Hawthorn coach's eye-opening admission about James Sicily after AFL Tribunal saga

The incident involving Sicily was described as "one of the lowest" acts in the sport.

Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell has refused to go as far as saying James Sicily is unfairly targeted by AFL officials, but admits the spotlight will be on his skipper during Saturday's clash with Melbourne at the MCG. Sicily was cleared to play after Hawthorn successfully appealed his one-game ban for kicking Essendon's Andrew McGrath.

The Bombers star admitted himself the kick was "pretty innocuous" and the Hawks argued the risk of injury to McGrath was "relatively low". AFL 360 co-host Mark Robinson blew up over the Sicily kick and labelled it "one of the real low acts in football" but St Kilda champion Leigh Montagna said there was hardly anything in it and blamed a ‘James Sicily tax’ for his charge.

Seen here, Hawthorn captain James Sicily and coach Sam Mitchell.
Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell says the spotlight will be on his captain James Sicily after the kick on Essendon's Andrew McGrath. Pic: Getty

The inference was that Sicily's no-nonsense reputation has seen him scrutinised harsher than other players, much in the same way critics believe GWS captain Toby Greene has been throughout his career. Mitchell refused to weigh in on that narrative when asked about his skipper's charge from the Match Review Panel (MRP), but conceded Sicily would be firmly under the microscope after his latest indiscretion.

Sicily was last year banned for three games for rough conduct and has been charged by the MRP 14 times throughout his 135-game career. But the kick on McGrath represents the only time the Hawthorn premiership star has successfully fought a charge.

Sam Mitchell admits spotlight will be on James Sicily

The Hawks skipper's disciplinary record means he's been charged roughly once every 10 games but Mitchell says he doesn't believe he's been unfairly targeted. “I think we talk regularly about umpires, they do their scouting the same way the players do,” the Hawthorn coach said on Thursday.

“So if James is in a certain position, then you know that people are going to be looking for something, and whatever you are looking for, you’ll find. He knows that he needs to perform at his best and make sure he stays within the rules of the game, no different to anyone else.”

Pictured left is James Sicily and AFL 360 co-host Mark Robinson on the right.
An irate Mark Robinson described James Sicily's kick-out as 'one of the lowest' acts an AFL player can do on a footy field. Pic: Getty/Fox Footy

Mitchell says discussions with his skipper this week have centred around the best way for Sicily to perform his role and maintain his focus in the heat of battle. Essendon's players managed to get under Sicily's skin during Hawthorn's defeat last week but Mitchell says he's confident the skipper won't let that happen again.


“I chat with him every week. The captain and coach relationship is pretty important,” Mitchell said. “We chat about his on-field, his off-field, how he’s leading, how the rest of the group is feeling. This week it was a bit of focus on how he performed and his role.

“I am really confident he has all of the tools in his kit bag now to make sure he’s able to perform well both on the field himself as a player but also on the field himself as a leader.” Mitchell says despite Hawthorn's 24-point defeat to the Bombers last week, his side doesn't need to stray from what they've been working on in the pre-season.

“We’ve done a lot of work through the pre-season and trying to put ourselves in winnable positions more often,” he said. “We did that last week, we just didn’t capitalise.”