TOM HICKEY is the very definition of a journeyman as the first AFL footballer to play at four clubs in four different states, but the ruckman has found his career-best form since landing at Sydney.
The 30-year-old is averaging the most disposals (16), inside 50s (2.4) and goals (just under one per game) that he's produced in his career, but it is his impact around stoppages that has perhaps had the biggest influence on the Swans' success.
Hickey has been contributing more like a midfield bull than a big man, and also has career-highs for contested possessions (11.4 per game) and clearances (six).
"I'm just a battler. I'll just do everything I can to get a game, let alone have some influence," he joked on Tuesday.
"I had a couple of games where it's clicked. I think I've played maybe three or four weeks [of good games in a row] previously in my career, but that would be it.
"I've just been able to play and not put too many limitations on a role. My whole game is based around competing and trying my best. I've kind of not been overly worried about getting possessions, I just want to be a good teammate."
Hickey joined Sydney after two years at West Coast for a mix of pick swaps in last year's Trade Period.
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The Swans would surely rank him as the recruit of the year, as the 201cm ruckman has helped a young line-up to a spectacular start to the season and five wins from the six games he's completed.
But Hickey thought his season could be finished early when he felt pain in his left knee during the third quarter of the crosstown clash with Greater Western Sydney in round five. With the ruckman subbed out of the game, the Swans gave up a 21-point lead to lose by two points.
Hickey feared for the worst – the ruckman's curse of a torn PCL.
"I was pretty devastated when it happened," Hickey said.
"They did the test on gameday and I started to think I might miss eight weeks."
He missed the next match against Gold Coast, which turned out to be the Swans' most disappointing display of the season as they lost by 40 points.
Hickey was expected to be sidelined for a couple more months but was a shock selection for the round seven match against Geelong.
He quickly reminded the team of his importance, gathering 20 touches and leading all players on the ground for contested possessions (16), clearances (11) and centre clearances (six) in a two-point victory.
"All of a sudden the question was 'do you want to play next week?'. And when are you not going to want to play?" Hickey said.
"I fully ruptured the PCL [this year], but we think that in 2016 I might have had a partial tear in there, or some laxity. So when it finally went, my knee didn't respond like a pure rupture, I didn't get a whole lot of swelling.
"My knee has been able to adapt and become more stable because of [the injury in 2016], so when it finally went, it wasn't that big a shock to the knee."
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The Swans are now managing his training loads to ensure the rucking revelation is fit to line up each weekend and play out the season.
"We're just figuring out how to manage it at the moment. Last week I probably came into the game better than I did the week before, so I'm hoping to do that again this week," Hickey said.
"Early in the week it's about keeping the swelling out of it, then as we ramp up, it's getting mobility and getting cherry ripe for the game. It's more about getting right for Saturdays and Sundays."
Hickey's ongoing availability now looks likely to have a huge bearing on Sydney's finals hopes.
After an even battle with Max Gawn last week in a nine-point loss to Melbourne, Hickey will face another stiff test against Brodie Grundy and Collingwood at the SCG on Saturday.
"They're the two premier ruckmen in the comp and they've been good for a long time," Hickey said.
"Brodie is much more in the contest and his follow-up is elite, so I'm just going to have to try to match it there.
"It's exciting to challenge yourself with the best, and as long as I can quell his influence on the game and help the boys win I'll be happy."