As Tom Hickey reflects on a stellar first year with the Sydney Swans that saw him cement himself as one of the best signings of the AFL season, the talented ruckman has praised the incredible culture of the club that helped he and his family feel right at home.
Hickey well and truly became a household name amongst Swans fans after storming into the 2021 campaign in fine style - with starring performances in the opening rounds of the season that saw him kick two goals in consecutive matches (Rounds 2 and 3) while also recording 26 and 16 hit-outs respectively.
His resilience throughout a challenging season was arguably his greatest achievement - persevering through a knee injury early in the season to make a remarkable early return in Round 7.
While he concedes the loss in the opening week of the finals was heartbreaking, he lauded the club's strength of character that helped them overcome the challenges of another unprecedented campaign.
"It was a really enjoyable first season but obviously disappointing with the way we ended because I still felt like we had a couple of weeks left in us," he said.
"That's going to sting for the next little while but holistically as a year, it was incredible.
There's such a really good group of people, players, staff and coaches. It was just a really enjoyable time in what were really challenging circumstances."
Hickey continued to laud the efforts of the club who made him feel welcome from the moment he joined at the backend of the 2020 campaign, following a two-year sting at the West Coast Eagles that saw him play 23 games.
He admits he was proud of his own performances throughout the season, which saw him average 16 disposals and 24 hit-outs per game, however is determined to build on this year's campaign given the potential of the playing squad.
"This is an incredible club. [My wife] Chloe and I have felt so welcomed since we got here,"
"We have enjoyed being here, and even the challenges that we faced - it has been such an enjoyable year and I have loved every minute of it.
"I am proud [of my performances]. I wanted to come in and have some sort of influence on the group and try and play some senior footy. I was fortunate enough to play 21 games and have a few handy games in there.
"But obviously we chase team success and this group that we have is so driven. The way we lost is only going to drive us more."
Despite being in just his first year at the club, Hickey quickly became a well-respected figure amongst the playing group.
He says his character helped him become a natural leader during testing times, particularly in the second half of the year where the team endured an extensive travel period away due to the COVID-19 outbreak in NSW.
"It's probably in my nature, because I'm a bit older now as well, I like helping people and if i'm any sort of leader it's a nurturing type," he said.
"I like to help where I can and be a supporter for anyone in the team."
As for his ambitions for 2022, he believes the team are more than capable of building towards something special.
"I don't want to get knocked out in the first week of the finals next year, I want to see how far we can go," he said.
"I haven't got too many years left so I have to make them worth it."