Sam Wicks is forging a breakout season alongside a host of fledgling Swans.
From an outsider’s perspective, Wicks’ rise has come out of the blue.
A category B rookie selection in 2018, the crafty forward impressed in the NEAFL and earned a call-up to a rebuilding Sydney outfit last season.
Wicks set about establishing himself as a pressure forward. Numbers indicate the role came naturally to him, finishing the year with an average of five tackles from seven AFL outings.
But in 2021, Wicks only needed four games to double his 2020 goals tally, while averaging 15 disposals and five marks per game. In comparison, albeit in shorter game time, the 21-year-old averaged seven disposals and two marks per match last season.
Wicks, now causing headaches for opposition defences, points towards his growing confidence and comfort at the elite level as the catalyst for his rapid development.
“I got my opportunity last year [and] a lot of the boys got a good chance to get a few games in,” Wicks told aflplayers.com.au
“The offensive side of my game has just come naturally with confidence off the back of that and getting more comfortable at the level.”
A Sydney native who attended the rugby union-renowned Shore School in Sydney’s northern suburbs, Wicks was introduced to Aussie rules by his father, and his talents were soon recognised by the Sydney Swans academy.
“All of my mates play rugby, and I went to a big rugby union school,” he said. “Not many of my mates around me were playing much footy, but I think that’s where the Swans academy was really helpful for my development.
“The quality of people that the Swans academy have and the lessons they teach you in professionalism, as well as having really high training standards, holds you in good stead.”
The art of professionalism has long been tied to Sydney, where the ‘Bloods culture’ has grown in fame over the years.
Though the club went through a rebuilding phase and uncharacteristically missed finals in both 2019 and 2020, Wicks says the significance of the Bloods culture has endured.
“We have a lot of sessions based around continuing that Bloods culture, and what it means to put on the jersey and play for the Swans,” Wicks said.
“The majority of the boys are from interstate and don’t have any family or friends here. It provides a really tight family connection.”
Kickstarting the season with a four-zero win-loss ratio, Wicks is confident the team consists of a balanced blend of youth and experience, as the rising Swans are led by the likes of Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy, and a refreshed Lance Franklin.
“We’ve got an unbelievable mix at the moment,” Wicks said.
“The senior boys have been unreal over the last few weeks and that makes all the younger boys want to jump on board. The energy and the vibe around the place at the moment is really good.
“Internally, we’re pretty confident that we’re going to be a competitive side this year.”