West Coast ruckman Tom Hickey is hoping to play his first-ever final this year and he doesn't mind being Nic Naitanui's understudy.
West Coast ruckman Tom Hickey says he needs to prove himself as a reliable forward if he is to achieve his long-standing dream of playing finals football.
Hickey has never been part of an AFL club in finals mode, with his stints at Gold Coast (2011-12) and St Kilda (2013-18) coming during bleak times.
The 28-year-old's move to West Coast at the end of last season has changed all that.
Not only is Hickey now in a position to play finals, he's a chance to take home a premiership.
But the 90-game journeyman knows he faces a big fight to retain his spot for the rest of the season following the recent return of Nic Naitanui.
Naitanui is clearly the club's best ruckman, but coach Adam Simpson is still unsure who will be the Fijian's best back-up.
Hickey is in the box seat for the time being following a series of strong performances this season.
Against Fremantle last week, Hickey tallied two goals, 11 disposals and 24 hitouts in the 91-point win.
Hickey will face pressure from Nathan Vardy when the premiership ruckman returns from a knee injury in the coming weeks.
And utility Oscar Allen might also be trialled as Naitanui's ruck partner if Hickey's form drops off.
Hickey knows he needs to have an impact as a forward if he is to keep his spot.
"Clearly you're not going to out-ruck Nic Nat. He's our No.1 ruckman," Hickey said.
"So for me to stay in the team, I need to have influence as a forward. I can't just get by playing 70 minutes as a game as his back-up."
Hickey said it was important for him to win or halve contests up forward and not be a liability when it comes to applying defensive pressure.
Naitanui has been stunning form since returning from a second knee reconstruction.
Against Fremantle last week, Naitanui tallied 23 hitouts, 14 disposals, six clearances and three score assists playing just 52 per cent match time.
Hickey said Naitanui's smarts also set him apart.
"He's a bit of a thinker," Hickey said.
"Because he came into the league so raw and athletic, a few ruckmen figured him out early - that he was a good jumper.
"So he had to adapt his game and figure out different ways to combat people. Some of his ideas are really smart."
Naitanui and Hickey will face a big challenge when they confront All-Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy in Friday night's grand-final rematch against Collingwood in Perth.
The Eagles (11-4) will take a major step towards locking down a top-two berth if they can beat the Magpies.