By Terry Wilson
Surfers Paradise surprise packet Sam Hilton-Joyce most certainly epitomises the old saying about good things coming in small packages.
At 16 years of age, Hilton-Joyce burst on to the QAFL scene with a stunning five-goal haul on debut for the Demons in their big Coast derby win against Broadbeach last weekend.
Hilton-Joyce’s performance has earned him a fifth round nomination for the Rising Star Award, and there would be few who could disagree with the honour.
What was so special about his effort is that he managed to outmark some much bigger opponents over the four quarters in his role as a small forward.
That word small keeps popping up when you talk about Hilton-Joyce.
After all, the teenager is only 174cm tall and weighs in at 65kg – and that comes after he put on three kilograms over the pre-season.
But Hilton-Joyce is resigned to never growing much more as he nears adulthood.
“Being small doesn’t worry me at all,” he said.
“I probably won’t grow much more because Mum once told me that my great grandfather Mick was really small, he was about four foot 10 inches (147.3cm).
“And my father Clive is about the same height as I am now.
“I see the footy and go for it and last weekend I was lucky enough to take marks over the big guys.”
How Hilton-Joyce came to be called up for his seniors debut with Surfers is a story in itself.
He rocked up for a game in the colts at 8am but received a text from seniors coach Brad Moore saying he was in the top side as a replacement for Cassidy Haberfield.
He was a completely unknown commodity to all but the Surfers faithful – but he is no longer ranked in that category now.
Next weekend Surfers play premiers Palm Beach Currumbin at Salk Oval and Hilton-Joyce cannot wait for another crack at seniors football even if the surprise element no longer exists.
“Obviously now Palm Beach will know who I am but I just want to play like I did on Saturday,” said Hilton-Joyce, whose attributes are speed, positional sense and a good and accurate kick of the Sherrin.
“It’s a big game and I absolutely can’t wait. It’ll be good and there’s no way I’m going to be overawed.”
The Hilton-Joyces moved from Ballarat to the Gold Coast when their son was 12 and he spent four seasons with the Southport juniors.
When Southport merged with Surfers to form a colts team named Surfers Sharks, Hilton-Joyce moved across, for a couple of reasons.
“I thought I’d go to a club with seniors and reserves so I can work my work my way up,” he said.
“At Southport there’s only NEAFL, so I’ve got to start somewhere.”
And like every starry-eyed teenager Hilton-Joyce would love to go much higher in his career.
The AFL is the number one target but, failing that, there is the NEAFL or the VFL to look at.
There is a good yarn behind Hilton-Joyce and his development years in chilly Ballarat in Victoria.
As a youngster he idolised Tony Lockett, the all-time VFL-AFL goalkicker and, in fact, used to play full-forward in the juniors.
“Back then I was the same height as everyone else but I sort of stagnated and everyone got taller,” said Hilton-Joyce.