‘RIPPER YEAR’ FOR HICKEY – by Peter Blucher
Tom Hickey has won a powerful endorsement from St.Kilda coach Alan Richardson as he continues to put together the best season of his AFL career.
Hickey was widely judged best afield for St.Kilda in their win over Melbourne on Sunday, when opposed to highly-rated Demons ruck enforcer Max Gawn.
He had a career-best 21 possessions, including an equal career-best 14 contested possessions, and 27 hit-outs and 104 Champion Data ranking points.
It was his fourth Champion Data century of a season in which he hasn’t missed a game, has averaged 13.3 possessions and 29.6 hit-outs, and ranks fifth in the League in hit-outs behind Gawn, North Melbourne’s Todd Goldstein, Adelaide’s Sam Jacobs and GWS’s Shane Mumford.
Coach Richardson described Hickey’s collective efforts as “a ripper of a year”.
“He’s continued to be strong,” Richardson said after the Saints’ win. “He plays as a big man when it’s time to be big and that’s clearly when the umpire’s throwing the ball up.
“I thought his marking was really positive, he got beaten in the air last week, but it’s his around the ground stuff and his ability to put on pressure.
“He’s playing and training like a midfielder when the ball’s on the deck and he’s almost giving us another player in there at times.
“He’s working hard, he’s training hard, he’s getting some reward for his effort and he’s been a real positive this year for us, there’s no doubt about that.”
With an 8-8 win/loss record, Hickey has enjoyed almost as much success in 17 rounds of football this year as he did his first five years in the AFL, when he had nine wins and a draw from 39 games.
The former Gold Coast Suns ruckman, originally from Alexandra Hills via Morningside, was a Queensland standout in Round 17 of the Toyota AFL premiership, which featured a season-high 27 Queenslanders.
Other top-end performances over the weekend were:
- Dayne Zorko had 28 possessions, six tackles and a goal to be the Brisbane Lions’ best player in their Gabba loss to GWS. He earned 116 Champion Data points to top the Queensland list. It was 11th CD century of the season and sees him favorite to win the Merrett/Murray Medal.
- Brendan Whitecross made a stellar comeback to AFL football in Hawthorn’s last gasp win over Sydney on Thursday night. He had 15 possessions and six marks in his first game since Round 6 last year, and, most importantly, looked like he had never been out of the side.
- Aliir Aliir took another big step forward in his fourth AFL game, collecting 16 possessions and six marks in Sydney’s last-gasp loss in the same game. Like Whitecross, he showed great composure in the finals-like atmosphere of what was certainly one of the best games of the season.
- Zac Smith had 13 possessions, six marks and 16 hit-outs for Geelong in their Friday night win over Fremantle. And, in a rarity for the big ruckman, he booted two goals to top the Queensland goal-kicking list for the round. His 103 Champion Data points was his fifth century of the year.
- Shaun Hampson had 11 possessions, 40 hit-outs and a goal for Richmond against Essendon on Saturday.
- Alex Sexton was the pick of the Queenslanders in the Gold Coast’s loss to the Western Bulldogs in Cairns with 18 possessions. Jesse Joyce had 14 possessions and a career-best 69 CD points.
- Josh Wagner returned from a two-match injury layoff to pick up 18 possessions and five marks for Melbourne in their loss to St.Kilda.
- Sam Reid kept his finals dream alive with 13 possessions and six tackles for GWS against Brisbane after a surprise recall to the Giants side.
- Charlie Dixon suffered a nasty ankle injury in Port Adelaide’s commanding win over North Melbourne. He will anxiously await scans early this week but is expected to spend at least a couple of weeks on the sideline as the Power look to keep alive their faint finals hopes.
In the VFL, Adam Oxley kept his name in the minds of the Collingwood senior selectors when he had 32 possessions, 16 marks and two goals to rank among his side’s best against Frankston, and Wylie Buzza returned from a long injury layoff with Geelong.