazy four months: I've changed teams; I've changed house; I broke up with my ex-girlfriend, so my world has changed a fair bit," he said.

"From a football sense, this move is the best thing for me. There is less attention on myself. I love all the boys here. It's a really easy going, calm place. I love all the coaches; they've really backed me in. I've got fitter and playing higher up the ground, getting more of the ball. It was hard to be a forward at Collingwood at times, so I'm glad to be here and be more free."

One thing that hasn't changed is the treatment he receives from umpires. Ginnivan was awarded 21 free kicks for high contact in 2022 when he burst on to the scene and kicked 40 goals as a rookie. Last year, that number plummeted to four. This year, the new Hawk has won only one free kick.

On Easter Monday, he was overlooked for free kicks a few times, leading to AFL EGM Laura Kane conceding the umpires missed a couple. By that point, Ginnivan had posted a cheeky, yet pointed Instagram post on Tuesday morning referencing the 'Nearly Headless Nick' character from Harry Potter and the 'Godfather of Poker' Doyle Brunson. 


"I can only control what I can control, and the umpires can look and see and pay what they want to. (I was) maybe a fraction (unlucky not to get some free kicks), but I'll keep putting my head over the ball. I have the ball in my hands and that's always a good thing, but hopefully I get one or two against the Pies," he said.

Some of the best small forwards of this century have played for Hawthorn. Cyril Rioli won four premierships after being picked in the first round. Luke Breust is one of the best rookie picks ever, becoming a triple premiership player after being plucked at pick No.47 in the 2009 Rookie Draft. Paul Puopolo also played in the three-peat under Alastair Clarkson after being pick No.66 in the 2010 National Draft.

Hawthorn invested heavily in small forwards at the end of last season. They sent pick No.33, plus a future second-round and third-round pick to Collingwood in exchange for Ginnivan, pick No.39, a future second-round and fourth-round pick. Then they used pick No.5 to select Eastern Ranges goal sneak Nick Watson.

The pair have grown tight since arriving at Waverley Park in November. Watson was drafted with the nickname ‘The Wizard' and is starting to conjure some magic. The 170cm pocket rocket from East Ringwood has had plenty of chances to score but hasn't taken them just yet. But 11 shots at goal in his first three games – two goals, seven behinds and two on the full – is a sign of his ability to get in the right spots.

Unfortunately, since the interview with Ginnivan, Watson has been ruled out for at least a month with a syndesmosis injury.

Jack Ginnivan embraces Nick Watson ahead of round three, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"I've put him under the wing, I drive him to games, take him out for a few dinners – I'm looking after him. He has been amazing, even that last quarter (against Geelong), I was more excited when he kicked that goal than he was," he said.

"He has handled everything great. Being at Hawthorn, the media is a bit less, so it has probably helped him. He is naturally talented and just lets his talent do the talking. Once he finds the big sticks a bit more, he will be away. He has had 10 or 11 scoring shots in three games. which is crazy. I doubt many have done that before. He is going amazing."

Sunday night is not the main event of Gather Round, but with Ginnivan facing Collingwood for the first time, it is a bout worthy of pay per view. Don't forget your popcorn.