Coach gets best out of Puopolo

PAUL Puopolo wants Alastair Clarkson to be his one and only senior AFL coach, so was predictably delighted when Clarkson re-committed to the Hawks earlier this week.

Puopolo, who Clarkson recruited from SANFL club Norwood at the end of 2010, admitted that Hawthorn's two-time premiership coach was one of the most important figures in his life.

``He's been great for the club and the boys just love him,'' Puopolo said of Clarkson, who has re-signed with the club until the end of 2016.

``I just feel lucky to have the coach that gave me the opportunity to still be playing and he is someone I do look up to.

``I think he saw a lot of himself in me, as I'm pretty similar height [173 centimetres] to him, and I think he sees us both as a little terrors.

``He's been able to get the best out of me and I'm thankful that I was picked up by Hawthorn and got to play under him.

``To have a coach like him as your coach throughout your career would be great.''

Puopolo had another fine year in 2013, playing as a small forward who had the primary job of applying pressure to keep the ball inside 50 in his 22 games.

But the 63-gamer, recruited with pick 66 in the 2010 national draft, will continue his evolution as a player by spending more time in the midfield this year.

``I actually started my career as a backman, went forward and now I'm trying to get into the midfield,'' the 26-year-old said.

``Trying a different role obviously gives you more opportunity, and I'm really looking forward to it.

``Sometimes you don't get used in the forward line [so] you have to find ways to get yourself into the game, such as running in the middle.

``I don't want to be stuck not having an impact on the game, so if I can have a run in the midfield and grab a bit more of the ball, it gets me more involved.''

The hunger that Hawthorn has displayed this preseason in brushing aside teams has not surprised Puopolo.

``We have lost guys who were in that premiership side, so the guys who did miss out do have that hunger and drive.

``When you have that, it lifts the other boys, as they want to give that success to the boys that missed out.

``The guys that did play in it are hungry for more, so when you have that feeling, you have a culture as we just want to be the best we can be.''

The Hawks' premiership defence begins at Aurora Stadium tomorrowntsaSaturdaynte against Brisbane, who Puopolo said would not be taken lightly.

``They can rebound and they have a lot of speed in their midfield, so they can be dangerous.

``We saw what they did to Geelong after Geelong were more than 50 points up [last year] so we know they can do some damage.''

Paul Puopolo

Paul Puopolo


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