Hawks Stratton, Puopolo to retire from AFL

Hawthorn have announced captain Ben Stratton and veteran forward Paul Puopolo will retire from AFL at season's end.

BEN STRATTON Ben of the Hawks is tackled during the AFL match between the Sydney Swans and the Hawthorn Hawks at SCG in Sydney, Australia.
BEN STRATTON Ben of the Hawks is tackled during the AFL match between the Sydney Swans and the Hawthorn Hawks at SCG in Sydney, Australia. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Hawthorn captain Ben Stratton and fellow triple-premiership player Paul Puopolo will retire from AFL after Sunday's clash with Gold Coast at the Adelaide Oval.

Stratton, 31, was named captain before 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.

The duo played crucial roles in Hawthorn's run of premierships from 2013 to 2015 - Stratton as a hard-nosed defender and Puopolo as a pressure forward.

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 told the club's website the end of this season had seemed like "the right time" to retire.

Puopolo said he felt like he could "give a little bit more" but was unwilling to take a spot from a young, developing player.

Stratton's retirement means the Hawks will enter 2021 with a new captain.

Midfielders Jaeger O'Meara and Tom Mitchell are co-vice captains this season, with Liam Shiels, Isaac Smith, Ben McEvoy and Jack Gunston the other members of the Hawks' leadership group.

Clarkson lauded Stratton's selfless nature and competitiveness and Puopolo's resilience.

He 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."

Stratton and Puopolo's departures mean of Hawthorn's premiership players between 2013 and 2015, only Shaun Burgoyne, Gunston, Luke Breust, McEvoy and Shiels are contracted to the club for next season.

Smith and 2015 premiership defender James Frawley are out of contract at season's end and are yet to re-sign.