Despite having just nine games to his name after entering the AFL in June last year, Hawthorn defender James Blanck is ready to go head-to-head with the competition's best tall forwards.

The thought of being tasked to take on the game's best spearheads most weekends is something that drives Blanck to be the best backman he can be, with the support of Sam Mitchell and defensive coach Kade Simpson giving the Mid-Season Draft recruit a platform to prove his worth.

Added to the Hawks' senior list midway through last season after three interrupted years in the VFL with Box Hill, Blanck had an instant impact for Mitchell's side to play nine successive games from his Round 15 debut to the final match of the season.

Working in tandem with veteran defender Sam Frost and new skipper James Sicily on Hawthorn's last line, the 196cm defender established newfound confidence in himself in having to man up on the likes of Aaron Naughton and Tom Lynch in his first couple of months at the club.

Speaking to Zero Hanger, Blanck revealed a source of motivation often came in the form of preparing for his biggest battles.

"I'm big on having a role on a good, known forward. It really sparks something in me to know that the pressure is on," Blanck said.

"That's what really motivates me and what gets the best out of me. So I think I'm absolutely ready to take on some of the best key forwards.

"Talking to the coaches, that's what they want from me this year, to take on those key forwards that can have a massive impact on the game if they're let off the chain.

"I'm excited for that. Obviously there's gonna be some big tasks in there but I'm ready for the challenge and I'm excited to get started."

Blanck has come to quickly learn that with the role comes a needed understanding that some challenges will have the best players staring into the headlights, relying on those around them for support.

The Park Orchards product said the support network that has been built around him, coupled with the belief in his own ability, has only lifted him further.

"Coming from the VFL where you don't quite get exposed to the best in the country, there are a few moments (in the AFL) where you're almost thinking 'am I out of my depth?' or 'is this too much for me?'," he said.

"But I've got the experienced guys around me who can support me with that and chop me out if I need it.

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"I think it's just about remaining confident and knowing that you are good enough and you do have the skill set required to get your job done. There's gonna be a few moments where you are feeling a bit overwhelmed but I think it's about having confidence in yourself."

When next Sunday arrives and the Hawks tussle with close rivals Essendon at the MCG, the playing group's pre-season will finally have met its cessation.

For Blanck, the past several months have encapsulated his first and only pre-season as an AFL player, with the results already showing on the eve of the new season.

"It's been nice to just to build into it and really feel the full benefits of a pre-season, feeling stronger and feeling fitter than I ever have before," Blanck said.

"Peter Burge (Hawthorn's high-performance manager) has been really good for that. He's come in and changed the high performance here.

"Working on things such as high speed and burst which has really helped my game and my closing speed.

"One of the most important things is role clarity. Going in every week knowing what you got to do really helps and take the pressure out of game day.

"Coaches like Sam and Kade have really helped with that. Then we have Frosty, Sic, Blake Hardwick and Jarman Impey who are all experienced defenders who have really helped me and made it clear what I need to be doing and if I'm not doing enough."

The Hawks have looked toward a pool of talent at Box Hill to help accelerate their rebuild under Mitchell, with Blanck being one of four VFL-listed Hawks to join the club's list since 2021.

Jai Newcombe, Lachie Bramble and Fergus Greene have each found their way to Waverley through three separate and contemporary pathways, with the newly introduced Mid-Season Draft, Supplemental Selection Period and Delisted Free Agency mechanisms working for the trio respectively.

Blanck was drafted to Hawthorn 12 months after Newcombe had been signed during the middle of the season, becoming another astute acquisition from outside of the traditional National Draft.

The introduction of new, flexible avenues of recruitment has been valuable for the Hawks, and players like Blanck are equally appreciative.

"I think it's hard for it's hard for clubs to know if a player's gonna be ready at a particular time, so it gives clubs more of a chance to look at players and allow for factors such as injuries post-draft," he said.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 10: James Blanck of the Hawks is chased by Reilly O'Brien of the Crows during the 2022 AFL Round 17 match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Adelaide Crows at Marvel Stadium on July 10, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

"It's the best way that we can get the best players playing in the AFL. It also opens up a bit of a belief and a bit of opportunity for players who aren't initially drafted like myself to have something to look at and to and to work towards.

Speaking on the time from being drafted to the end of the season, Blanck said: "I did my best to soak it all up. But looking back it did just flash by.

"It was an easy transition because of the Box Hill alignment. So getting in there was fine and starting to play games wasn't an issue. But it was a short stint and I'm just so lucky that I get to go again.

"I was lucky enough where I had clubs who were pretty keen so I was in the position to nominate for an 18-month (contract)... which not every player is lucky enough to have."

Three of the 17 players drafted through the 2022 Mid-Season Draft saw their time in the top flight end in a matter of months, having managed to secure six-month deals instead of the 18 that players like Blanck were able to nominate for.

Geelong's Zane Williams and Adelaide's Brett Turner have since returned to the SANFL with no AFL games to their name after being drafted last June, while Carlton's Will Hayes managed two matches in the navy blue before being delisted.

Blanck believes that there may need to be some thought in the future for Mid-Season Draft talent to be given a greater opportunity when arriving in the AFL, with the 16th overall pick from last year's intake understanding the frustrations the likes of Williams, Turner and Hayes may have felt.

"You do have to sympathise with them," Blank said. "It's a short period of time to get to be able to prove yourself.

"I'm not entirely sure what the correct answer is, but it's something to think about in the future.

"I've had a few friends who have been at clubs for very short periods of time and then were let go and you almost think whether it was it was the best thing for them. But I think just giving people the opportunity that they might not ever have gotten is another way to look at it."

Blanck's second season at Hawthorn will officially commence on Sunday, March 19 when the Hawks and Bombers clash at the MCG.