Chowing down on some Hickey humble pie

As the saying goes, don't go throwing rocks when you live in a glasshouse. Off the record, I wasn't, shall we say supportive of the Swans' trade moves to offload popular defender Aliir Aliir for a future second-round draft pick, and pick swaps with West Coast to bring in Tom Hickey.

It wasn't the easiest trade to follow, giving up picks 58 and 62, along with the future 2021 third round and the on-traded 2021 second round from Port Adelaide. In return we landed Hickey, picks 34 and 60.

Ok, this is a decent position to be in, then the totally confounding swap with the Demons for pick 25 for 31 and 43. The rationale was clear at the time - capitalise on draft picks for the eventual selections of Campbell and Gulden while giving the draft team enough wiggle room to use their first draft pick if possible.

A short five months later and I'm happily eating fist fulls of humble pie. Tom Hickey has been nothing short of stunning for us. There wasn't an awful lot to give us an indication before the trade that Hickey was capable of such, but when you've got players like Nic Naitanui keeping you out of the side, and Lycett absolutely dominating the ruck, it's hard to really shine.

Take Hickey's 2019 season - stats that are quite similar to his performances this year, averaging a little over 12 disposals, 18 hit-outs, and 4 clearances.

Where Hickey has really improved his game is his ability to hit the scoreboard, already booting 4 goals from 3 games. He's also reveling in his dedicated first-ruck role, a position the Swans have struggled to adequately fill since Mike Pyke retired and Shane Mumford moved to the Giants.

Kurt Tippett, Sam Naismith, and Callum Sinclair have done well in patches in the role, but neither has been able to stay on the park long enough or prevent the biggest and best in the league from dominating.

Toby Nankervis, a 3-time premiership ruckman was thoroughly outclassed on Saturday by Tom Hickey. His ruck work was phenomenal, finishing the match with 10 hit-outs to advantage from 15. More impressively, his clearance work has been excellent - ranked elite, along with contested possessions, ground ball gets, and intercept possessions.

His two intercept marks in the first quarter saved two goals, and his ability to hit the scoreboard has him ranked 2nd in the AFL for goals by ruckman, with 4. He's also ranked second for disposals (47), and centre clearances (8).

Toby Nankervis went into the round rated as the best ruckman for hit-outs to advantage, and hit-outs to advantage rate (per contest). Hickey through the second and third quarters was influential in the Swans' run on the scoreboard.

Hickey finished the match with 10 hit-outs to advantage - 2 more than Nankervis, while his hit out to advantage rate was almost 20% higher, a sign of how often he feeds the ball to his on-ball brigade.

This isn't a once-off though, the Hickster has been rock solid for the Swans all season, and is a good chance of picking up a handful of Brownlow votes already, more than doubling his career tally of 1.

His influence has been telling. It's a severely underrated ability to give your on-ball brigade first use. He'll be hard-pressed to be excluded from the votes in the first three weeks.

I'm happy to say "I was wrong" - he's been bloody brilliant. Long may it continue!

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Justin Mitchell

Justin is a passionate AFL and Sydney Swans supporter, and football blogger since 2016. All articles are of his own opinion. You can reach him by twitter and Facebook at @theswansblog

Melbourne, Australia

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