THE ALIGNMENT between Hawthorn and Box Hill is the envy of most Victorian clubs and it continues to deliver the goods.  

Three weeks after Hawthorn used pick No.20 in this year’s NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft on Blanck on the first day of June, Sam Mitchell has picked the key defender from Box Hill to make his debut against the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium. 

Friday night will complete a stellar rise for the 21-year-old who didn’t nominate for last year’s NAB AFL Draft and only received an exemption to be eligible for the mid-season draft at the last minute. 

The Hawks are set to have the four players on the list recruited from Box Hill via the mid-season draft or pre-season supplemental selection period playing against the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium, with Blanck joining Jai Newcombe, Lachie Bramble and Ned Reeves.

Hawthorn has now recruited 16 players from Box Hill City Oval since the alignment between the two clubs was established in 2000, starting with Mitchell in 2001, who returned to coach the club that helped get him drafted last year before taking over the reins from Alastair Clarkson.

01:07 Mins
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Has Hawthorn found another draft steal in Blanck?

The Hawks land defender James Blanck who has developed at a rapid rate for Box Hill in the VFL

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Mitchell spent some time coaching Blanck at Box Hill in 2021, just like Newcombe before he was drafted 12 months ago, with Mark McKenzie and the list management team at Waverley Park keeping a close eye on his progress across the first ten rounds of the VFL season, where he emerged as one of the best backmen in the competition. 

Blanck was named as an emergency in round 13 before the mid-season bye, travelling across to Perth to spend time with the senior group. It is understood that he was the next man in if one of the 23 woke up crook or got injured in the warm-up. 

But with Sam Frost injuring his knee in the loss to Fremantle, Mitchell has turned to the 195cm defender to face off against a Dogs attack that includes former top 10 picks – Aaron Naughton, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Josh Schache. 

02:02 Mins
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Mid-Season Draft prospect: James Blanck

Check out some of James Blanck's best moments in 2022

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Mitchell was tight-lipped when asked by about Blanck’s chances of debuting at his media conference on Monday, but smiled as he spoke about the Whitefriars product. 

Days later it was Blanck who was smiling. 

Now Blanck will become the third player taken in the 2022 mid-season draft to debut after Essendon blooded Massimo D’Ambrosio last Friday night, before Brynn Teakle played for Port Adelaide on Saturday – Sam Durdin played his first game for Carlton after starting his AFL career at North Melbourne.