Saints’ Hickey back to haunt old club
AFL: Tom Hickey is making a habit of crossing paths with former Gold Coast teammates out on the field.
It began when the foundation Suns player was handed St Kilda's No.1 rucking spot for its opening-round clash against a Port Adelaide side featuring Charlie Dixon for the first time.
In the past two weeks he's been pitted against Daniel Gorringe (now at Carlton) and Zac Smith (now at Geelong), while tomorrow he comes face to face with the only ruckman left standing at the Gold Coast from the original six, Tom Nicholls.
"I got on well with Tommy. I actually lived with him for about three months ... but this will be the first time I've played him," Hickey told Australian Regional Media ahead of the clash at Metricon Stadium.
Hickey hasn't had much of a chance to play anyone before this year.
A Brisbane boy, he was a state volleyball representative but only turned to Aussie rules at the age of 18 after being enticed to a rookie search program.
He joined Morningside before being included on the initial Gold Coast list as a Queensland zone selection.
"I won two (NEAFL) flags and thought 'how good is this', and was then lucky enough to get drafted," he recalled.
"It was a bit of a whirlwind."
But due to that abundance of big men, he could only manage 12 games in two seasons with the Suns and left at the end of 2012 "seeking a bit more opportunity".
He ended up at St Kilda, but until this season has struggled to cement a spot in the seniors, used primarily as back-up to firstly Ben McEvoy and then ex-Brisbane Lion Billy Longer.
After showing some promising signs in 2013, Hickey endured a wretched 2014, breaking his foot and then suffering from a chronic patella tendon problem in his knee.
"It was a frustrating year," he recalled.
Seeking out a surgeon in London, he went under the knife, which impacted his pre-season and set him back for 2015 when, again, he was used only sparingly.
"My self-belief never really wavered," he said. "I just had to bide my time, set myself up for a really big pre-season to try and push for that (No.1 ruck) spot and be there for round one."
The 25-year-old did, and made the most of his opportunity, gathering career-high tallies of 20 disposals and 56 hitouts.
He has gone on to average 29 hitouts and 12 disposals, keeping Longer and big American Jason Holmes in the VFL.
"I'm really happy with the year so far, just to be a part of the team for the first 13 games," he said.
"It's the most games I've ever strung in a year in total, let alone in a row.
"My form is holding pretty well. Hopefully I can sustain it for the rest of the year."
Hickey is now looking forward to taking on his old side, which he hasn't faced since 2013.
His Saints head north with confidence after knocking off flag favourite Geelong last week.
"Our biggest challenge now is consistency," he said.
"We got the win but it doesn't count for much if we can't back it up."