Hawthorn have announced James Sicily as their captain for the 2023 season, with the star defender set to step into the role following the retirement of Ben McEvoy last season.

Sicily, the reigning best and fairest at Waverley Park, has played 115 games for the Hawks since his debut in 2015, including 22 in a stellar 2022 season.

Long-considered a captain in waiting at the rebuilding Hawks, Sicily acted as stand-in captain for sections of the 2022 season as McEvoy dealt with injury, with the recently departed Jaeger O'Meara also filling in.

Originally drafted with pick no.56 in the 2013 AFL National Draft, the often polarising Sicily quickly grew to become a staple of the Hawks' defence, averaging 23.8 disposals, 8.6 marks and 6.6 spoils last year.

Speaking after the announcement, Sicily said he was grateful for the opportunity.

“I feel very privileged to be given the opportunity to lead this team,” Sicily said.  

“It's an enormous responsibility but I'm ready for the challenge and can't wait to lead this group of players. 

“To be backed by the players and the club, it's a really special feeling. 

“This club has invested so much effort, love and time into me as a person first and foremost to the point where I feel very comfortable with the opportunity to lead this club, and I feel so supported in the role by teammates, coaches, family and friends.  

“The entire playing group is intent on taking our game to another level in 2023, and this has been reflected in the energy and intensity on the training track so far this pre-season so I can't wait to get started in a month's time.”

The 28-year-old will be supported by a six-man leadership group, with Luke Breust and Dylan Moore serving as vice-captains.

Sam Frost, Jarman Impey and Mitchell Lewis fill out the remainder of the leadership team.