The faith that Alastair Clarkson showed in James Sicily after his round-one AFL shocker continues to reap big dividends for Hawthorn.
The second-year player is this week’s Rising Star nominee after his match-winning five goals last Friday night in the fiery win over North Melbourne.
After playing three games last year on debut, Sicily was one of several Hawks who had to step up this season.
In particular, the three-time defending premiers needed Sicily and fellow forward Tim O’Brien to fill in after Jarryd Roughead had a major knee injury.
That problem has compounded, with Roughead out of the game indefinitely as he undergoes cancer treatment.
But Sicily had a bad game in their round-one loss to Geelong.
Rather than drop Sicily, Clarkson backed him to rebound and he promptly kicked four goals the following week in their big win over West Coast.
Sicily has not missed a game this season.
“That was massive – coming off that game, I thought `geez, I’ve probably wasted an opportunity here,” Sicily said.
“He (Clarkson) showed the faith and I was pretty determined to bounce back after pretty abysmal performance.
“That’s a big confidence boost, that he has faith in me.
“Who knows how this year would have panned out for me so far if I go back to the VFL after that week.”
Sicily said last Friday night’s bruising match was a great experience for himself and the other Hawks fledglings.
“It was huge – we had maybe eight or so guys in the first four-year category and I don’t think we’ll find a game as hostile as that,” he said.
“That’s good experience for us come finals time if we get the chance to play.
“That was a very big game for experience.”
Sicily kicked five goals without a miss and he revealed on Tuesday for the previous few weeks, he had been suffering from goalkicking yips.
So he and Hawks assistant coach David Rath spent hours before and after training working on his shots on goal.
“We have put a lot of work into it and it’s good to see it’s paying off,” Rath said.
Sicily also regularly seeks advice from Roughead, who is currently having a break in the United States.
“He’s someone I look to for advice and little tips and tricks, stuff like that,” Sicily said.
“It (Roughead’s illness) is difficult. It’s difficult for everyone in the club, but we just have to get around him.”