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Josh Hill: More than meets the eye

Gary Stocks  April 20, 2017 11:00 AM

AFL 2017 Round 02 - West Coast v St Kilda

Josh Hill will play his 100th game for the West Coast Eagles on Sunday

What you see is not always what you get. And in football terms there is no better example of that than versatile forward Josh Hill.

He’s rarely one who takes centre stage, the obvious exception being the round 20 Carlton Draught Derby against Fremantle in 2015. On that day he won the Ross Glendinning Medal as best afield for a four-goal performance that ignited the Eagles.

For the most part in his 99 games for the West Coast Eagles, his contribution has been less conspicuous, an unobtrusive role player who does his bit for the team.

While the West Coast Eagles match committee is acutely aware of what he brings to the table, it is sometimes lost on the fans in the outer.

But his forward pressure, largely inside the attacking arc, is an important, under-rated element of what helps the Eagles win games.

Usually, Josh Kennedy, Mark LeCras, Jack Darling and Jamie Cripps receive the plaudits, but Hill has become an intrinsic – and undeniably important component – of the team’s potent forward structure.

With the other regulars in the club’s forward half, Hill brings aspects to the team above what you see in the goal-kicking column. Obviously, playing in the forward 50 means that is the measure which is most obvious, but tackling, chasing and harassing help to keep the ball in goal-kicking range.

It creates those all-important repeat entries, building pressure on the opposition defence. Kennedy, LeCras, Darling, Cripps and Hill are elite in that area – and the lithe Hill more than holds his own.

On Sunday against Hawthorn, Hill will play his 100th game for the Eagles at the MCG. His teammates will be thrilled for him; there will undoubtedly be a little trash talk, a p…take or two around the group on the weekend.

Hill is also important for his off-field role. He has a place within the squad that creates a sense of light relief at times when it’s needed most. A sharp wit, a confident strut and an ability to both dish out a humorous sledge and wear it when it comes back the other way.

He’s a cheeky personality and popular with his peers.

That Hill will reach his century against the Hawks on the biggest of stages is appropriate. As the Eagles strive for victory at a ground where they have not always played at their best, Hill could be a barometer.

If his defensive pressure is at its peak, the Eagles will likely win.

When people assess the stars of this team, he is not front and centre. But his career record is impressive. He sits 15th on the club’s all-time goal-kicking list and each of those players sitting above his 140-goal tally is a bona fide star.

Add the 75 goals from 66 games when playing for the Western Bulldogs from 2007 to 2012 and the statement at the top of this column rings absolutely true. What you see in Josh Hill is not always what you get.

Player

Goals

Peter Sumich

514

Josh Kennedy

454

Phil Matera

389

Mark LeCras

387

Quinten Lynch

278

Chris Lewis

259

Brett Heady

237

Jack Darling

233

Peter Matera

217

Andrew Embley

216

Ben Cousins

205

Dean Cox

169

Fraser Gehrig

159

Scott Cummings

158

Josh Hill

140