Collingwood recruit Tom Mitchell in his new colours. Picture:

TOM MITCHELL has a Brownlow Medal, three best and fairests and two All-Australian blazers hanging up at home, but he felt like a teenager being drafted all over again when Hawthorn and Collingwood finally brokered a deal last month, three minutes before the trade deadline. 

The 29-year-old was anxiously pacing around his hotel room in Miami as the minutes ticked down on deadline day, constantly refreshing his phone, waiting for updates from his manager, Tom Petroro from TLA Worldwide, who was inside Marvel Stadium as one of the more intriguing deals of the trade period was negotiated. 

After six seasons at Waverley Park, Mitchell was granted his wish as part of a three-way trade that provided Ollie Henry with a path back down the highway to Geelong, and former first-round pick Cooper Stephens with a fresh start at Hawthorn. 

Collingwood essentially handed over two third-round picks – No. 41 and 50 – for one of the greatest ball winners the game has seen, a player who has averaged 29.5 disposals per game across 171 appearances at the highest level. 

Tom Mitchell in action during Hawthorn's clash with the Western Bulldogs in round 23, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Mitchell experienced the trade period when he moved from Sydney to Hawthorn at the end of 2016, but this time was different. This time it went down to the wire. This time he was on the other side of the world, awake in the middle of the night waiting to learn his fate. 

"I wasn't (worried it wouldn’t happen) for the first week or so; I wasn't worried for the nine days but as it got a bit close on the last day, I just wanted to get it done. I did get a bit nervous in the end," Mitchell told on Thursday at John Cain Arena. 

"I think my trade went through with three minutes to go and you need the paperwork to happen and things like that. But once it went through it was a massive feeling of elation; I haven't felt that feeling of excitement about something for a long time. I was with two of my good mates at the time and we all jumped up and were pretty pumped."


Mitchell spent most of the off-season on foreign soil. He headed to Europe with Hawthorn teammates shortly after round 23, stopping in Greece, Portugal, Italy, Spain and England. Then he headed to the United States after a brief pitstop in Melbourne.

Not long after he landed in Los Angeles – without former Collingwood and Hawthorn wingman Tom Phillips, who missed the flight due to an administration error of his own doing – Mitchell bumped into a soon-to-be teammate waiting to buy a ticket for a Lakers pre-season game at Arena against the Sacramento Kings. 

THAT'S A WRAP Who's in, who's out after the 2022 Trade Period

"I was travelling to America with Tom Phillips, who didn't fill out his ESTA form and wasn't allowed on the plane, so anyway, 'Flip' had to delay his flight to America by one day. I'm a big basketball fan and the Lakers had a pre-season game on. Thought I'd go and just watch the game by myself and just take it all in," Mitchell said. 

"I went to buy a ticket at the ticket box and next to me was Dan McStay. We both looked at each other and gave each other a funny look, got talking and then obviously knowing he was probably going to go to Collingwood, I asked him when his trade was going to go through. He said 'Probably in five minutes'. So I said 'Well we better get a beer'. We bought our tickets and sat together and watched the game as his trade went through. Funny how those things work."

While Mitchell was waiting for his business to be taken care of while in America, it turns out he was taking care of some other business while in that neck of the woods. 

Mitchell’s side hustle, Ball Magnets, the training app he has built over the past 18 months alongside two other Brownlow Medallists – Lachie Neale and Patrick Cripps – and two-time AFLW league best and fairest winner Erin Phillips, announced on Thursday they are expanding into basketball after signing NBA rising star Josh Giddey. 

Ball-magnets: Tom Mitchell and Erin Phillips. Picture: Supplied

Before Giddey was selected by the Oklahoma City Thunder with pick No.6 in the 2021 NBA Draft, the 20-year-old grew up in Melbourne where he attended St Kevin's College and barracked for Hawthorn. Mitchell sat next to him at an event last year and developed a relationship with the Giddey family, which has now blossomed into a business partnership.

DRAFT HUB Click here for the latest draft news

"When 'Crippa', Lachie, Erin and I started Ball Magnets, the vision was to expand it to other sports, hence why we called it Ball Magnets. To get Josh Giddey as our first signing – one of the biggest names in Australian basketball and one of the biggest up and coming stars in the world – is pretty awesome," he said. 

With Mitchell's midfield minutes slashed in 2022 – he attended only 53 per cent of Hawthorn's centre bounces this year, despite winning the Crimmins Medal and polling 25 Brownlow Medal votes in 2021 – the writing was on the wall for some time. 

The Hawks are undergoing a dramatic rebuild under Sam Mitchell. If that wasn't evident during the winter months, it was last month when Jack Gunston, Jaeger O'Meara and Mitchell were all traded following the retirements of Ben McEvoy and Liam Shiels. 

Tom Mitchell in action in Hawthorn's round 19 match against North Melbourne at Blundstone Arena on July 23, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Mitchell developed a close relationship with Collingwood senior coach Craig McRae and director of coaching Brendon Bolton during their time at Waverley Park. He saw what the pair did at the AIA Centre in 2022 and decided he wanted in, determined to return to a role that utilises his weapons best. 

"I definitely had conversations with both those guys. 'Bolts' was my midfield coach at the Hawks and I had a great relationship with him. 'Fly' is just a ripping person and just such a good relationship guy, his footy knowledge and smarts is really, really good. I think he's got that balance down pat. I can't wait to play under 'Fly'," he said. 

"Knowing Fly and Bolts, they know what my strengths are and they are big on playing to your strengths. For me that's winning the ball on the inside and applying a lot of pressure on the ball and playing the way I've played the majority of my career, getting back to what I do at my best."

After arriving in Sydney as a father-son pick – his old man, Barry, also played for the Magpies in 1993 – Mitchell played the last of his 65 games in red and white in the 2016 Grand Final loss to the Western Bulldogs. He has played in two finals since then – both losses in 2018 – and knows how hard it is to return to the final day of the season. 

Tom Mitchell chats to the media alongside Sydney coach John Longmire after being drafted in 2011. Picture: AFL Photos

Collingwood shocked the competition in 2022, rising from second last in 2021 to the second last weekend of the season – falling a kick away from a Grand Final – but Mitchell believes the Magpies can't just expect they will be thereabouts again in 2023, despite such a brilliant first season under McRae's watch. 

"It takes an extreme amount of hard work to get there; you can't take finals or Grand Finals for granted," he said. 

"I heard a quote Fly said 'At the start of next year everyone is on the same playing field again, we all start at 18th and there are no guarantees'. I’m getting to know the group and I feel like they are a very driven group capable of success.”

With a three-year deal at Collingwood, and more football left in the tank after that, Mitchell now has his sights on achieving one of the few accomplishments missing from his football CV: a premiership.