MITCH Lewis still thinks about being a meme when he walked in the door at Waverley Park for the first time after being selected with pick No.76 in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft, weeks after Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis were traded away from the club where they won four premierships.
Nearly six years on, Lewis has proven to be far more than the most ironic moment in draft history.
After displaying glimpses of his potential in 2021, Lewis has announced himself as a star of the future in the past four months, kicking 36 goals from 12 games to be ranked No.2 behind Charlie Curnow for average goals per game in 2022.
The 23-year-old booted five goals in Hawthorn's 32-point win over Adelaide at Marvel Stadium on Sunday, moving to equal eighth in the Coleman Medal race alongside last year's winner Harry McKay and All-Australian small forward Charlie Cameron.
"I've come a long way. I was pick 76. I was a meme when I first got to the footy club when Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis left," Lewis told AFL.com.au in the rooms on Sunday night.
"I think I've exceeded a lot of people's expectations. To be recognised externally is great, but to be recognised within these four walls is what I value. I feel like I'm playing an important role for the side, which is nice.
"I still do think about it (the irony of the selection) and it comes up in conversation, but there are other things that drive me at this stage of my career. I haven't even played 50 games yet, so there is a lot of work still to be done, but definitely some progress this year which is nice."
Lewis sent Hawthorn supporters, commentators and statisticians into a frenzy when he matched his personal best haul of five goals half way through the second quarter on Sunday.
The fast start forced Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks to replace Jordon Butts with Nick Murray for the rest of the game. Lewis didn't add to his tally from there, but registered a game-high 11 score involvements, finishing with his fifth haul of four or more in 2022.
"I was feeling good, no doubt, and then they made a positional change on me. I had a different opponent for the second half and he was extremely physical and didn't give me much space at all. It was a bit of a scrap in the end, but very happy to get the job done and make an impact in a win," Lewis said.
After five straight losses and only a single win since the memorable Easter Monday victory over premiership contender Geelong, Hawthorn showed it is still on the right track by banking a fifth win under first-year coach Sam Mitchell in round 17.
LADDER PREDICTOR Where will your club finish?
Lewis believes he is travelling along a similar trajectory as the Hawks, only scratching the surface of what's possible in the next few years when he and the group have another 50 games of shared experience on the board.
"I don't feel like I've reached what I'm capable of as well. I really think there is a lot more growth within me and within this group. We're showing little bits and pieces each game. It’s not completely consistent just yet, but I feel like me personally, and the group, are going to be doing some big things in a few years," he said.
Lewis signed a four-year contract extension late last month to remain at Hawthorn until at least the end of 2026, putting an end to the murmurs around his future in a major boost to the rebuild project under Mitchell.
TRADE HUB All the latest player movement news
With the Hawks relocating from Waverley Park to the Kennedy Community Centre in Dingley in the not-too-distant future, Lewis is looking to buy his first property in that part of the world, maybe close to Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club, where he is spotted most weeks.
"The contract talk dragged on a bit longer than I wanted it to, but I'm super happy with the direction of the footy club and really confident of where we’re heading," he said.
"It's great to have a little bit of security around my future, even for things like I'm hoping to buy a house, so that will help with that. We will be at Dingley in a couple of years, maybe even the end of next year. The new facilities will be really nice."