Hawthorn are backing Jack Fitzpatrick to be a September surprise packet after the ruckman delivered a clutch goal in the final round of the AFL season.
Fitzpatrick played 22 games in five seasons at Melbourne and looked set for the scrapheap until the Hawks offloaded pick No.94 to secure him in last year’s trade period.
Concussion kept Fitzpatrick on the sidelines for much of this year but the 25-year-old eventually returned to the VFL.
Fitzpatrick was then called up for a club debut against Collingwood following Jon Ceglar’s knee injury.
He didn’t disappoint – kicking the final goal of a one-point victory the Hawks needed to grab a top-four spot.
It was some kind of goal too.
Fitzpatrick collected the ball after a centre bounce, burst through the middle and unloaded from over 55 metres out.
“He stepped up in a pretty big moment so that shows a bit about him,” Hawks midfielder Isaac Smith said.
“It was a massive moment. We needed a goal. Someone had to kick it and he took it upon himself.
“Hopefully he grows in confidence from that.
“He’s had a few injuries so he hasn’t been able to deliver on … some pretty good pre-season form. It’s good now that he’s fit and firing.”
Fitzpatrick supported Hawthorn as a child and already felt like he was proof that dreams could come true.
“Surreal I think is the feeling,” he told the club website.
“Hopefully I can get a game (in week one of the finals) but if not I’m sure whoever plays the role I did today will do a good job.”
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson was full of praise for Fitzpatrick and Marc Pittonet, who rucked in the absence of Ceglar and Ben McEvoy.
“They came up against Brodie Grundy, who in the last six or eight weeks has been the best ruckman in the competition,” Clarkson said.
“He played OK for them, Grundy.
“But given the task those two boys had and their inexperience, they did a fantastic job curbing the influence that he could have had on the game.”
“If they continue to make a contribution like they did tonight they’ve got a role to play (in finals).”
Clarkson said he was “pretty certain” McEvoy would return to face Geelong in week one of the finals.