SPARE a thought for those plotting to stop Tom Mitchell when even the All Australian midfielder's own coach is helpless to quell his numbers.
Hawthorn's resident ball-winning machine rewrote the record books on Saturday night racking up 54 disposals (20 kicks and 34 handballs), one more than dual Brownlow medallists Greg Williams and Gary Ablett.
Most disposals in a game
54 - Tom Mitchell (Haw), R1 2018, v Coll
53 - Greg Williams (Syd), R19 1989, v StK
53 - Gary Ablett (GC), R10 2012, v Coll
52 - Barry Price (Coll), R4 1971, v Fitz
51 - Scott Thompson (Adel), R22 2011, v GC
50 - John Greening (Coll), R7 1971, v Geel
50 - Tony Shaw (Coll), R5 1991, v Bris
50 - Tom Mitchell (Haw), R9 2017, v Coll
The accompanying 27 contested possessions, nine clearances and eight inside 50s were impressive, too.
Mitchell, 24, became the first VFL/AFL footballer to accumulate two games of at least 50 disposals after doing it for the first time in round nine last year, also against Collingwood.
"He's just a natural reader of the game, particularly off hand around stoppages, and works so hard," Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said.
"He's got very quick reaction time to hunt the ball and he played a first-class game, but having said that, to be fair, we'd prefer he wasn't getting 50 touches.
"We'd be more pleased if it was shared amongst more players, but how can you tell a bloke not to go and get the footy?"
Three of the eight 50-plus games in history, including Ablett's effort, came with Nathan Buckley coaching the opposition.
Buckley infamously questioned the effect of Mitchell's 50-touch outing against his Pies last year: "He just finds a way and keeps getting to the pill, (but) if I said he wasn't hurting us a lot, would that make sense?"
Big numbers against Buckley's Pies
|54||Tom Mitchell (Haw)||R1, 2018|
|53||Gary Ablett (GC)||R10, 2012|
|50||Tom Mitchell (Haw)||R9, 2017|
|49||Gary Ablett (GC)||R17, 2013|
He has defended his comments ever since and did so again post-match, saying he didn't believe he was being "derogatory".
But Buckley was more effusive with his praise of Mitchell this time around, labelling him "one of the cleanest ball handlers in the shoebox in the first five to 10 metres".
As for Mitchell's own reaction, he played the record-breaking performance down, as he did last time.
The difference on this occasion was Hawthorn won.
"It doesn't really mean a lot, to be honest. I wasn't too aware of it until someone mentioned it after the game," Mitchell said.
"But, obviously in the game, in the moment, you're so focused on playing your role to try and get the team over the line.
"I think we had a lot of contributors tonight – almost 22 contributors – so if we can get everyone on board each week, it's going to lead to a win."
Mitchell's face lit up more when asked about Cyril Rioli and Jaeger O'Meara, who he played alongside for one of the few times since crossing from Sydney at the end of 2016.
The Mitchell-O'Meara double act could become one of the best in the AFL on Saturday night's evidence.
But it took until Mitchell's 54th possession for the crowd to acknowledge him as loudly as they did most of favourite son Rioli's touches.
"I've obviously watched (Rioli) from afar during his whole career and just watching his talent on show and to see it live tonight was awesome," Mitchell said.
"So (I'm) hoping he can do that for the rest of the year.
"He's one of the greatest players in the competition and he was one we sorely missed last year."