Not lost in the ecstasy of Carlton’s epic elimination final win over Sydney was the sad reality that AFL journeyman Tom Hickey was walking off the field for the last time.
Hickey has been a fan favourite across 151 games for four clubs over 13 years.
He was first drafted to the Suns and played two games in their inaugural season and 10 games in 2012.
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The big man was traded to St Kilda ahead of the 2013 season where he played 67 games, was at West Coast for two years in 2019 and 2020 where he added 23 games to his career tally.
He wore the red and white for the Swans in 49 games since 2021, including his best season of 21 matches in 2021.
Having announced he would hang up the boots at the end of the season a few weeks ago, a loss on Friday night meant Hickey’s career had come to a sad end.
He was being consoled by teammates as he walked off the field for the final time.
Speaking to ABC radio after the game, the long-haired ruck said it was “emotional”.
“I’m a bit emotional,” he said.
“Not the way we wanted to go out, not the way I wanted to end my career, (but) I’m super proud.”
Tributes poured in from appreciated fans, as well as his own club.
It wasn’t to be for Hickey, but nor was it for Carlton forward Harry McKay, whose concussion slightly soured the Blues’ epic six-point win over the Swans that keeps their premiership dream and first finals series in a decade alive.
The Blues led by 28 points during time-on of the third quarter but had to endure some nervous moments before hanging on for an 11.8 (74) to 9.14 (68) victory in Friday night’s elimination final at the MCG.
Michael Voss’s men will next meet Melbourne in a knockout semi-final as they continue their bid to end a 28-year flag drought.
They will do so without McKay, who was subbed out after he was hurt in a third-quarter marking contest, while Jack Martin faces scrutiny over a high hit on Nick Blakey.
Sam Walsh (29 disposals), Blake Acres (26), former Swan George Hewett (25) and reliable defender Jacob Weitering were among the Blues’ best in front of 92,026 fans.
Martin and Matthew Cottrell stood up with two goals each, while Coleman medallist Charlie Curnow managed just one and captain Patrick Cripps (21 touches, one goal) was restricted by Callum Mills.
McKay had a dirty night, missing two shots from the top of the goal square before he left the field under assistance from trainers.
In doubt with a shoulder injury before the finals, Acres twice made crucial plays in the second half when he dove to touch Sydney shots on the goal line.
Both were ultimately ruled behinds after video reviews, leading Swans coach John Longmire to question the available technology post-match.
Acres also gave Carlton vital breathing space when he strolled into an open goal with five minutes left to play before Hayden McLean’s late major gave the Swans a sniff.
They had 25 seconds to kick a tying goal and send the match to extra-time but the desperate Blues survived.
“We won with defensive resilience and I think we won on heart,” Voss said.
“The last minute and a bit was interesting, it had everything. It had big moments, it had mistakes, but somehow we hung on.
“I guess that’s what finals footy is all about.”
Sydney were well served by young star Errol Gulden (23 disposals, two goals), while defender Tom McCartin and the retiring Hickey also fought hard.
Luke Parker and Logan McDonald kicked two goals each.
The Swans had 15 scoring shots to seven in the second half but rued a horror second quarter, when the Blues dominated contested ball (43-26) and kicked away to a five-goal lead.
“We kicked 2.5 in the last quarter and it makes a difference, those moments,” Sydney coach John Longmire said.
“The second quarter, they got on top. We needed to make better of our chances – we suffered a bit from that last week as well.
“We were good at it for quite a while this year and then the last couple of weeks it’s been costly.
“In the end, you have to take your chances, because both teams will have moments.”
– With AAP