Hawthorn’s oldest player Sam Mitchell says he’ll keep playing for as long as he can in the AFL and hasn’t set a retirement date.
The 33-year-old is in a group of 30-plus Hawks stars who remain among the club’s most important players.
Shaun Burgoyne is only nine days younger than Mitchell, while captain Luke Hodge and defender Josh Gibson are also 30-plus.
Jordan Lewis will reach the milestone in April.
Probably the biggest key to Hawthorn winning an historic fourth-straight premiership this year will be whether those veterans can stay injury-free and maintain their form.
What happens when they retire is a crucial issue for the Hawks.
Coach Alastair Clarkson made it clear last week one of the main reasons he will sign a three-year contract extension is that he wants to help the club through that transition.
Mitchell also said on Monday Clarkson had spoken to the veterans about life after the AFL.
“I don’t probably know how long I can play for – if I feel the way I feel now, then I can keep playing,” the four-time premiership player told SEN.
“Clarko sat us down, a few of us older guys, and said `let’s make sure you’re all sorted for your post-(AFL) careers’.
“Most of us older guys, we know we’re one bad injury away from it being the end.
“I’m going to keep playing for as long as I can – as long as I can contribute in a strong way.”
Mitchell added he and his fellow veterans would not try to extend their careers for the sake of more games.
“We’ve got a very selfless attitude around our footy club, so I realise if I start getting slower or hurting the team in any way, my time will be up,” he said.
“All of our older guys are like that.
“We’re not going to be hanging on for life or death just so we can get a couple of extra games out if it’s holding back the team.”
Meanwhile, Mitchell also admitted on Monday that Jobe Watson’s 2012 Brownlow Medal is an awkward situation.
He and Richmond captain Trent Cotchin finished equal-second behind Watson, who is serving a doping suspension this year because of Essendon’s 2012 supplements program.
Watson and his banned teammates are appealing their suspensions, deferring an AFL Commission decision on whether the Brownlow result stands.
“I haven’t really given it too much thought – it’s a pretty awkward situation really, and you’ve just got to let Essendon do what they have to do with their players,” Mitchell told Triple M.
“The AFLPA throw their support behind the players and I guess we have to indirectly do the same.
“It’s about Essendon going through whatever they do before it really has anything to do with myself or Trent.”