Daz’s Draft Dissection: First Pick

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192cm tall, athletic, has a scoreboard impact, has clean hands, has versatility and is really good in the air. 

Welcome to the man Daz wants at the Hawks, South Australia’s Matteas Phillipou. 

It’s never too early to talk about the draft and for a draft “nuffy” like we are at Talking Hawks, the silly season is as fascinating as the regular season, especially with a team that is looking to bounce up the ladder.

Josh Ward of the Hawks celebrates winning the round five AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Geelong Cats at Melbourne Cricket Ground on...
Josh Ward (pictured) knows what it takes to be a top ten pck and can be a guiding light for Phillipou | Getty Images

Whilst incredibly raw, Phillipou has been compared to Marcus Bontempelli in his draft year, and the future Dogs skipper was taken at a perceived reach, when his name was called out fourth in the 2013 Draft. 

In Cal Twomey’s Phantom Draft; July edition, Phillipou was ranked 9th, while ESPN’s August rankings has him second and Draft Central had him 10th. 

If the Hawks do get Pick 6, they’ll take comfort in knowing North need everything but a midfielder, Essendon and Adelaide don’t need a midfielder but the local pull for Adelaide could be a factor but it seems West Coast and GWS are the worry. 

West Coast are the biggest threat, as even if GWS do lose Jacob Hopper (likely to Geelong) and Tim Taranto (likely to Collingwood), they’ve got Josh Kelly, Stephen Coniglio, Tom Green, Finn Callaghan and Josh Fahey as the main midfield group. 

Will Ashcroft of the Dragons poses for a photograph during a NAB League Boys Media Opportunity at RSEA Park on March 31, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia.
Like last year with Nick Daicos, Will Ashcroft (pictured) will be the talking point throughout 2023 but the Hawks’ recruitment team will back themselves in to pull off another shrewd draft period | Getty Images

West Coast could look to local lad Elijah Hewett, Vic Metro star George Wardlaw, outside star Elijah Tsatas or the much improved Geelong Falcons talent Jhye Clark. 

If the Hawks were to read out Phillipou’s name, Sam Mitchell would have one of the more unique pieces he’s had to work with. 

The Hawks midfield badly needs some freshness in it, with Tom Mitchell (181cm), Jaeger O’Meara (183), Josh Ward (183), Connor MacDonald (184), Jai Newcombe (186) and James Worpel (186) all very similar in size and shape. 

Sure, there is Conor Nash (197cm) who is taller but the factors of Phillipou’s game transition to footy better and quicker, with his outside work elite and has the moves to transition from stoppage, move forward and hit targets, or kicks goals. 

His National Championship was marred by some lower back soreness but his 24 disposal (17 contested), six mark, five clearance and a goal performance was as eye catching as it was dominant. 

The epitome of a “quality, regardless of quantity” player, Phillipou got put up to SANFL reserves after some elite form in the U/18’s. 

In eight games, he’s averaging 1.5 goals, 28 disposals at 78% efficiency, seven inside 50’s, 6.6 marks, 5.1 tackles, 4.3 clearances and 123 SuperCoach points. 

Connor Macdonald of the Hawks warms up prior to the round 17 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Adelaide Crows at Marvel Stadium on July...
Connor MacDonald has been terrific throughout the 2022 season, playing more games than any Hawk draftee this year and someone Phillipou can grow with | Getty Images

On Saturday the 6th of August, the scoreboard effect came into full throttle, with him being named Woodville West-Torrens second best player for his three goals at SANFL Reserves.

Fast forward five years at a centre bounce, Jai Newcombe can win the hard ball and try to drive out of a contest, give to Josh Ward who’s created space, give to a taller than 192cm Phillipou who launches a 50 metre bomb and the Hawthorn midfield is looking mighty dangerous. 

Of course, Hawthorn need North Melbourne, West Coast, GWS, Adelaide and Essendon to all do the right thing and let him go by, but this kid in the brown and gold would be the ultimate tick alongside the quality of the 2021 Draft, who are already showing plenty.

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