TOM HICKEY is well known for holding the heavily stamped passport that saw him become the first player to play for four different clubs in four different states last year, but there is another equation that sums up the Sydney ruckman's current world more concisely. 

Three kids under three. 

That is the situation at home that consumes almost every waking moment of Hickey's life when he isn't at the SCG, where he's about to leave to return home to help his wife Chloe when we speak on Friday.

Life has changed dramatically since one became three late last October when twins, Olive and Delma, arrived to join soon-to-be three-year-old Lou in the Hickey household. 

Tom Hickey, his wife Chloe and their family. Picture: Supplied

The 31-year-old has become a crucial cog in John Longmire's engine room since moving from West Coast at the end of 2020, following a six-year stay at St Kilda after starting his career at Gold Coast. 

But his biggest challenge is no longer the giant standing opposite him each weekend, it is at home, where sleep comes in short bursts and the parents are always outnumbered.

"We've got our hands full, that's for sure," Hickey tells ahead of Saturday's game against Adelaide at the SCG.

"There definitely isn't much downtime at home, but you get moments of pure bliss and that's what it's all for. 

"We're very busy but I'm so lucky and grateful that we're in Sydney because I don't think I'd be playing footy anymore if I was still in Perth with three kids under three. It would have just been too much I reckon, I probably would have had to retire. 

"I'm super glad that I was able to get over here. My wife is an absolute superstar. We haven't had too much family support here, but my wife is an absolute trooper and warrior and handling it like a legend. I've been playing footy for 12 years, but this is harder."

Tom Hickey's wife, Chloe, and their three children. Picture: Supplied

Hickey is one of the great survivors in the AFL, but he only came to the game late. He played almost every sport other than football at school, excelling at volleyball to a point where he represented the state and toured New Zealand before ultimately landing on AFL Queensland's radar at 18 when he was invited to join the Rookie Search Program. 

The former Sun, Saint and Eagle has left a trail of admirers inside every club he has stopped at in his 131-game career, but the 202cm ruckman can't believe he is still standing at AFL level more than a decade later.


"If you told me when I was drafted or even five or six years ago that I would still be playing at 31 or 32, I'd laugh at you. I came from a long way back. I got drafted off potential and 12 years later I'm still trying to live up to it," Hickey said.

"I played Auskick because I got to run on the Gabba when I was eight. That was my last bit of AFL interaction until I was 18. I played because a few mates from school were playing and school sport was done at that time. 

Tom Hickey in action for Sydney against Carlton in round 10, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"I went down and played for Morningside and worked 40 hours a week as a sparky apprentice for two years after school until I got picked up. I was thinking if I could get five or six years out, I would be pumped. It just kept going and going, hanging in by the skin of my teeth."

Hickey has been forced to navigate injury issues, form slumps and bide his time waiting in the queue in the most competitive position at a club. He finished sixth in last year's Bob Skilton Medal, played 20 games in his first year at West Coast in 2019 and placed eighth in the 2016 Trevor Barker Award in his best season at the Saints.

"I haven't really had a linear trajectory of my career," he said. "Early I was very much a project player. I've been in and out of the team and had good and bad years, but I think that builds your resilience. You have to be pretty sure of who you are when you are a fringe player for so long. When you get the opportunity, you need to make the most of it.

"(The years) 2016, 2019 and 2021 have been my best and they were at three different clubs, but ultimately having a coach and a club that really trusts you to get the job done each week has definitely contributed to successful seasons."

Tom Hickey contests the ruck against Nic Naitanui during St Kilda's clash against West Coast in round 11, 2018. Picture: AFL Photos

Hickey will be 32 by the start of next season and is out of contract by the end of it, but he won't depart the game on his own terms. He wants veteran Sydney list boss Kinnear Beatson to sit him down and tell him his unlikely journey is finally over.

"I won't retire, I don't think. Footy is too fun, and you get plenty of time with your family. I'll be getting delisted, that's for sure," he laughs. 

By that stage, Hickey might be a premiership player. Sydney has emerged as a genuine flag threat in recent months, especially after travelling west last weekend and showing up Fremantle at Optus Stadium. Not that Hickey is buying into the hype.

Tom Hickey in action at Sydney training on July 19, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"Being up here we are so far out of the footy bubble. The only noise you hear is what you want to hear by looking for it or searching for it. It's pretty easy to hide from that. But we think our best footy is good enough to challenge the best," he said. 

LADDER PREDICTOR Where will your club finish?

"Our biggest issue is doing it quarter on quarter, week on week. We're a young group so we need to keep striving and see where that takes us. We haven't secured finals, so it's hard to talk about premierships when you haven't secured finals yet."

Tom Hickey and Sean Darcy contest the ruck during Sydney's encounter with Fremantle in round 18, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Hickey wouldn't change his unique AFL journey to be a one-club player. It has allowed him to move from Brisbane to the Gold Coast, Gold Coast to Melbourne, Melbourne to Perth, and now Perth to Sydney.

"I think it's a true sign of I've just been hanging on. It takes a club about two years to realise I'm no good and then ship me off. Who knows, if I just stayed with one club, I may have been out of the system within five or six years?" he said. 

"I've been fortunate enough to live in a lot of parts of Australia. Not too many people get to do that. It's been a unique journey, but one I'm so proud of. I've enjoyed every minute of it."

When his well-travelled journey is all over, the Hickey clan will pack up life in the Harbour City and head back to Queensland. They bought a property on the Gold Coast in 2017 and will settle into a quiet life away from the AFL spotlight. Three might be four or five by then.