The AFL is littered with brothers who’ve competed against one another. The Selwoods, Shaws, Swallows, Browns and Daveys all went head to head in 2013, but for the first time in more than a century two brothers will be pitted against each other in a Grand Final.
Docker Stephen Hill will venture to Melbourne to take on younger brother Bradley of the Hawks this Saturday. In a Grand Final full of intrigue, the Hill v Hill match-up might be the best sideshow of the lot.
Though they look far from identical, the brothers share a number of similar traits on the football field. Namely, they’re quick and use the ball extremely well. As such, there’s every chance they could line up alongside one another on a wing, where their mum wouldn’t know who to barrack for.
“We haven’t really had a race in a while… If we get that opportunity (on Saturday) I will try and burn him off.”
– Stephen hill
Both Stephen and Bradley cite their mother Stephanie as one of the greatest influences in their careers. She raised them in Western Australia – both were recruited from West Perth Football Club – where they showed talent from an early age.
Stephen, 23 was a bolter at the 2008 draft after impressing recruiters at the draft combine. He set a new draft record in the agility test, was ranked third in the 20-metre sprint (2.83 seconds) and seventh in the repeat sprints test (25.44 seconds). Though he wasn’t yet physically mature enough to match it with those at AFL level, clubs saw the makings of an elite midfielder. He was selected by Fremantle with pick three.
Three years later, his younger brother Bradley was just as impressive at the 2011 combine. He ran the best 3km time trial of anyone at the camp, and measured eerily similarly to his older brother in the 20-metre sprint and repeat sprint tests, with times of 2.88 and 24.49 seconds respectively. The Hawks selected him with their first selection, pick 33 overall.
Currently, Stephen is a more accomplished footballer – but that’s to be expected given he has played five full seasons of AFL, while his brother has played just two. Stephen has been a role model for his younger brother, but that’s not to say there’s no area in which Brad might have his measure. Stephen admits he’s not sure who the faster Hill is.
“We haven’t really had a race in a while,” he says.
“If we get that opportunity (on Saturday) I will try and burn him off.”
Though Stephen has averaged more disposals than his brother this season, Brad has spent more time inside attacking 50, and has kicked more goals and registered more goal assists.
In his second AFL season, he has well and truly stepped out from Stephen’s shadow. Having worn the number 32 – the same as Stephen – in his debut season in 2012, it seems fitting that Brad has now made another number (10) his own at Glenferrie.
Brad and Stephen played against one another for the first time in round four this season. Both had the support of their mother – who wore both teams’ scarves to the match in Tasmania – but it was Brad’s side that emerged victorious. A fortnight later, he was nominated for the 2013 Rising Star following a 17-possession, two-goal performance in Hawthorn’s Round 6 win over Adelaide.
— AFL Players (@AFLPlayers) May 6, 2013
It seems a long time ago now.
Brad has become a mainstay of the Hawthorn side – having played 23 matches this year – while Stephen has finished 2013 in a purple patch (pardon the pun), averaging 22 possessions and three tackles in the month leading into the Grand Final.
He averages 16.7 disposals per game at the MCG, while Brad averages 15.5 touches at the ground. There are plenty of similarities between the two Hills on the field, but according to those who know them well, they’re fairly different off it.
Their mother Stephanie told The Australian Brad is the “more outgoing” of the two, labelling Stephen as somewhat “reserved and quiet – more like me.”
The emotions of the two Hill brothers will be at opposite ends of the spectrum on Saturday afternoon when the siren sounds – assuming of course, the match doesn’t end in a draw – but as Stephen points out, their mum “will have one son who’s a premiership player.”
For the other, there may well be another chance at a premiership in the future. Given the maturity with which they play, it’s easy to forget Stephen is just 23 years old, while Brad is only 20.
“Sometimes it’s hard not having him here,” Stephen admits.
“But he’s really enjoying it over there and it’s good seeing him play some good footy.”