Draft dream for Sydney University's Hiscox
By Graham Croker
Young Sydney University Australian football product Jack Hiscox had his bags packed – just in case.
Just in case he was picked up by any non-Sydney team at next month's Draft, after a bout of testing at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, during October.
But the 18-year-old need not have worried, confirmed as one of three Sydney Swans Academy picks on Monday afternoon, joining NSW/ACT RAMS teammates Isaac Heeney and Abe Davis in the red and white.
The news came as a huge relief to the running machine, with Hiscox admitting the Draft is something that has been on his mind since he committed to AFL as a 16-year-old at Newington College, Stanmore, where he might have pursued rugby union or athletics.
“I played rugby at the school until I was 16 and I competed in athletics at a high level in the 400m and 800m, but I decided to concentrate on Australian football,” he said.
And, as a Newtownite playing for the Glebe Greyhounds Junior Australian Football club, he decided to chance his arm and link up with Sydney University Under 18s in the AFL Sydney Under 18 Premier Division competition in 2011.
His progress was rapid and he made the NSW Under 18 side in his second season with the University.
Hiscox enrolled at Sydney University in 2013 to study Liberal Arts and Science. He was on the Elite Athlete Program but deferred his studies this year to focus on football.
“I’ll probably switch to Human Movement and Health Education when I enrol again,” he said.
While playing with Sydney University Under 18s, Jack was courted by the Sydney Swans to join their feeder program and played two games with the Swans Reserve Grade in the new North East AFL (NEAFL) competition in 2013. He backed that up with eight games this season.
“It’s turned out well so far,” he said of his three seasons with the University Under 18s – he captained the side in 2013 – and his year with the Swans.
Playing on the wing or at half-forward, Hiscox might have played with Sydney University in the NEAFL competition but went to the Swans with the club’s good wishes.
As Sydney University Australian National Football Club president Chas Wilkinson said, the club now has a structured pathway out of juniors to Colts to the NEAFL State League First Grade side.
The pathway also provides opportunities for players to be exposed to the elite AFL level and in particular opportunities to play with the Sydney Swans and GWS Giants reserve grade sides.
“We have worked hard to create an environment which is attractive and a stepping stone into the AFL environment,” Mr Wilkinson said.
“We encourage young and talented players to have a relationship with the Swans and refer young boys going into the program.
“Jack came through junior club Glebe and came to us as a 16-year-old playing in our Under 18 side. He has always been a year ahead of himself.”
Mr Wilkinson said SUANFC’s involvement with junior clubs is very strong, particularly with Glebe, Newtown and Moore Park junior clubs.
“We’ve had long-standing partnerships with the Newtown and Glebe junior clubs, hosting clinics and the opportunity to train on campus,” he said.
“We’ve held an annual Family Day each year since 2005 and have about 400 kids attend. It’s a full-scale day. We started with Newtown and Sydney University and it now includes Moore Park and Glebe. It’s an integrated community football program.
“That’s where Jack was successful through the Colts programs.”
In that respect, Hiscox is the first Sydney University junior product to advance right through the ranks to the AFL draft.
Other Sydney University Under 18 players Jarrod Witts, Tom Young, Michael Hartley and Craig Moller were signed up with senior AFL clubs after they came to the University to join the Under 18s Colts Program.
But Hiscox is a product of the junior program and the hard work the SUANFC has put in to promote the sport in the inner-west community and foster young players. And Mr Wilkinson is proud of that achievement. “We wish him well,” he said.
Not many athletes of his ability step onto the Sydney University campus without coming to the notice of Athletics Club coach Dean Gleeson, who was aware that the Australian Schoolboy 800m champion and national record holder had enrolled.
Not surprisingly, in his freshman year in 2013 Jack was a member of the Athletic Club’s team at the Australian University Games, held on the Gold Coast, where he won silver medals in the 400m (in a personal best time), the 800m (behind team-mate Joshua Ralph, the national 800m champion and Commonwealth Games representative), and the medley relay. He also won gold in the 4X400m relay.
“I have absolutely no doubt he could make it to the top level in the 800m if he continued in athletics,” Gleeson said. “People just don’t run like that on the limited preparation he had. He’s a real competitor.”
And that competitive streak has paid dividends for the youngster, who now embarks on an exciting new chapter as a professional footballer.