After what felt like an eternity of an offseason (which doesn’t make sense given it was actually shorter), the AFL is back in just two short weeks.
Hawthorn have announced captain Ben Stratton and veteran forward Paul Puopolo will retire from AFL, with the pair to play against Gold Coast on Sunday.
Stratton, 31, was named captain ahead of the 2019 season and will lead the Hawks one final time, while 32-year-old Puopolo will also play his last game against the Suns.
Puopolo has played 195 AFL games but has been limited to just five this season while Stratton has made 201 appearances, with 13 this year.
“Stratts and Poppy are exceptional examples of Hawthorn people, each with an incredible work ethic and each highly respected among our playing group and within our club,” coach Alastair Clarkson said.
Stratton was recruited from East Perth as a mature-aged selection in the 2009 AFL draft, with Puopolo plucked from Norwood a year later.
The duo played crucial roles in Hawthorn’s run of premierships from 2013 to 2015 – Stratton as a clever, hard-nosed defender and Puopolo as a clever pressure forward.
Clarkson lauded Stratton’s selfless nature and competitiveness and Puopolo’s resilience and said the pair were stellar examples of what mature-aged recruits could bring to the table.
“Both Stratts and Poppy were drafted to the club as mature-age recruits and are fantastic role models for what you can achieve if you have belief and determination,” he said.
“As a coach, they are both players you love to have in your side. They never give in and they will put absolutely everything on the line for their teammates and the club.
“I’m thrilled that we will have the opportunity to see them pull on the boots one last time on Sunday and I know their teammates and our members are excited for the chance to farewell them.”