Josh Weddle (left) and Cameron Mackenzie (right) were both picked up by Hawthorn inside the first round of the 2022 AFL Draft. (Photo: @HawthornFC - Twitter)

Hawthorn completed its 2022 AFL National Draft activity with a trio of picks on the second night of proceedings, adding to its first-round selections in Cameron Mackenzie and Josh Weddle.

It was a busy period for Mark McKenzie and his recruiting team, with Hawthorn affecting multiple trades with rival clubs to stake claim to picks higher up the draft board.

This ultimately culminated in the Hawks selecting five players from the National Draft, all of which hail from Victoria. Only the GWS Giants and West Coast matched Hawthorn’s number of selections. 

Speaking to the media post the draft, McKenzie explained that the decision to select five players wasn’t planned, but rather opportunistic.

“Having five is a rarity for us, but we’re very happy with the guys that we’ve brought in,” McKenzie said.

“Probably most importantly there’s a bit of balance there. There’s some utilities, a forward, a couple of midfielders, so we think it adds to our group very well.”

A major talking point arising from this year’s draft was Hawthorn’s facilitation of a trade with Sydney, seeing it secure pick 18 in exchange for pick 27 and a future second and third-round selection.

It was clear that Sam Mitchell had his sights on a particular player, which turned out to be athletic Oakleigh Chargers product, Josh Weddle.

Weddle’s speed, strength, and aerial ability proved too hard to pass up. Interestingly, despite playing most of his NAB League footy as a defender, Mitchell and co view Weddle as a versatile prospect.

“To get two first-round draft picks was important for us,” McKenzie explained.

“We rate Josh highly. We see him as more of a utility type, rather than a key defender.

“He’s quick, he’s got high endurance, he’s 192cm, he can play up on the wing, play forward, go in the midfield, and obviously go back.

“We’ve got high hopes for Josh.”

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In a rather ironic turn of events, Sydney’s acquisition of pick 27 from Hawthorn was put to use to select Hawks NGA prospect, Cooper Vickery. Unable to match the bid, the Hawks missed out on Vickery, a small defender who evidently caught the eye of Kinnear Beatson and his recruiting team.

Nevertheless, McKenzie said that the club had no regrets about the earlier trade with the Swans, and instead wished Vickery the very best.

“Cooper’s had a fantastic year. He’s really developed well. We had a bit of an inkling there was some interest there and he deserves it because he’s had a good year and represented Vic Country,” he said.

“Yes we’re disappointed that he didn’t get through there at the end, but he’s had a great year and deserves it.”

One player which did slide deeper into the draft was Henry Hustwaite. Hawthorn swiftly pounced on the 194cm versatile prospect with its pick 37.

The recruitment of Hustwaite again signalled Hawthorn’s intent to add tall, athletic midfielders to its playing group. It follows the arrivals of Cooper Stephens (188cm), Cameron Mackenzie (188cm), and Josh Weddle (192cm) to Waverley Park.

However, beyond mere physical attributes, Hustwaite’s polish with ball in hand also appealed to the Hawks recruiters.

“We rate Henry highly and to bring in another midfielder was important for us. We think he’s got a point of difference there with his height and his hands,” McKenzie explained.

“So yeah [it was] a little bit of a surprise, but you get that throughout the draft normally.”

The Hawks then proceeded to add midfield-forward hybrid Jack O’Sullivan to their playing list, before striking a trade to move up the order and claim pick 51. This was used to draft dashing Oakleigh Chargers defender Bailey Macdonald, who boasts impressive leg speed.

Macdonald’s selection rounded out Hawthorn’s national draft acquisitions, ensuring a productive two nights for the Hawks.

Having added five players to the squad, McKenzie is looking forward to seeing healthy competition for spots over the summer.

“Positionally we think we’re well balanced, especially after the national draft. We feel like we’ve got good competition for spots going on at the moment with our guys,” McKenzie said.

“Sam will work it out and go from there, but competition for spots is important for our group.”

Following an eventful trade period that saw Hawthorn offload senior ball-winners Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara, Sam Mitchell has been a key figure in discussions concerning draft plans.

McKenzie believes that the consistent involvement of the senior coach has been highly beneficial.

“Sam’s been fantastic. He’s been heavily involved for the last two or three months just giving us insights from his point of view, [with] vision, interviewing the guys. [Him] doing that the last two years has helped us dramatically,” he said.

“We want to go as fast as we can in this transition period, and we won’t hesitate for that.

“We’ll keep moving forward and [there’s] no ceiling to what we can achieve.”

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