Sydney Swans forward Sam Wicks might not be the poster boy of the young Bloods, but his dazzling display helped Sydney thump Richmond by 45 points and gave his former mentor one of his "proudest moments".
The Sydney cygnets are lining up, for goals on the field, awards off of it, and even acclaim from the coaches' box.
Wicks is the latest to claim his moment in the spotlight, after a breakout performance against the reigning premiers. The small forward ended the day with 21 touches and 3 goals, and later earned a perfect 10 in the coaches' votes.
Fortunately for the rest of the competition, Wicks is 3.5 months too old to be eligible for the NAB AFL Rising Star this year, so wasn't able to continue Sydney's clean sweep of nominations so far this season. That honour instead went to his teammate, Chad Warner.
Wicks is a product of the QBE Sydney Swans Academy – as were six of his teammates last weekend – but compared to top-10 draftees Callum Mills, Nick Blakey and Braeden Campbell, he had to follow a less direct path from the footy factory to the senior side.
He had impressed in the Academy Series in his under 18 year, but wasn't selected to play for the Allies in the AFL Under 18 Championships and later missed out on being drafted.
Wicks stayed with the Academy as an under 19 and played in the NEAFL, showing Swans' recruiters enough for them to take him as a Category B selection in the 2018 Rookie Draft.
"Watching Sam play so well against Richmond was one of the proudest moments that I've had in more than 10 years with the Academy," Chris Smith, head of the QBE Sydney Swans Academy, told AFL.com.au.
"He was quite small going through the talent programs. But he always had really good attributes – he could run, he was always very clean and he was highly competitive.
"He had a really strong desire to make it."
Wicks's debut last year was mostly remarkable for a freak incident where the plastic and aluminium stops on his boots led to a severe gash on Magpie Isaac Quaynor's right leg.
"It was a bit weird at the time but it blew over pretty quickly," he recalled.
He ended up playing seven games for the season, with a focus on forward pressure having him average more than four tackles a game.
"I try to bring that as much as I can. Usually that gets me involved and around the ball, and goals and getting the footy come off the back of it," Wicks said.
The livewire forward has now added an offensive threat to his game, already kicking six goals this year.
"One of the big parts of my game is reaction time, and trying to beat my defender by getting off the mark ahead of him," the 21-year-old said.
"The quick ball movement is helping massively with that."
Joining Wicks in the forward line this week will be Lance Franklin for only his second game since round 23, 2019.
"It's awesome to be able to play alongside Buddy," Wicks said.
"Just his presence draws at least one or two defenders, sometimes more.
""I'll know where the ball is going, so I'll just try to get to his feet as much as I can."