The best game of Paul Puopolo’s AFL career has given the Hawthorn utility a couple of firsts.
Friday night’s three-point win over Adelaide was the first time he had kicked the winning goal in a match.
And later this year, he is guaranteed his first Brownlow Medal votes.
Puopolo kicked five goals and was best afield as the Hawks came back in the last few minutes to steal the win.
With less than a minute left, Puopolo won a free kick when Brodie Smith pushed him in the back.
After initial confusion – Puopolo thought he had messed up by dropping the mark – he coolly kicked the goal that put the Hawks in front.
“I’ve never been in that situation, ever – I started my career as a backman,” he said.
“I didn’t even know I had the free kick.
“I was pretty disappointed, I thought I’d dropped the mark and I thought it was just a ball up.
“Then everyone was (saying) ‘you’ve got 30 seconds … go back and kick it’.”
Plenty of players would feel the nerves in that situation, but all Puopolo had was motivation.
It was teammate Shaun Burgoyne’s 300th game and Puopolo was determined to mark the occasion with the win.
“In my head, I was just thinking ‘I want to do this for Shauny’,” he said.
“He’s a great role model, a great friend, so for me I just really wanted to get the win for him.”
When it was pointed out to him that he had surely just secured the first Brownlow votes of his 116-game career, Puopolo was not so sure.
“I think I kicked five before and didn’t get a vote – down in Tassie against Port,” he said.
“So I don’t think the umpires like me too much.”
Friday night was Hawthorn’s third three-point win in a row and Puopolo said they need to play better.
But it leaves them with a 4-1 record and means they are calling their own shots.
“It’s definitely tough going at the moment – it’s just good to get the wins,” he said.
“Come the end of the year, you don’t want to be trying to win every game to get into the finals.
“As much as we’re battling at the moment to get these wins, it’s going to be important for the rest of the year.”