Mitch Hallahan was born in 1992. He grew up in Melbourne, Australia. At 18 years of age, he was taken at pick number 38 in the 2010 AFL National Draft. Today, Hallahan is 20 years old and he speaks about the influences of his older brother and parents, the sacrifices he had to make to achieve his dreams, as well as overcoming an ankle injury.
Image via www.hawthornfc.com.au
Hallahan began Auskick when he was five years old. At about eight or nine, when he was old enough to play junior football, he started playing for Sorrento. He credits his older brother James for inspiring him to play.
“I wanted to play, probably mainly because my brother James played. I looked up to him for my whole childhood.”
“Footy was also something both mum and dad were passionate supporters of, so I grew up around the football and fell in love with the game from an early age.”
“Drafting process for me was a lot like the lottery. You become a number and you never know if you will be lucky enough to be picked out. You have a really small chance of being drafted.
When asked if he was confident he would be drafted in 2010 Hallahan said, “thousands of people are nominated each year and only 100 are drafted. So for me, I was never 100% sure I would be drafted. But I knew I had done everything I could to give myself the best chance of it happening.”
“Each club showed a different level of interest. I had two very in depth meetings with Hawthorn throughout 2010, but was never sure they would draft me, let alone any other team.”
“After seeing James go through the process the two years prior to 2010 and seeing dreams be shattered, I realised that it’s not the be all and end all. It opened my eyes to the fact that there is so much more than footy for me.”
“When my name was called out, I was at home and I didn’t show too much emotion externally. To be honest I didn’t know how to react.”
Following the draft, Hallahan said “life changed a lot.” Within days, he had moved in with Hawthorn forward Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin.
“I went from one day living at home being a normal 18 year old, to moving out of home three days later and in to the house of arguably the best forward to ever play the game, Lance Franklin.”
“It was such a thrill to get to know him on a personal basis. It really set up a strong connection between the two of us and he really taught me what it is to be a professional athlete.”
Hallahan credits Buddy as being “one of the most professional players at [his] club,” claiming “he taught [him] exactly what is expected at the highest level.” He stayed with Buddy for a month and describes it as “an experience he will never forget.” In Hallahan’s words, Franklin is “such a humble man.”
In just his second week as part of the Hawthorn Football Club, Hallahan and the team went to New Zealand for a training camp.
“It was my first time out of Australia. I was so happy. I couldn’t do much because I was still in the rehab stages of an ankle reconstruction. But it was good to form some friendships with my future teammates.”
Upon arriving back from New Zealand, Hallahan moved in with current Hawthorn captain, Luke Hodge. He spent 2 months with Hodge and his young family and quoted it as being “really remarkable” to see both “the captain Hodge and the father Hodge.”
“We have a really good relationship and he is someone I can turn to when I need advice on anything. He is a true leader and again a genuine person.”
“I couldn’t speak highly enough of Hodgy or Bud. The things they did for me, even without knowing me, was amazing.”
However all of this did not come easy for Hallahan who said “the sacrifices [he] had to make, started when [he] was about 15 or 16.”
“I wish I had my time over because my education suffered as a result of me being completely obsessed with making the AFL.”
But it wasn’t only his education that was hindered as Hallahan claims his social life also suffered.
“As I never went to parties on weekends, never went out once I turned 18, I had become a really reserved person. A big challenge for me was asking people for help or opening up to people so I could develop a close relationship.”
Furthermore, prior to the draft, at age 17, Hallahan was forced to make a decision between pursuing AFL or boxing; a sport he initially took up to improve his football.
“Boxing started out as a way to become a better footballer but ended up being something I loved and something I was good at.”
“The fact I took up boxing completely changed me as a footballer, an athlete and as a person. A lot of the lessons I learned in the boxing ring I brought over to my football and developed a very competitive nature and physical brand of footy. I still believe this is the main reason why I got drafted.”
“I couldn’t thank my father Craig, and Trainer Phil Catalucci enough for what they did for me whilst I was boxing.”
In the end, it is obvious however, that Hallahan chose to pursue football.
“I chose it for a number of reasons. It’s a team sport, I love the mate ship involved and the opportunity to be drafted and be an AFL player was something I always dreamt of and finally I loved the game.”
He played in the 2013 NAB Cup, however is yet to play a senior game. Hallahan is described in his player profile on the Hawthorn FC website as ‘a strongly built, clearance-winning midfielder who can also kick a long goal.’ He had a great season in the VFL in 2012 after missing most of 2011 as he battled through a foot injury.
When asked how he manages the frustrations of injury Hallahan said, “everyone gets injuries but I guess the mentality I took into my rehab was that I need to do this right because I have spent five years working my butt off to get an opportunity.”
“I attacked my rehab as hard as I could and left no stone unturned. I did everything that was expected and more.”
However, despite all of his hard work and efforts, the same injury reoccurred only six months later and Hallahan found out that he would need to have a second reconstruction.
“This really shook me up mentally. I was pretty emotional about this, but didn’t show it to people. I kept it all to myself.”
He talks about how his aim to walk The Kokoda Track by the end of the year with some of his teammates was his main drive in overcoming his injury.
“The second time round I had a goal. It drove me through my rehab and I was eventually able to achieve that goal.”
“Walking Kokoda till this day is the most grueling week of my life, but such an amazing experience. I still draw motivation out of that trip today. It is something I will always remember and something I will never take for granted.”
Hallahan earned All-Australian honours in 2010 after the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships. He was also a Vic Country co-captain in 2012.
Currently he is playing for the Hawthorn Football Club VFL team, the Box Hill Hawks and is aiming for a senior debut.