Michael Tuck famously played more than 50 reserves games before a decorated Hawthorn career that would include a record seven premierships.
Robert DiPierdomenico racked up 99 reserves games on his way to five AFL premierships.
It is the Hawthorn way to bring along the young players slowly and make sure they do a solid apprenticeship.
James Sicily is the 2016 model.
Having spent a couple of seasons playing flashy footy for VFL affiliate Box Hill, and getting a taste of senior football last year, Sicily has stood up and featured in all 13 of Hawthorn’s games in 2016. His five-goal bag against North Melbourne last week earned the 21-year-old this week’s Rising Star nomination, just Hawthorn’s second since 2014.
Young teammate Kaiden Brand, who himself has broken into the team for three senior games this season, said Sicily’s journey was an instructive model for Hawthorn’s next generation.
“There’s a big group of us now that are starting to get some games,” Brand said.
“(Sicily) has definitely had to do the time and it’s a good example to a few of the guys like myself who have been here for a few years and are trying to crack into the senior team and cement our spots.
“He’s certainly worked on his consistency. He’s always had the skill but maybe drifting in and out of games when he first got here was maybe something that he worked on. I know that’s something that he’s definitely got better at, and as you can see he’s having more impact throughout the whole game now.”
Brand said he had watched Sicily be highly influential on games at VFL level, and was now starting to see that emerge in AFL matches. He also chuckled that it extended to more aspects of Sicily’s game than just getting a kick – notably in the way he relished celebrating a goal.
“He used to do it a little bit at Box Hill, but now on the big stage he likes the crowds and stuff,’’ Brand said. “Especially with some of the clutch goals he’s been kicking I think he likes to get up for them.”
Sicily acknowledged as much this week. “I guess I try to be as flamboyant as I can on the field and play with a bit of energy,” Sicily told Fox Footy.
He suggested emotion took over whenever he celebrated a goal, but laughed that perhaps he played with “a bit too much emotion”.
Brand said Sicily was a great bloke, but one who had a capacity to be “pretty feisty. He likes to get in a few scrags and scraps during a game.
“Us young guys tend to hang around each other so I’ve spent a bit of time with him. Like I say, he’s a pretty fiery character. If you get on his bad side he’s one to deal with. But he’s certainly a good character.”
When your surname is Sicily, it would seem only fitting that you have a bit of a volcanic temperament. Surely it also lends itself to witty nickname, though. Maybe (Mount) Etna?
“Well, I’ve heard a few fans calling him The Godfather or something like that,” Brand said, “but ‘Sis’ is what we stick to around here.”
After all, it’s probably in keeping with down-to-earth nicknames like Tucky and Dipper.