It’s rare to meet people who exceed your expectations.
Tom Hickey is indeed one of those people.
That’s not to say I didn’t have a high opinion of him before, on the contrary it’s more a refreshing confirmation of the character and humility of the man himself.
Thrown a lifeline by St. Kilda after a turbulent start to his AFL career on the Gold Coast, Tom Hickey has threatened to take the bull by the horns and never look back on numerous occasions throughout his talent rich yet injury plagued 65-game career with the Saints and the Gold Coast Suns.
Despite his imposing height of 201cm, Hickey is in fact one of the shorter ruckmen in the AFL, and as a consequence has had to re-model his game and add more strings to his bow to get a game with the much improved Saints and add longevity to his AFL career.
“I’m not the biggest of ruckmen in comparison to the rest of the competition,” Hickey says.
“I’ve always had to find other avenues to getting in the team and being more valuable on a weekly basis.”
“I back myself in with my fitness and ability to run out games, but if I want to maintain my spot I’ve always had to find ways to contribute other than being just a one dimensional ruckmen,” he adds.
It is that persistence, foresight and lateral thinking that have made Tom Hickey one of the leaders and most likeable characters among the St. Kilda group of AFL players studying Certificate III in Carpentry at the Trade Institute of Victoria (TIV).
The Saints have been firmly entrenched in the course for almost a year now, with Hickey a clear stand out despite the injuries he has endured with regards to his reliability, professionalism and commitment to the program.
“I’ve really enjoyed studying Carpentry at TIV,” Hickey says.
“Being injured also, TIV has given me something else to look forward to each and every week other than just running laps all the time in recovery,” he adds.
Hickey is a highly intelligent man – a deep thinker with an incredible zest for knowledge.
Not afraid to ask questions, he is a good man with outstanding foresight and a strong desire to succeed.
“I love the fact that the Carpentry program at TIV forces us to think on our feet and take on more responsibility than if we were doing a standard apprenticeship,” Hickey says.
“At 26, I’m mindful of the fact that realistically I’m closer to the end of my career than I am the start so when the boys at TIV came and presented to the club there was almost an immediate shift in mindset to start to figure out what I want to do after footy,” he adds.
They are impressive words from a man who could be forgiven for dropping his bundle to a degree after the injuries he has suffered and being unable at times to break back into the senior side – but quite simply that is not Tom Hickey.
“We’re fortunate I think, in that our group is a little bit older and more experienced,” Hickey says, deflecting the attention to anywhere but himself.
“We’ve got myself, ‘Browny’ (Nathan Brown), ‘Gilbo’ (Sam Gilbert), ‘Brucey’ (Josh Bruce) and a couple of the younger guys (Luke Dunstan and Jack Lonie) and we’re all really good mates away from the club and away from the tools,” he adds.
“I did two years of a sparky apprenticeship before I got drafted but I have nothing to show for it, so when the opportunity arose to join TIV and essentially fast track a qualification in Carpentry I jumped at the chance,” Hickey adds.
Hickey’s trainer Sean Clinch speaks glowingly of the Saint’s ruckmen when asked of his involvement and dedication to the TIV program.
“Tom’s an absolute ripper bloke and completely committed to the program,” Clinch says.
“He’s an intelligent man who knows what he wants out of the course and is an absolute pleasure to teach,” he adds.
So what does the future hold away from the football field for Tom Hickey?
“Ultimately I’d like to get into the building side of things as a qualified Carpenter, on the tools renovating houses back home in Brisbane for as long as my body can handle it,” Hickey says.
“The flexibility that TIV offers is amazing, and really important in helping us players focus on our AFL careers but study Carpentry at the same time,” he adds.
St. Kilda was the second AFL club to join forces with the Trade Institute of Victoria, who along with Richmond have set an extremely high standard for other Victorian clubs to follow with regards to the training of those players interested in pursuing trade based careers.
TIV now has more than 30 AFL players from five AFL clubs including St. Kilda, Richmond, North Melbourne, Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs involved in its programs in 2017.