BROWNLOW medallist Tom Mitchell has laughed off his animated half-time interaction with fellow Hawk James Worpel on Sunday, but says they're still "figuring out ways to jell".
The gun midfielders played only 11 games together leading into this season and they were in Worpel's rookie campaign, before he became Hawthorn's club champion in Mitchell's absence last year.
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Their on-field chemistry has been a talking point, with Mitchell returning from a year out with a broken leg to reclaim his status as the Hawks' big dog in the centre.
Then came an interesting exchange of words and finger-pointing between the duo at half-time of Sunday's clash with St Kilda. Worpel ended up exiting the game early with an AC joint injury that requires season-ending surgery.
I’m not sure there was a resolution here between James Worpel and Tom Mitchell. Good to see how confident Worpel is to challenge a more senior teammate. pic.twitter.com/Xqezg8jXos— Marc McGowan ??????????? (@ByMarcMcGowan) September 6, 2020
"We actually had a good laugh about it after the game. That's pretty common for players to have those sorts of conversations – if anything, it's a good thing," Mitchell said.
"I think our fans will see it's a sign of passion. It's something we see a lot with James Sicily. We're trying really hard to get things right and I think that's just a reflection of what that was.
"Obviously, it was disappointing to see 'Worps' go down with his injury and we haven't had a lot of opportunity to play together yet.
"His emergence last year was the season I was out, so we're always figuring out ways to jell and we're still figuring that out … so we just need to get some continuity together and I'm confident in our midfield group."
With Worpel going out, Hawthorn could regain Jaeger O'Meara (broken hand), but Mitchell himself hasn't missed a game in an encouraging development.
His performances have spiked in recent weeks, although he feels he's still some way off his record-breaking 2018 season.
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"Coming off an injury like this – I think I'm at about 18 months now – so I think another pre-season will help get some more conditioning into my legs, make me feel stronger and help my running capacity as well," Mitchell said.
"I know there's another level for me to get to, because I've been there before and I just don't feel like I'm there at the moment, but I'm confident I'll get back there."
Mitchell's served as the Hawks' stand-in captain twice in the past three matches, with Ben Stratton and O'Meara sitting out, and would be open to the role long term if it came his way.
"I've definitely really enjoyed the opportunity with Stratts' absence," he said.
"We've been pretty depleted at times this year, with our leaders out of the side … so I've really enjoyed and relished the opportunity to step up in a leadership sense, and try and lead from the front with my actions.
"If I'm the right person to lead us forward, then I would love that and would be more than happy to do it."