AFL players and coaches agree – Hawthorn 300-gamer Sam Mitchell is still improving with age.
Mitchell, 33, produced another vintage performance in brown and gold on Sunday against Richmond, tallying 38 disposals as Hawthorn put the Tigers to the sword.
In windy conditions, Mitchell’s trademark kicking skills were on full display where others might have blazed away or missed their mark.
Nine clearances, five inside 50s and five rebound 50s made for a super day out for the midfield maestro.
Nobody should have been surprised.
Mitchell has four flags, four Hawthorn best and fairests and three All-Australian medals sitting in the pool room.
He savoured the occasion, running through the banner with his three children and enjoying a guard of honour from the ground.
But teammate Jordan Lewis, who has played more than 200 games alongside Mitchell, said there was one aspect of his game that shocked him.
“He got his usual inside hard ball but he broke the lines really well today,” he told AAP.
“But he looked a lot quicker than he’s looked in the past.
“It was just a phenomenal effort. When it’s your milestone game you want to play well and you want the team to play well. He did that today.”
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said Mitchell showed so many of his finest qualities on Sunday.
“He’s been a highly decorated player at our club. He’s so resilient and tough. He gives out plenty and cops plenty. We’ve been really fortunate,” he said.
“He’s a little bit like Boomer (North Melbourne veteran Brent Harvey) – he seems to get better with age.
“Goodness knows how long he’ll play for because he’s still making a really, really solid contribution.”
Opposing coach Damien Hardwick agreed.
“Today we ended up trying to sit on him because he was really hurting us,” he said.
“There’s very few players that go through their career probably improving year-in, year-out.
“His ability to use the ball to set up others, there’s not another player like him.”