Brendan Whitecross and Jack Fitzpatrick are set to provide the feelgood storylines for Hawthorn as they embark on their September assault on a fourth AFL premiership.
Neutral fans might struggle to get excited about another Hawks flag, but no reasonable supporter could begrudge Whitecross a bit of success.
The 26-year-old was a regular in the Hawks’ senior side in the three years leading up to their stunning premiership run but two knee reconstructions sidelined him as his team went on to win the ’13, ’14 and ’15 flags.
“I think it’s absolutely brilliant,” teammate Isaac Smith said of Whitecross, who forced his way back into the side in round 17 after a lengthy absence.
“He’s missed out on (so much).
“But he’s been working really hard and he’s put about 15 months of consistent footy together.”
Both players made crucial plays in the frantic last minutes of Hawthorn’s one-point win over Collingwood in round 23 that sealed a crucial top-four finish.
Whitecross made a vital defensive save at one end before Fitzpatrick booted his much-talked-about long bomb goal to set up the win.
Fitzpatrick, who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, was making his first senior appearance for the Hawks after being delisted by Melbourne after 22 games.
“Fitzy always talks about how he was a diehard Hawks fan growing up,” Smith said.
“And how, when he stepped in the door at the club, he was a little bit starstruck.
“He says Jordan Lewis was his favourite player growing up and also Hodgie (Luke Hodge) and Mitch (Sam Mitchell).
“He said (last week) was a childhood dream come true and he loved every minute of it.
“It was brilliant to see him do that on the weekend.”
The Hawks’ finals campaign kicks off on Friday night when they take on Geelong in a qualifying final at the MCG.