BROWNLOW Medal favourite Tom Mitchell has credited his record-breaking ways to the faith that Hawthorn has shown in him since his move to the club at the end of 2016.
No player has ever gathered more disposals in the first three rounds of the season than Mitchell's astonishing haul of 136, including his single-game record of 54 against Collingwood.
In fact, he rates No.1 in the competition this season in kicks, handballs, contested possessions, effective disposals, inside 50s, clearances and centre clearances.
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Not that numbers mean much to the 24-year-old.
There is a school of thought Mitchell, a self-confessed "obsessive" preparer, may have the maximum nine Brownlow votes to date and, if not, he should have at least eight.
Only two years ago he was jostling for time in the middle with fellow Sydney stars Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker and Dan Hannebery, but he has thrived amid the greater responsibility thrust upon him by coach Alastair Clarkson.
"I've obviously loved the opportunity I've been given at Hawthorn and it's been great that Clarko's showed a lot of faith in me," Mitchell told reporters on Tuesday.
"I think he's taught me a lot as a player as well, so his guidance has been great and also (assistant coaches) Brett Ratten and Scott Burns have been great in guiding me in the right direction."
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Mitchell and his teammates will go head-to-head on Sunday with a Melbourne midfield headlined by Clayton Oliver, another possession-gobbling clearance specialist.
The likes of Christian Petracca, Dom Tyson, Christian Salem and even far-roaming forward Jesse Hogan will join Oliver in going into battle against the Hawks in the middle.
Mitchell can probably expect Demon Bernie Vince to be alongside him – if Melbourne elects to tag him – but the extra attention is just part of the new territory he is treading into.
"At times, you're going to get more attention than other games and you always have to prepare for, if it's going to come or not," he said.
"But I think, as a collective, it's more midfield group versus midfield group, so the individual stuff doesn't really matter as much."
Mitchell said his emergence as the figurehead of the Hawks' onball division had coincided with him flourishing as a leader and greater vocal presence.
"It's a natural progression as you get more experience and stay in the system longer," he said of his evolution as a player and person.
"You feel more comfortable and then you can use your voice more and improve your leadership, so it's probably something that's naturally improving for myself."
Mitchell is also relishing again sharing the centre square with his Richmond roommate Jaeger O'Meara, the two of them forming a combination affectionately known as 'Jaeger Tom'.
"We obviously missed him a lot last year (while he was injured) and he's come in and played some quality footy," he said of O'Meara.
"And not only Jaeger but guys like Ben Stratton, James Frawley and 'Poppy' (Paul Puopolo) as well.
"We had a lot of experienced players who we missed last year, but those guys are back and playing well this year, which is great."