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Melissa Hickey on Nicole Callinan

As mentioned last week, the sudden end to the 2020 AFLW season brought with it a number of player retirements. Two of those retirees, Geelong’s Melissa Hickey and the Western Bulldogs’ Nicole Callinan, were long-time teammates at the Darebin Falcons in the VWFL/VFLW well before the existence of the AFLW. 

They were premiership teammates on four occasions between 2012 and 2017 and both displayed a level of dedication to the game that went above and beyond what the competition demanded at the time. The fact that their AFLW game tallies ended on 25 and 24 games respectively, completely overlooks their incredible contribution to women’s football pre-AFLW.

This is the second of a two-part series, where we decided to interview each player about the other. After all, a teammate can gain a better appreciation for a player than someone standing on the sidelines ever could.

Here we chat to retired Geelong captain Melissa Hickey about her former Darebin teammate, Nicole Callinan.

Nicole Callinan playing for Darebin in 2017 [Photo: Darebin Falcons]

What were your first impressions of Nicole Callinan when she first came down to Darebin?   

Melissa Hickey: I can’t precisely remember my first ever interaction with Nic, but I just remember she was obviously always very athletic, a great runner. Always a lovely person, and very kind and caring, giving.  

She was always very self motivated. You didn’t ever need to get around her and tell her to pull her socks up or anything. She was always a really hard worker and dedicated to training and footy. 

What was she like as a teammate?

MH: The overwhelming word that comes to mind was just a beautiful teammate, she was just always so caring and kind and always so giving to other people. 

I remember her mentoring so many different players out on the wing there. She’d always hold one wing and then new or young players she’d always really help and mentor them to understand that role. I know I never used to understand what the hell a wing does! (laughs). 

Yeah, she was always just a very giving teammate. Very selfless.

Do you think that wing position, because it’s often quite a thankless role which involves a lot of sacrificial running, do you think that suits her personality in a way?

MH: Oh for sure, one hundred percent. Yeah, she was never going to be a full forward yelling, ‘kick it to me’. I think the wing definitely suits her and obviously, you know when you look at her athletic ability as well, her running. The wing was perfectly suited to her.

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What was she like as a leader?

MH: Nothing too loud but just quietly encouraging people. She probably would be someone that would notice those small one percenters and get around someone rather than the person that kicks a goal. I think she was a quiet leader, but that’s essential.

It was probably a type of leadership that I really appreciated and I think it’s so needed too. Particularly at Darebin there were so many, not big personalities, but really established footballers and really competent and confident footballers. So yeah, that kind of quiet leadership was really important especially for those younger players or new players coming in. She was obviously really, really welcoming to them and yeah that quiet leadership style.

Is there any trait or ability of hers that you wish you had?

MH: Man, I’d love to run like her! That speed, when she’d get a run on, she was brilliant.

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What do you see her doing in football in the future?

MH: I think I can definitely see her doing some sort of welfare role or, I can see her being a development coach or assistant coach as well. And if she wanted to head coach eventually, but she’s just got that really caring nature so I think, something like a player development manager or welfare would be really suited to her.

What kind of legacy do you think she’ll leave both on the clubs that she’s been involved with and football more, more generally?

MH: I think one of her legacies will be her training standards and elite behaviours. She played indoor cricket at a high level and that was obvious in the way she approached her preparation, both in training and games.

But, I always say that people aren’t going to remember that big courageous mark you took or that goal you kicked. I think people will remember you for the way that you made them feel and the care and time you put into developing relationships and being welcoming. 

So, I just think that the overwhelming thing everybody that has ever played with Nic would say is that they remember her kindness and her caring nature. I think there’s no more beautiful legacy that you would want to leave and I think that would be the overall feeling of everyone who has played with Nic.


Read part one here.

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