ROUND 21 AFL WRAP: Tom Hickey

Submitted by Peter Blucher. 

Buddy to Brisbane? How good would that be! The Queensland AFL ‘family’ went crazy. All but one. Sydney Swans ruckman Tom Hickey was the outlier. He didn’t want to lose his teammate.

In a crazy week that will never be forgotten even if it amounts to nothing, media reports linking Sydney Swans superstar Lance Franklin to the Brisbane Lions for the 2023 AFL season set Queensland alight.

Veteran Courier-Mail sports writer Robert Craddock described Franklin as “the one sportsman in Australia who has superstar appeal across all codes and all states”, and suggested the champion full forward, who will turn 36 in January, would be worth the money “at just about any price.”

“If you say he brings an extra 5000 people to a game – and that’s conservative – it might mean an extra $100,000 a game. That’s $1million-plus. He’d been sensational,” Craddock said.

Only time will determine whether there is any substance to the reports, but after Franklin quickly put all contract talks on hold until the end of the season it at least kept the rumours alive. Great news for people north of the border but not Hickey.

In his 12th AFL season at his fourth club at 31, the former Alexandra Hills junior and Morningside senior QAFL player has had the pleasure of playing alongside Franklin for two years.

He’s run out alongside Franklin in 28 of his 32 Swans games and even finished ahead of him in the club best & fairest award year, when he was 6th and Franklin 10th.

Hickey’s #31 locker is in the same vicinity of the locker room as Franklin’s #23, and he was in the side when Franklin kicked his 1000th AFL goal earlier this season.

The two laconic big men have become close friends since Hickey, formerly of the Gold Coast Suns, St.Kilda and West Coast, added Sydney to his playing CV. And now, chasing an AFL flag in the twilight of his career, the bearded, mop-haired ruckman understands that the Swans with Franklin next year will be a better side than without him.

So in Round 22 last Sunday he voted with his actions, playing a key role in the Swans’ 38-point win over North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium to further their chances of a top four finish and a home final to kick off their September campaign.

Hickey, who ranked third in coaches votes for the game behind North full forward Nick Larkey and Sydney excitement machine Chad Warner, had 22 possessions, including a game-high 15 contested possessions, 38 hit-outs and a game-high nine clearances as he out-pointed veteran North ruckman Todd Goldstein.

Hickey and Franklin were two of the ‘veterans’ of a young Swans side, with Dane Rampe (32) and Sam Reid (30) the others beyond their 30th birthday.

Oddly, too, it was Hickey’s 50th game at Marvel Stadium, which was his ‘home’ during his time with St.Kilda from 2013-18. The 134-game veteran has played three times as many games there as anywhere else.

It was a timely return to his best after a nightmare run with injury as the Swans prepare a sell-out Sunday afternoon clash this week with Collingwood at the SCG, when they will celebrate 40 years since the move to Sydney.

It’s been a tough year not just with injury, with Hickey and wife Chloe also charged with the tough job of caring for three children under three away from home and family support after the birth of twins late last year.

But as the young Swans firm in the flag market the prospect of adding to his three finals appearances and his one finals win will help him juggle football and family for as long as is necessary.

The other Queenslander to figure in the coaches votes in Round was Lions vice-captain Harris Andrews, who received two votes in his side’s 33-point Gabba win over Carlton on Sunday.

He had only 11 possessions and 11 one-percenters but marshalled expertly a Brisbane defensive unit which kept boom Carlton key forwards Charlie Curnow, favorite for the 2022 Coleman Medal, and Harry McKay, winner of the Coleman Medal in 2021, to three goals.

Peter is a consultant for Vivid Sport. 

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