WELCOME to a brand new section of The Hickey Stand, in which we celebrate famous surnames in Aussie Rules and the contributions they’ve made to our great game.
While we were keen to open the series with a ‘Malakellis’ themed article, we realised that starting on such a high left us with no room to improve, so instead we’ve taken a different approach – going with the surname that inspired this website.
The Hickey name stems from the Gaelic O’hlcidhe from the word iceadh, meaning ‘healer’, a title earned from the Hickey clan’s position as physicians to the O’Brien family in Ireland.
Known for being really bloody good at putting steel plates in the skulls of fighters who had their heads a little bit crushed, the family was saved from the worst of the English incursions in the 1600s thanks to their medical expertise and general intelligence.
As time went on, though, many of the Hickey clan were forced to emigrate to America, England, Canada, and of course Australia – and that’s where our story begins.
CON HICKEY (Fitzroy [VFA] 1887-1894) Games: 109 Goals: 2
THESE articles were meant to focus squarely on footballers who had played either VFL or AFL football, but the post seemed incomplete not mentioning Con Hickey – the great-grandfather of the Hickey footballing dynasty.
Cornelius ‘Con’ Hickey was raised in Timor, just north of Maryborough, by Irish parents, before moving to Melbourne as a public servant in 1887, where he joined Fitzroy in the VFA as a half-back. A quality defender, Con was picked for Victoria in the intercolonial team in his final playing season, but it was off the field that he really left his mark.
Taking on the secretary role at Fitzroy in 1893, Con was also selected to the VFA’s board of management and was an integral cog in the formation of the VFL in 1897, serving as the league’s inaugural treasurer.
A champion of taking Australian Football outside of Melbourne, Con was heavily involved in the establishment of the interstate carnival (later to become State of Origin) and also organised a game between Fitzroy and Collingwood to be played at the SCG in 1903 – a game which was promoted brilliantly as seen here at Boyles Football Photos.
Controversially, Con was also a believer in ‘universal football‘, a hybrid of Australian Rules and Rugby League that was designed to unify the most popular national codes. Gaining momentum around 1914, the plan was eventually put aside due to World War I, with rumours abounding that the entire bloody battle was fought just to keep the bastardised footballing horror show at bay.
His attempts to tear apart the rules of the game aside, Con is remembered as one of the founding fathers of Australian Football as we know it, and as the patriarch of one of Aussie Rules’ most famous families, having been the uncle to the great Reg Hickey.
PAT HICKEY (Fitzroy 1897-1901) Games: 61 Goals: 3
THE little brother of Con was the first Hickey to pull on a VFL guernsey, doing so as a foundation Fitzroy player in the very first round of the league’s existence – a league which his older sibling helped create.
Pat had moved from Timor to Werribee to take up farming before joining Fitzroy in the VFA in 1895 on the behest of Con.
An exceptional centre half-back, Pat was crucial to Fitzroy’s premierships in 1898 and 1899, being named as one of the best on the field in the ’99 flag while also taking out the club best and fairest.
A trailblazer for several reasons, Hickey was one of the first players in history to experience something that has become a part of the league’s fabric – Collingwood fans acting like total nuffies. Following a brutal final at Victoria Park in the 1899 season, Hickey was whacked over the head with an umbrella by the mother of one of the Magpie players. The Fitzroy team required a police escort just to get out of the ground.
It’s nice to know some things never change.
Pat eventually retired from football in 1901, staying on in Werribee to become the head of several local organisations, including the Wyndham Shire president in 1929 and 1930. Father to six children, tragedy struck the family in 1935 when Pat’s wife, Helen, was struck and killed by the Melbourne to Geelong train while she was on the way to church.
Pat eventually died in his home in 1946 aged 75. He is buried in the Werribee cemetery.
BILL HICKEY (South Melbourne/Carlton 1902-1907) Games: 46 Goals 1
ORIGINALLY from Wangaratta, Bill Hickey was lured to Melbourne in 1902 to play at centre half-back for the Bloods having starred in the Ovens and Murray League.
And while he was serviceable for South Melbourne in his 45 games for them, Hickey’s sporting prowess saw him make a name for himself in some of the most unlikely competitions you could think of.
Sure, being a star cricketer is a given for a footballer from the country, but Hickey was also an exceptional cyclist, competing in the 1899 Austral Wheel Race at the MCG, finishing fourth in the final. Not content with being fast on two wheels, he used his feet to represent the Wangaratta Fire Brigade as a hydrant-man in competitions throughout Victoria.
Then, as age wearied him, Hickey showed that he wasn’t all about power and strength, becoming the region’s top billiards player (competing against the famous Walter Lindrum when he came to town), a low-handicap golfer, and one of Victoria’s best bowls players, incredibly representing his state at the age of 71.
But we wouldn’t know all this without this brilliant blog post over at KB ON REFLECTION, where it takes a much more personal and in-depth look at Bill Hickey’s life. Please give it some support and have a look at what is an all-round great blog.
REG HICKEY (Geelong 1926-1940) Games: 245 Goals: 24
THIS blog wouldn’t exist without the great Reginald Joseph Hickey. I mean it would. But it’d probably be called The Ablett Terrace or the Ross Drew Stand, and they just don’t have the same ring to them.
Born in Clifton Hill in 1909, Hickey grew up with a love of the neighbouring Collingwood Football Club, despite Fitzroy’s equally close proximity and the fact both his uncles, Con and Pat, had played for the ‘Roys.
Reg’s dad, Martin, wasn’t as sportingly gifted as his brothers and therefore stayed out of football, but he had long held a dream to return to work the land, just as his Irish immigrant parents had done before their long journey to Australia. Buying a farm in Cressy, about 40km north of Colac, Martin packed up the family and young son Reg to start a new life in the country.
By age 19, Reg decided it was time he went out to tackle life by himself, seeking a job in Geelong’s thriving wool stores whilst also looking to snag himself a game of footy on the weekends. The Geelong Football Club came knocking, and that one game turned into 245 as a player, and 304 as a coach.
A silky-skilled centre half back, Hickey won a premiership on the field in 1931 as a player, then again as captain-coach in 1937. By 1940, the club sacked the big man for unknown reasons, starting an eight year absence from Kardinia Park.
Ultimately, Reg had planned on heading back to the family farm in Cressy, but his hand was forced to stay in Geelong when his father sold their property, with rumours abounding it was to pay off debts acquired through losing entirely too many games of two-up.
It was this loss to the gambling gods that many of those who knew Hickey said instilled his tough moral code, insisting that football was not just a game but a way to raise good men. Unlike his father, Hickey didn’t gamble, he occasionally had the odd drink but never took it too far, and he insisted that men act like men. In one instance, on the death of the father of his young player Terry Callan (the father of another ex-Cat, Tim), Hickey took his charge aside while in the Callan home and insisted that the lad didn’t cry, as he was the man of the household now.
While it’s not an approach that would be welcomed today, it seemed to work for the Cats at the time.
Hickey led his boys to two more premierships after returning to the club in 1949, going back-to-back in 1951 and 1952 with what was described as some of the most beautiful football anyone had seen up until that point in the game, with a focus on ball retention and attack from the last line of defence.
The game plan had its weaknesses though, with pundits at the time noting that while Geelong played stylishly, they lacked the hard edge of teams like Melbourne and Collingwood, who would good on to overtake the Cats as the powerhouse clubs of the 1950s.
Reg eventually called it quits from coaching in 1959, having served the club for 35 years. The grandfather of current Gold Coast assistant coach and Port Adelaide champion Matthew Primus, Hickey’s name lives on in the league, with the R.J Hickey Award given to an individual each year for their service to game, while Kardinia Park’s eastern grandstand also bears his name.
And, of course, he has the misfortune of lending his good name to this not so good blog. But we reckon he’d be proud.
HARRY HICKEY (Footscray 1937-1948) Games: 174 Goals: 169
IT’S with significant sadness that we note that when we Googled images of ‘Harry Hickey’ we were inundated with photos of One Direction’s Harry Styles with love bites, rather than the three-time best and fairest winning Footscray midfielder.
Ignoring the gross neck bruises, we managed to find a few snaps of the Bulldogs champion and enough information to note that Hickey was a damn fine player.
Recruited from South Footscray – a club which he had helped form – Hickey joined Footscray in the VFL in 1937 as a half-forward, where he was solid without being spectacular. Moving to centre in 1939, he became renowned as one of the best midfielders in the game, coming second to Collingwood’s Marcus Whelan in the Brownlow Medal of that season.
Like many players at the time, his representative career was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II, but he still managed to play for Victoria twice (1941 and 1948) and was bestowed the Footscray club captaincy in 1947.
Hickey’s also noted as being one of only four players (Ken Newland, Tony Lockett, and Jimmy Bartel) in the game’s history to win a match with a behind after the siren, with his 1944 kick snagging Footscray the last finals spot of that season ahead of opponents Carlton.
Ultimately, Hickey was lured away from the city with a big money offer to coach Rochester in the Bendigo Football League, bringing a close to his VFL career at the end of 1948 at the age of 31.
JOE HICKEY (Fitzroy 1952-1953) Games: 26 Goals: 48
A KEY forward recruited to Fitzroy from Shepparton, Joe Hickey was the club leading goalkicker in just his second – and final – season at the club.
Playing in the 1952 preliminary final against Collingwood as a replacement for the injured Tony Ongarello, Hickey managed to cement his place in the team for 1953, where he booted 40 goals, including an 8-goal haul against North Melbourne at Brunswick Street in Round 4.
But that season proved to be his last in the big city, returning home to the run the family farm in Invergordon after the death of his father in a motor vehicle accident.
JOHN HICKEY (Collingwood President 1976-1982)
ANOTHER Hickey that didn’t actually play the game but is worth noting all the same, John Hickey was Collingwood president for six years despite being raised in Queensland on an unhealthy diet of rugby.
A World War II veteran who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroics in the air, Hickey moved to Melbourne after the war while working for Trans Australia Airlines and decided he needed to support a team in the VFL-mad city so he had something to talk about with the locals who knew nothing but footy.
Going with Collingwood most likely through threats rather than choice, Hickey became more and more involved with the club as the years went by, and took on the role of president in 1976.
The key figure in the decision to appoint the great Tom Hafey as coach in 1977, Hickey was more than a little responsible for dragging the Magpies to the Grand Final of that year, which they ultimately lost to the Kangaroos after an initial draw.
Hickey was then president for Grand Final losses in 1979, 1980 and 1981, and while that was great for everyone but supporters of the Carringbush, it heaped pressure on Hickey and his board, who were accused of not being proactive enough in chasing stars from rival clubs.
Starting the 1982 season poorly, Hickey was forced to sack Hafey, which then led to Hickey himself being sacked from the president position halfway through that season.
TOM HICKEY (St Kilda 2011-current) Games: 67 Goals: 20
THE only current Hickey in the AFL was born in Brisbane to a rugby league family, with father Mick playing A-Grade level league for Fortitude Valley in the BRL.
Focusing on volleyball in high school thanks for his frankly ludicrous 201cm height, Hickey eventually played a few school games of Aussie Rules, where he was spotted by an AFLQ representative.
Joining Morningside as a ruckman, Hickey was zoned to the Gold Coast Suns and was forced to don the red and yellow for two seasons, before searching for greener pastures at St Kilda in 2013.
Unfortunately for him, those greener pastures were more vomit green than grass green, and he has had the misfortune of representing the underachieving Saints ever since. Poor bastard.
MELISSA HICKEY (Melbourne 2017-current) Games: 13 Goals: 2
MELBOURNE centre half-back Melissa Hickey is the great-great niece of the aforementioned Pat Hickey, and you can do the rest of the maths on how she’s related to Reg and Con, because we get easily confused by it all.
A dual All-Australian and three-time Victorian representative, Melissa was raised in Mildura on a healthy diet of Aussie Rules, but was pushed into playing netball when it became clear there was no obvious path for women playing football.
Eventually joining the ground-breaking Darebin Falcons in the VWFL, Hickey made a name for herself as an unrelenting defender and was eventually picked alongside Daisy Pearce as one of Melbourne’s two marquee players for the inaugural AFLW season in 2017.
Melissa represents a new age of Hickey footballers in a brand new competition, and almost poetically rounds out this column that’s taken us from a trailblazing Fitzroy administrator, to an out and out Cats legend, to Harry Styles’ love bites, and finally back to another trailblazer of our great game.
We hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you have any requests for other surnames for us to look into, please hit us up at our Facebook or Twitter pages.
OTHER HICKEY’S TO PLAY VFL/AFL:
BILL HICKEY (Melbourne 1911-1912) Games: 20 Goals: 1
TOM HICKEY (Fitzroy 1924-1929) Games: 35 Goals: 24
DON HICKEY (Geelong 1926) Games: 2 Goals: 0
GERRY HICKEY (Hawthorn 1934-1935) Games: 7 Goals: 4
NOEL HICKEY (Hawthorn 1945-1947) Games: 6 Goals: 1
JACK HICKEY (Collingwood 1951-1956) Games: 72 Goals: 15
STEVE HICKEY (North Melbourne 1985-1988) Games: 37 Goals: 2