Submitted by Peter Blucher.
Tom Hickey and Charlie Dixon, barely recognisable from when they began their AFL journey together at the Gold Coast 11 years ago and now plying their trade interstate, were the Queensland standouts in Round 15 of the AFL season.
Hickey returned from injury with the Sydney Swans to remind the AFL world what a key figure he is in his team’s finals campaign with a brilliant performance against St.Kilda, and Dixon, in his fourth game back with Port Adelaide after a long lay-off, where he booted his 300th AFL goal.
The now bearded and battle-scarred 31-year-olds, Dixon heavily tattooed with a short haircut and Hickey with a wild mop of hair and a couple of less prominent tattoos, look nothing like the fresh-faced 20-year-olds who are two of nine SUNS originals still playing in the AFL.
It is a classy group which includes Dixon and Trent McKenzie at Port, Tom Lynch and Dion Prestia at Richmond, Steven May at Melbourne, Hickey at Sydney and only David Swallow, Sam Day and Rory Thompson still at the Gold Coast.
Together they have played 1464 games – Lynch (205), Swallow (189), Prestia (184), May (183), Dixon (181), Day (144), McKenzie (143), Hickey (129) and Thompson (106).
Hickey and Dixon, both converts from other sports via the AFL Queensland Rookie Search Program, and contracted for 2023, both found themselves playing against former clubs in Round 15 and were key contributors.
Hickey, the first player in AFL history to play with clubs based in four different states, was a critical inclusion for the Swans as they bounced back from a poor loss to Port in Round 15 with a 51-point flogging of St.Kilda at the SCG.
The AFL recruit of 2021 after he landed in Sydney over the 2020-21 off-season, he has endured a frustrating 2022 campaign with first a knee problem and then a case of turf toe that have restricted him to just six games.
At times the Sun turned Saint turned Eagle turned Swan even found himself playing second fiddle to off-season recruit Peter Ladhams, who missed last weekend through suspension.
But it will be hard to argue now that the Swans are not a better side with Hickey as the #1 ruckman after he dominated against the Saints on Saturday night.
He had 22 possessions, kicked a goal and, was game-high in three key statistics with 15 contested possessions, seven clearances and eight score involvements.
Dixon, desperately missed by Port as they started the season 0-5, split his time at full forward and in the ruck and was a key contributor in both facets.
His importance extended far beyond his 16 possessions (including a game-high 15 contested possessions), four marks, eight hit-outs and a goal. His mere presence has straightened up the way they move the ball forward and it’s no surprise after going 4-6 without him are 3-1 since his return.
And, soon after missing a sitter from 30m, he kicked possibly the best goal of his career to bring up his 300th.
On the boundary line at left half forward, he turned boundary side onto his left and let fly from 48m on his left. It didn’t look like missing.
Dixon joined a star-studded list of Queenslanders in the AFL’s 300-goal club which includes Jason Dunstall (1254), Nick Riewoldt (718), Jason Akermanis (421) and Kurt Tippett (325).
It is no mean feat for the one-time basketballer, who now sits among the 1.48% of AFL players all-time to kick 300 goals.
Queenslanders closing on 300 and completing the all-time top 10 are Charlie Cameron (277), while Michael Voss (245), David Hale (217), Che Cockatoo-Collins (215) and Dayne Zorko (215).
Also last weekend, Ben Keays recorded the 15th 30-possession game in Adelaide’s 57-point win over North Melbourne in Hobart, and Mabior Chol kicked three goals to take his season tally to 30 in Gold Coast’s two-point loss to Port.
Peter Blucher is a Consultant with Vivid Sport.