MELBOURNE midfield revelation James Harmes says he wants first crack at shutting down Hawthorn star Tom Mitchell.
Harmes has emerged as one of the game’s in-form head-to-head midfielders in the second half of the season.
And off the back of shutting down Geelong captain Joel Selwood, Harmes said he would love a shot at the star Hawk.
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“Yeah definitely (I’d love first crack at Mitchell.) We’ll see what happens, not too sure what’ll happen yet but we’ll see how it goes,” Harmes told foxfooty.com.au.
“But if I get the shot at Tom, I’ll just keep it simple and play my game and try and shut him out.”
In recent weeks, Harmes has also taken on the likes of Josh Kelly and Luke Shuey — keeping Kelly to 19 disposals and Shuey to 21 touches.
But the 22-year-old hasn’t been limited to tagging alone, instead taking the game’s best midfielders on head-to-head, backing himself to beat those players at the contest.
He said if he had a shot at Mitchell, he’d likely look to take the same approach.
“Definitely — I don’t want to give away too many secrets but I’d probably just back myself in,” he said.
“I back myself in one-on-one with most players so if I can stay with him around the ball and then just try and win the ball myself.”
Mitchell has enjoyed an incredible season, having averaged 35.8 disposals, 16.3 contested possessions, 6.3 score involvements and eight clearances per game.
Melbourne on-baller Clayton Oliver said the Hawk’s quick thinking and even faster hands made him a difficult prospect to face.
“He gets a fair bit of the pill so he does a good job of getting that and his hands are elite,” Oliver told foxfooty.com.au.
“He’s got good craft so he gets a lot of the ball going forward for the Hawks.”
Last time the Demons played Hawthorn, Nathan Jones took the job on Mitchell.
At the time, Harmes was still a fringe player primarily playing roles on the flanks.
While Jones did a solid job on Mitchell, his tagging role limited his ability to impact the game offensively as the likes of Liam Shiels and Jaeger O’Meara took hold of the contest.
But Harmes’ emergence and Jack Viney’s return have added new dimensions to the Demons’ midfield.
Harmes’ contributions have been key to that rejuvenated brand, having averaged 27.5 disposals, 9.5 tackles and six inside-50s over his past month of football.
In last week’s elimination final win over Geelong, Harmes restricted Selwood’s influence while recording 26 disposals, 10 tackles, seven inside-50s and a goal himself.
He also noticeably frustrated the Geelong skipper, who gave away a costly free kick off the ball in the third quarter for throwing Jake Melksham to the ground.
“A bit of argey-bargey, but I mean, that’s footy,” Harmes said.
“He’s a great player and has been for a long time.
“We have a great battle every time we come up against each other so I’m looking forward to the next time I get to go up against him.”
Harmes gave some credit to retiring teammate Bernie Vince for his emergence as a genuine head-to-head midfielder, saying the veteran Demon had helped him grow on and off the field.
“He’s taught me a little bit — I probably try to keep my elbows in a bit more than Bernie though.
“But over the years he’s actually been really good to me — I probably wouldn’t be the player I am today without him.
“He’s almost been like an older brother towards me since day one, kind of took me under his wing and taught me a lot, not only about footy but how to be a good person as well.
“So I love Bern and it would be great if we could get him back for a game this year.”
Vince is one of seven Demons who played when the Hawks smacked the Demons by 67 points back — but weren’t in the team for the victory over Geelong.
Harmes said the changes in both personnel — the likes of Tom McDonald, Jack Viney and Sam Weideman have come into the team, while Harmes is one of a number of Demons to have changed roles — and style, would be crucial to reversing the result this time around.
“We’ve probably grown a lot as a football team since that game,” Harmes said.
“They smashed us around the ball and that’s something we really pride ourselves on.
“So I think this Friday night you should see a really good game between two very good contested teams and we’ve definitely learnt and grown from that game and we’re definitely playing a different brand of footy now.”