King Charles and his ‘secret weapon’

Submitted by Peter Blucher.

Charlie Dixon has kicked 279 AFL goals – more than every Queensland football product except four. But right now two of them have very special significance. His first and his last. And they have one significant thing in common. A blindingly quick step off his right foot.

Dixon, behind only Jason Dunstall, Nick Riewoldt, Jason Akermanis and Kurt Tippett on the Queensland AFL goal-kicking list, will forever have a place in Queensland football via his first goal.

It was the Gold Coast Suns’ first goal in an AFL journey that began against Carlton at the Gabba in Round 2 2011. Need a reminder of that goal? Click here. 

It was a play that started with a Josh Fraser hit-out to Daniel Harris forward of centre wing. He found Michael Rischitelli by hand and Rischitelli kicked to half forward where Jared Brennan cleverly outbodied Carlton’s Matthew Watson to win possession.

Brennan fired a quick handpass to Brandon Matera running past on the outside but Matera’s chip kick was just too long for Dixon as he ran back towards goal, slipping off hands to the ground.

But the hulking Cairns junior, a baby-faced 20-year-old, gathered on the bounce and produced a lightning step to get around Carlton defender Jeremy Laidler as if he wasn’t there. He ran to the unattended goal square and pumped it through for full points.

On Sunday, in his 170th game as Port Adelaide put their top four hopes on the line against St.Kilda at Marvel Stadium in a drama-charged Round 18 of the 2021 AFL season, Dixon found himself in the spotlight again. And again he turned to his ‘secret weapon’.

It hadn’t been the biggest of days for the now 30-year-old but with Port hanging precariously to a seven-point lead late in the final term he answered a special call from coach Ken Hinkley.

Hinkley, wearing the now customary face mask in a game switched from night to day due to Covid restrictions, had pulled Dixon aside at three-quarter time for a one-on-one chat.

It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. The pair are very close. Indeed, it was Hinkley’s appointment as Port coach in 2013 after he had played a big hand as an assistant-coach at the Gold Coast in 2011-12 that eventually prompted Dixon’s move to Port in 2016.

Hinkley gave an insight into their ‘chat’ post-match. “Charlie and I have a very good relationship and we have had for 12 or 13 years, or whatever it is. He’s pretty honest with me and he knows when I’m talking to him like that it’s coming from a place of care. He accepts that we needed him to do something different in his game … because I think he trusts me.”

As the time clock ticked into the last minute Ryan Burton kicked wide to space in the left forward pocket for Port, where Dixon led ex-teammate turned Saints’ key defender Dougal Howard to the ball.

He gathered and faced Howard, with the goals over Howard’s shoulder, and stepped quickly off his right foot to go left. His bewildered opponent barely laid a finger on him as he ran to the edge of the square and banged home the sealer.

“King Charles gets his moment,” said Fox Footy’s Dwayne Russell in commentary. 

“Where did that step from Charlie Dixon come from … it was enormous,” added Dunstall, who coincidentally was on special comments duties. “Have a look at that … one, two … boom. See you later. He left Dougal Howard clutching at thin air and said ‘see you later’. Exceptional.”

Port, who slipped to fifth after a bad loss to Melbourne in Round 17, faced a St.Kilda side playing for a spot in the top eight in a crunch game originally due to be played on Saturday night.

But the first bounce was switched to 1.45pm Saturday to allow Port to get and out of Melbourne on the same day and adhere to Covid protocols.

Dixon’s last minute clincher, which ensured Port sit fourth on the ladder a game clear of Brisbane and Sydney, gave him 33 goals for the year and sees him top of the Port goal-kicking list and 11th on the Coleman Medal leaderboard.

With five games plus finals to play  he is well-placed to add the Port goal-kicking trophy to those he won in 2017 and 2020 and challenge his career-best of 49 goals in 2017.

With 21 more goals this season he would also become the fifth Queenslander to reach 300 behind Dunstall (1254), Riewoldt (718), Akermanis (421) and Tippett (325).

Dixon and teammate Aliir Aliir were two of only four Queensland products to enjoy a win in the chaos of Round 18 when Covid outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne combined to cast a huge uncertainty over upcoming weeks of the AFL season.

Mabior Chol had a win and arguably the best performance of his career when he booted a career-best four goals for Richmond in their win over Brisbane in a match transferred from the MCG to Metricon Stadium at short notice. Dayne Zorko was the best of the Lions with 24 possessions.

In what is becoming a weekly event, Swans ruckman Tom Hickey was again a standout in the Sydney derby against GWS that was originally scheduled for Giants Stadium, was first moved to Ballarat and then to Metricon. The in-form ruckman had 17 possessions, four tackles, four clearances, 36 hit-outs and the go-ahead goal in Sydney’s stunning comeback win after they had trailed by 34 points late in the second term.

And for the first time in his career Hickey’s good mate Josh Thomas was left with a bunch of zeroes on the stats sheet in Collingwood’s Sunday loss to Carlton at the MCG. He was ko’d early in the first term by teammate Darcy Cameron in a marking contest and subbed out with concussion.

Peter Blucher is a Consultant with Vivid Sport. 

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