Rugby: Hickey's code shift paying off for Auks

By Daniel Richardson

Auckland No 10 Simon Hickey used to shine as a schoolboy cricketer. Photo / Richard Robinson
Auckland No 10 Simon Hickey used to shine as a schoolboy cricketer. Photo / Richard Robinson

When a two-time Gillette Cup player of the year gives up playing cricket to focus on rugby, you'd have to think he has some considerable talent in the 15-man code.

Quick lesson: The Gillette Cup is the mark of supremacy for high school cricket in New Zealand and when Simon Hickey played for King's College they won the tournament in 2010 and 2011.

Hickey was named player of the tournament in both triumphs and put himself in quality company considering New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson won the award in 2007 and fringe Black Cap Adam Milne was the best on show in 2008.

But Hickey didn't want to spend his days in the whites and once he finished school at the end of 2011 the promising batsman and part-time off-spinner opted for the blue and white hoops of Auckland rugby.

He played a handful of games in the ITM Cup last year and the 19-year-old first-five has been given the keys to the city this season following Gareth Anscombe's shoulder problems.

Something must be working for the New Zealand under-20s pivot - Auckland haven't lost when he has played this year.

Wayne Pivac's side are six from seven and their only defeat came against Waikato a fortnight ago when Hickey was ruled out with a groin problem he continues to manage.

Hickey has had some bright spots this year. A sideline conversion to win their Super City derby against Counties Manukau in week four stands out, while his kicking and running have impressed.

Pivac said a couple of weeks ago the Grammar Carlton youngster had earned a pass mark in his eyes and Hickey noted he was constantly trying to improve his craft.

"I'm more than comfortable gearing in and trying to lead the troops around," Hickey said.

"I think we've got a simple game plan and I'm happy running that. Over the last few weeks I've just been trying to cut out a few of the mistakes I've been making and I certainly need to keep trying to do that."

There's no denying he's from a talented family. Hickey's older brother, Jono, recently earned a contract to play cricket for Northern Districts this summer.

The brothers even joined forces for a game last season for club side Manukau City but Simon was given a quick reminder of why he chose rugby. "I got a golden duck so I hung up the bat for the summer."

Hickey's Wikipedia page showed, as of yesterday, he would be part of the Blues squad from 2014 but the player said he was yet to hear from Sir John Kirwan about a contract. "Nah, I haven't signed anything, so I don't know what that's on about to be honest," Hickey said.

One of his mates may have given the online profile a tweak for a laugh, or maybe they can predict the future as it can't be long until a Super Rugby coach comes calling. "I'm just focused on what I can do for Auckland at the moment," Hickey said.

Auckland host Canterbury at Eden Park tonight and Pivac's men could make a strong claim to lock up second spot on the ITM Cup ladder with a victory.

- APNZ

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