The future of Hawthorn’s star AFL veterans is starting to take shape, with Sam Mitchell re-signing and Luke Hodge likely to follow suit.
On Wednesday night, Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson confirmed speculation that Mitchell had signed a contract extension that will take his outstanding career into next season.
“He will play another year,” Clarkson told Channel Nine’s Footy Show.
Mitchell, 33, made his senior debut in 2002 and is four games short of his 300 milestone.
While it remains unclear whether Hawthorn will regain their captain for Sunday’s match against Gold Coast in Launceston, Clarkson expects Hodge to also play again next season.
The Hawks coach also admitted he does relish the day he has to break the news to his tough skipper that it is time to retire.
“I’d be very surprised if he didn’t (play next year),” Clarkson said.
“I don’t want to be the bloke who retires him – I don’t know what he’d do to me.”
While Mitchell has played 11 games this season, Hodge has only managed four because of injuries.
He suffered a broken arm in the round-one loss to Geelong and then needed knee surgery after GWS thrashed them in round six.
Hodge is ready to return, but the Hawks are putting him through an extended training block to make sure he is ready for the run to the finals.
Hawthorn have the bye after playing the Suns and Hodge might not return until the July 7 away match against Port Adelaide.
Hodge turned 32 on June 15 and, like Mitchell, made his debut in 2002 for a total of 275 AFL matches.
As Hawthorn try to win an historic fourth-straight premiership, one of the other key features of this season is the futures of their 30-plus stars.
Shaun Burgoyne, 33, and 32-year-old Josh Gibson are the other key Hawks in question.
Burgoyne has played every game this season and Gibson has only missed one because of hamstring tightness.