Tom Hickey is set to become the first player in AFL history to play with teams based in four different states, when he plays his first game in red and white.
The 202cm Queenslander will add New South Wales to his AFL travel passport after being traded from the West Coast Eagles to the Sydney Swans yesterday.
This comes after the one-time junior volleyball standout began his AFL career with the Gold Coast (2011-12) and played with St Kilda (2013-18) in Victoria before heading to West Coast (2019-20).
Hickey, keen to head back to the east coast for family reasons, will edge one passport stamp ahead of four players who called three different states ‘home’ during their career.
They were ex-Swan Stuart Wigney, Scott Cummings, Ben Hudson and Matthew Clarke.
Jonathon Giles was on a list in four different states having been on the list of Port Adelaide, Greater Western Sydney, Essendon and West Coast, however he only played games for three of those sides having never taken to the field for Port Adelaide.
Wigney played just one game in red and white in a 1992 season destroyed by ankle problems after he’d played 47 games at Footscray (1988-90) before 10 games with Adelaide (1993-94) and 14 games with Richmond (1995-96).
Cummings split his 128-game career from 1994-2002 between Essendon, Port Adelaide, West Coast and Collingwood, and Hudson’s 168-game career from 2004-2013 took him to Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, Brisbane and Collingwood.
Clarke played 258 games with Brisbane, Adelaide and St Kilda from 1993-2007 after starting at Richmond, where he failed to play a senior game.
There is no chance Hickey will look to add a fifth state to his record – he will play next year as a 30-year-old after a March birthday and is committed to finishing his career in Sydney after signing on for at least the next two years.
Despite his exhaustive 10-year travel schedule the left-footed ruckman will join a Swans list which does not have one ex-teammate.
His closest link to the Swans playing group is a tenuous one at best – he joined the AFL as a Gold Coast Suns zone concession pick in a 2010 AFL Draft in which the Swans claimed Luke Parker at pick #40.
But there is a strong Swans presence in the country-wide Hickey career progression – he was lured to AFL as an 18-year-old by AFL Queensland’s talent boss and ex-Swans champion Mark Browning.
Born in Brisbane, Hickey’s father Mark played 10 years in the A-Grade Brisbane rugby league competition with Valleys, the same club that produced Queensland State of Origin legend Wally Lewis.
Hickey Jr played predominantly rugby league in his younger days, but at high school turned his hand to basketball, rugby union, water polo, athletics and volleyball.
He represented Queensland in volleyball and looked destined to focus his athletic energies in this direction until a chance introduction to Australian football in his last term at Iona College on Brisbane’s bayside.
He was invited by two good friends to play in a school football competition in which, showing his tremendous athleticism and a natural flare for football, he was spotted by Browning and invited to join the Rookie Search Program.
Remarkably, not only did Hickey go on to play in the AFL, but so too did his two school mates, who remain close friends 12 years later.
Who were they? Josh Thomas, now a 103-game veteran at Collingwood and one game ahead of 102-gamer Hickey, and Tom Bell, who played 72 games with Carlton and Brisbane.
In 2009 Hickey joined Morningside, the junior home of Brisbane champion Michael Voss, and was runner-up in the League Under 18 best and fairest medal as his side won the premiership.
He represented Queensland Under 18s as an over-age player in 2010 and played a key role in Morningside’s senior QAFL premiership win in which they came from 20 points down at three-quarter time.
Hickey’s opponents in the beaten Labrador side that day were 291-game St Kilda, Hawthorn and Sydney ruckman Peter ‘Spida’ Everitt, and 75-game Brisbane, St Kilda and Richmond player Trent Knobel.
Invited to what is now the draft combine, Hickey made sure he impressed. He was the best-performed ruckman in the agility test, equal second-best among ruckmen in the endurance beep test, and second overall outright in the ‘clean hands’ test.
He was signed by the Gold Coast Suns for their 2011 entry to the AFL and debuted in Round 22 against Adelaide at Metricon Stadium, sharing ruck duties with ex-Collingwood #1 draft pick Josh Fraser.
In just his fifth AFL game at 21 Hickey pulled in seven contested marks against Collingwood at the MCG to go with 19 possessions (12 contested), 24 hit-outs, eight marks and four tackles.
Eight years on, Hickey’s standout aerial performance is still a Suns record. And in 22 years since statistics for contested marks were first kept in 1999, only four Sydney players have had as many – Barry Hall (9), Callum Sinclair (8), Greg Stafford (7) and Sam Reid (7).
After 12 Suns games in 2011-12 Hickey was targeted by St Kilda. And with his path to a regular senior game with the Suns seemingly blocked by Zac Smith, who had finished third in final voting for the AFL Rising Star in 2011 and sixth in the Suns best and fairest, he chose to move.
He played 67 games with the Saints, with a best year in 2016 when he was fourth in the best and fairest vote-count at Round 21 before finishing eighth after missing the last two games with a calf strain.
In Round 1, 2016 against Port Adelaide Hickey had 20 possessions (13 contested) and a career-best 56 hit-outs. This is a mark that only one Sydney player has topped since ruck statistics were first kept in 1966 – Mike Pyke had 59 hit-outs in a game in 2015.
The 2017 AFL Guide said of the easy-going big man: “Logged 20 games … with his athleticism making him a difficult opponent. Indeed, he had the better of All-Australian ruckman Max Gawn twice last year”.
Alan Richardson, St Kilda coach at the time, described Hickey’s collective 2016 efforts as “a ripper of a year”.
“He plays as a big man when it's time to be big and that's clearly when the umpire's throwing the ball up … but it's his around the ground stuff and his ability to put on pressure. He's playing and training like a midfielder when the ball is on the deck and he's almost giving us another player in there at times,” Richardson said.
But at the end of 2018 Hickey was on the move again when West Coast, set to be without Nic Naitanui for much of the 2019 season due to injury, came calling.
He played 20 games for the Eagles, including his first final, and finished 12th in the best and fairest after averaging 12.5 possessions, 19.4 hit-outs, 2.6 tackles and 4.1 clearances, and kicking nine goals.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson said at the time Hickey had enjoyed best year of his career. "(He's had) continuity, opportunity – really specific with his role. He is complying really well. He seems to find the ball a bit more than most ruckmen and not in ways that is at a detriment to the side. It's in the right way. He's been pretty good for us,” Simpson said.
But the return of Naitanui in 2020, coupled with the shortened games, saw Simpson abandon his customary two-ruck approach. Naitanui won All-Australian ruck selection and his first West Coast best and fairest and Hickey played only three games.
Contracted for 2021, offered an extension for 2022 and enjoying his role as the Eagles ruck coach, Hickey had a problem. He and wife Chloe were so isolated on the opposite side of the country due to the Covid border restrictions that one-year-old son Lou had not even met his grandparents.
So, after the Swans completed a trade for the mop-haired follower barely 24 hours out from the end of the trade period yesterday, Hickey was at it again. Packing up his home in Perth to move to Sydney.
“I loved West Coast but family has to come first and the chance to get back to the east coast was really appealing. Like the Eagles, I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Swans and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to play in Sydney,” he said.
“There’s a lot of outstanding young talent and I look forward to working under Dean Cox, who was one of the very best according to everyone at the Eagles.”
Hickey, a keen surfer and would-be carpenter, will become just the 29th player on what is now an all-time AFL player list of 12,846 to play with four or more clubs.
This is a list headed by three five-club players – Dale Kickett, Les Hughson and ex-Swan Les Abbott.
Kickett played 181 games from 1990-2002 with Fitzroy (15), West Coast (2), St Kilda (21), Essendon (8) and Fremantle (135), while Hughson played 75 games from 1927-37 with Collingwood (1), Hawthorn (4), Carlton (12), St Kilda (41) and Fitzroy (17), and Abbott played 39 games from 1904-12 with Collingwood (1), Carlton (1), Richmond (31), Melbourne (3) and South Melbourne (3).
Wigney and 10 other Swans are among the 25 other four-club players. They are:
Simon Minton-Connell – Kicked 169 goals in 46 games with the Swans from 1992-94, including three finals, after 19 games at Carlton, 22 games at Hawthorn and 25 games with the Western Bulldogs.
Richard Osborne – Kicked 39 goals in 16 games with the Swans in 1993 after 187 games at Fitzroy, 51 games for the Western Bulldogs and 20 games with Collingwood.
Mark Athorn – Played 15 games with the Swans in 1991 after 17 games with what was then Footscray, 21 games with Fitzroy and 30 games with Carlton.
Charlie Anderson – Played 11 games with South Melbourne in 1925-26 after starting at Carlton (1 game) before playing at Richmond (3 games) and Footscray (1 game). He kicked the only two goals of his career on debut with the Swans.
George Dougherty – A 1937 Geelong premiership player, he finished his career with 10 games at South Melbourne in 1945 after playing with Carlton (17 games), Geelong (98 games), Footscray (25 games) and Geelong a second time (23 games).
Daryl Cumming – played 10 games for South Melbourne in 1979, including his 100th in his Swans debut, after 88 games including the 1974 premiership at Richmond. Also played at Melbourne (15 games) and North Melbourne (1 game).
Craig Davis – Father of Swans premiership hero Nick Davis, he finished his career with nine games in the #50 red and white jumper in 1988 after 42 games at Carlton, 10 games at North Melbourne and 102 games at Collingwood.
Vic Nankervis – Played four games with South in 1946 to finish a career which included spasmodic stints at Geelong (2 games), Footscray (2 games), St Kilda (7 games) and Geelong again (31 games) while he served in the Australian army after enlisting in 1940
Norm Le Brun – Played three games with South Melbourne in 1929 before joining Essendon (23 games), Collingwood (19 games) and Carlton (5 games). A bricklayer at the time, he enlisted as a commando in the Second AIF in 1942 a week after the Bombing of Darwin. He was killed in action when shot by a Japanese sniper in 1944 in Papua New Guinea.
Dick Chirgwin – Played one game for South Melbourne in 1940 in career in which he played with four clubs inside two calendar years. He began with 64 games with Richmond from 1934-39, played with South and Footscray (3 games) in 1940 and had 15 games with North Melbourne from 1941-43.