Sophie Conway, Jade Ellenger, Breanna Koenen and Tahlia Hickie celebrate after the preliminary final between Brisbane and Geelong at Brighton Homes Arena on November 25, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

AS THE world was careening toward uncertainty in March of 2020, young Brisbane ruck Tahlia Hickie was preparing to play her AFLW debut in the club's semi-final. 

As the global pandemic was preparing to derail the AFLW season, it was a baptism by fire for the then 19-year-old.  

Now as Hickie prepares for career game No.50, it is in a final once more. This time a Grand Final, the stakes are higher than ever, but the ruck is now better placed than ever before to mark a significant milestone of her career in a big game. 

"It was very intimidating, debuting in a final, I think that there's a lot of added pressure that comes with that," Hickie told  

Lucy Wales and Tahlia Hickie compete in the ruck during the AFLW R5 match between Hawthorn and Brisbane at Kinetic Stadium on October 1, 2023. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

"I might sound like a cliche, but I honestly think that what sets you up for playing in big games is the people that you surround yourself with and I think that I'm really lucky to be surrounded by the team that I am." 

For teammate Cathy Svarc, who works closely with Hickie at her feet around stoppages, there is some poetry to this full circle moment. 

"There is something cool about that, but I think once she got her foot in there was no stopping her, and she wants to be a great player and one of the great rucks," Svarc said. 

Hickie credits the players around her, particularly the midfield group, for helping her develop into the player she is. Among the best rucks in the competition, albeit still somewhat underrated, that collaborative effort is something she is grateful for. 

"I had heaps of help from the girls around me coming into such a strong midfield, I think some people would find intimidating, but I just found it a big learning experience. I had some of the best role models and best players around me so being able to learn from them was really a blessing," Hickie said. 

Tahlia Hickie fires off a handball during the AFLW R3 match between Brisbane and Sydney at Brighton Homes Arena on September 17, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Leaning on the support of her teammates, and the want for team success, is what has allowed Hickie to thrive over the last four years, so ensuring they receives the plaudits she thinks they deserve is a top priority.  

She is continually pointing to the achievements of other Lions, noting that Jade Ellenger will also be playing game 50 this weekend, while Shannon Campbell notches up 75 games and Lily Postlethwaite 25 in Sunday's Grand Final against North Melbourne. 

"There's obviously already a lot of buzz around Grand Final week, so it's pretty exciting that I get to play my 50th in Grand Final week as well. But it's really special, the fact that I get to share it with a few other girls having milestones this week," Hickie said. 

This is emblematic of Hickie's personality according to Svarc. Keen to succeed together, celebrate together, and be better for those around her. 

"She's a bit sassy, she'll always have a funny comment … she's good quality to have around," Svarc said of Hickie. 

"I think her ability to show that growth in her game as well has been awesome to see too, seeing her progress and wanting to be better. I love it when she talks up and says stuff, I'm like 'that's such a good point of view'." 

Tahlia Hickie celebrates a goal with Cathy Svarc during the qualifying final between Brisbane and Richmond at Metricon Stadium on November 5, 2022. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Although regularly described as a quiet achiever, Svarc admits that Hickie is not afraid to "hit people between the eyes" with feedback or comments when it is necessary, all for the greater good. 

The ruck prides herself on her athleticism and ability to cover the ground in support of those around her. 

"I like to think I've made (the ruck position) my own, my strength I feel is my athleticism," Hickie said. 

That athleticism and competitive nature is what immediately stands out for Svarc who has enjoyed watching Hickie grow. 

"She's just so adaptable in the moment, sometimes she just directs that herself. She's ready to go where we need her and we just make it work from there," Svarc said.  

"She's so athletic and I think that is a great part of her game, getting around the ground, she's quite versatile in all aspects of the game and that makes her really dangerous." 

And dangerous is exactly what Brisbane needs from Hickie as it looks toward a fifth Grand Final appearance, in the hopes of taking home a second AFLW premiership. 

It will be a full circle moment for Tahlia Hickie on Sunday, a personal milestone in a big final, but if there's anything to be sure of, it's that her teammates will pull her through.