ONLY SIX players had won at least 50 disposals in a game before Hawk Tom Mitchell achieved the rare feat on Saturday night, but the coaches were split on his impact.
Mitchell, who joined Hawthorn from Sydney in the off-season, already had more possessions (273) through eight rounds than anyone since the competition became the AFL in 1990.
The previous record was held by Fremantle ball magnet Lachie Neale (266), who last year bettered St Kilda midfielder David Armitage's 264 touches to that stage of the 2015 season.
Mitchell's 50 in the 18-point loss to Collingwood swelled his total to 323 at an average of 35.9.
He went at 68 per cent disposal efficiency and his tally was made up of 22 kicks and 28 handballs and was aided by 20 handball receives. But underlining his inside work was his extraordinary 22 contested possessions.
Mitchell's accompanying statistics of eight tackles, five clearances, nine intercept possessions and seven score involvements were also strong.
His prolific effort was also the:
- Most disposals gathered by any Hawthorn player
- Second-most disposals by any player on the MCG (behind Gary Ablett's 53 against Collingwood in 2012)
- Second time a player had 50 or more touches in a losing team
- Three short of the Hawthorn handball record (held by Sam Mitchell)
- Three short of the VFL/AFL disposal record jointly held by Ablett and Greg Williams (for Syd v StK, 1989)
The knock on the 23-year-old's game, as it always is, was his relative lack of impression in one of the new-age AFL's sexy statistics – metres gained.
His 309m paled in comparison to Magpies captain Scott Pendlebury's 691m from his 36 disposals.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley chose not to tag Mitchell, even after his count reached 14 by the first break and despite long being aware of the ex-Swan's canny ball-winning ability.
"We thought about (tagging him), but he does it by stealth a little bit," Buckley said post-match.
"He had 40 in the under-16s WA state side about seven or eight years ago when I coached against him.
"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?
"If Isaac Smith had 50, you'd have 2500 metres gained. (Mitchell) was getting the ball at contests and that was great, but, on the balance of it, our midfield was getting on top and working them over."
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson was more concerned with the heavy load Mitchell carried in an uneven team performance, although he called his recruit's performance "a special effort".
Clarkson was slightly miffed at the way Buckley dismissed Mitchell's impact.
"I would have thought they were (doing damage) in the first half, because it was 10 goals to four and at quarter-time he'd had (14) disposals and we were six goals in front," Clarkson said.
"So it's pretty ballsy to say he wasn't having an influence at that point in time, because I think he was.
"But the bottom line with the Collingwood side is they got a greater spread and contribution from a whole host of midfielders that probably won that battle at the end of the day."
Most disposals in a game
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