Tom Hickey may not have too many highlight reels floating around the internet, but he ticks the most important trade-period box for West Coast’s 2019 needs.
That is: An experienced, athletic ruckman who can come in and hold his own immediately.
Losing Scott Lycett to Port Adelaide and Nic Naitanui to injury for most of next season has the Eagles scrambling to supply ruck support to Nathan Vardy, who has fought admirably in his two seasons in the west.
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Hickey will provide that support. The 27-year-old has played 79 games in eight seasons at Gold Coast and St Kilda, and while he has never scaled lofty heights, he’s tried and tested and has regularly held his own against some of the league’s best.
The 201cm big has shown great patches of form, but has also been prone to dips – resulting in an omission from the Saints line-up midway through this year – and injury. But he loomed as the best ready-made option for West Coast in this trade period ahead of the likes of Jordan Roughead and Braydon Preuss.
The Eagles’ dual-pronged ruck strategy served them well this year. Naitanui’s freak ability and Lycett’s workhorse style gave the club a great point of difference against one-ruck sides, with Vardy filling in admirably late in the campaign.
West Coast is likely to stick with the two, with Hickey set to team up with Vardy. Hickey’s ability to run will play to the club’s strengths on the wide expanses of Optus Stadium.
As news of the deal broke, analyst Karl Langdon assessed Hickey as “better than Lycett”, which has already drawn plenty of debate but will fill Eagles fans with hope.
And even with Hickey closer to the end of his career than the start, having Naitanui in his ear in his capacity as a ruck consultant could add an extra dimension to his craft.
Hickey hasn’t really had a teammate providing that kind of wisdom shy of a solitary season alongside a young Ben McEvoy in 2013.
Now that West Coast have addressed their biggest trade period priority, they can take a shot at luring Tim Kelly to add to Andrew Gaff’s re-signing.
Pull that off, and even with Lycett’s loss, the Eagles will feel they’ve got a promising launch pad in their attempt to go back-to-back.