Triple premiership Lion Jonathan Brown believes Sydney’s acquisition of Tom Hickey has been arguably the best recruiting move by any AFL club over the past five years.
Hickey this weekend will feature in his first Grand Final after a remarkable four-club journey. He was drafted by the Gold Coast Suns ahead of their inaugural season in 2011 before being traded to St Kilda two years later, joining West Coast six years later then moving to the Swans, where he’s been for the past two years.
The 31-year-old moved from the Eagles to Sydney after the 2020 season as part of a packed trade. Hickey, along with Picks 34 and 60, was sent to Sydney, which gave West Coast a future second-round pick, a future third-round pick, Pick 58 and Pick 62.
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“You could argue he’s been the pick-up in the last five years of any club,” Brown told Fox Footy’s On The Couch.
“If you go pound-for-pound in what you’ve had to give up to get a player, his influence on that football club has been unbelievable. Obviously in big games he’s stepped up.”
Hickey in the past two seasons has emerged as the Swans’ clear first-choice ruck. After playing 21 of a possible 23 games in his first year, he’s missed nine games this season due to knee and toe issues.
But he’s returned at the right time of the year, playing every game for the Swans since Round 18 – and his past four weeks, in particular, have been sublime. According to the AFL Player Ratings, Hickey was best on ground against the Magpies in Round 22 then ranked 12th, second and fifth across his next three games.
Hickey was particularly impressive in the Swans’ qualifying final win over Melbourne, not only nullifying star duo Max Gawn and Luke Jackson in the ruck but also having a significant offensive impact himself, booting one goal from 17 disposals, 14 contested possessions, five clearances and seven intercepts.
“He’s been unbelievable at his fourth football club. What a finals series he’s had,” St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt told On The Couch.
“He goes head-to-head with Max Gawn and Luke Jackson in the first final and does more than hold his own in what is probably the most daunting assignment for an individual player in the game.
“Then on the weekend (against Collingwood) he was absolutely huge. Just in important moments, he takes that big mark late when you need a presence down the line just to be able to reset field position.”
The ruck battle between the Swans and Cats looms as crucial to the outcome of Saturday’s Grand Final, particularly with Sydney utility Sam Reid – who’s been pinch-hitting since Round 11 this year – in doubt to play due to an adductor injury.
Should Reid be deemed unfit to play – the Swans will give him every chance to play – young guns Joel Amartey or Hayden McLean would be most likely to come into the side.
But Hickey’s form has given Melbourne champion Garry Lyon confidence the Swans will be fine in the ruck.
“Thankfully they’ve got a journeyman who’s in career-best nick playing in the ruck. Of all the great stories going around, throw Tom Hickey into the mix,” Lyon told On The Couch.
“We talk about players that make their reputation in finals, they are unbelievable numbers.”
Speaking after the Swans’ qualifying final win over Melbourne, Hickey was full of praise for Sydney’s “Bloods” culture.
“I think it’s just good people everywhere in the footy club. And just genuine care,” Hickey told Fox Footy.
“We were in the hub, it was like a Tuesday night, middle of the hub, Tuesday night and it was analytics, and footy operations and coaches and players all just playing cards together enjoying each other’s company.
“It was pretty tough times. (The club is) incredible, I love it.”