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Opposition: Hickey ready to take on Grundy

Brodie Grundy and Tom Hickey battle it out at the MCG in round three (AFL Photos) - Collingwood Magpies
Brodie Grundy and Tom Hickey battle it out at the MCG in round three (AFL Photos)

West Coast ruckman Tom Hickey accepts he can't afford to be a "liability" in attack if he is going to hold his spot as Nic Naitanui's sidekick and finally break his September drought.

Hickey has been given first crack at partnering Naitanui since the Eagles star's return and the early signs are promising.

West Coast has dominated clearances (+42) and hitouts (+25) in wins over Hawthorn and Fremantle.

Tom Hickey celebrates after scoring a goal against the Dockers (AFL Photos)

Naitanui was back to his best in the 91-point drubbing of the Dockers, while Hickey played his part in the ruck and also booted two goals.

The former Sun and Saint has the carrot dangling of his first finals appearance in nine seasons if he can maintain his form.

"It's really good to seem like it works so far with me and Nic and hopefully I can hold my spot for another week," Hickey said.

"For me to stay in the team, I need to have influence as a forward, because I can't just get by playing 70 minutes a game as his back up.

"It's pretty much winning or halving contests (when I'm forward) and not being a liability on defence, so being able to put pressure on.

"It's a bonus if I can mark it and kick a goal, but if I can free up Jack Darling to take a mark, or Josh Kennedy to take a mark, or put pressure on and bring the ball to ground for the small forwards to get to work, that's how I review it.

"Throughout my career I've had stints as a forward. It's one of those things you've got to put time into."

Hickey, 28, has been learning plenty from "deep thinker" Naitanui since crossing from the Saints at the end of last year to cover the loss of free agent Scott Lycett.

The pair will have their work cut out against All Australian Brodie Grundy, and potentially under-pressure Mason Cox, in Friday night's pivotal Grand Final rematch with the Magpies.

Collingwood is on the slide after three defeats in five starts and the Eagles could be two games clear in second spot if they win and Port Adelaide overcomes Brisbane at home.

"We'll come up with a good plan and try to nullify (Grundy's) influence around the game, because when he plays well, generally Collingwood plays well," Hickey said.

"They're still a top-four team. They got beat by Hawthorn by a goal and it was the end of the world, and we beat Hawthorn by a goal with a minute to go.

"I think that proves the closeness of the competition."

Hickey only played in 22 wins from his first 79 games but has experienced seven in 11 appearances at the Eagles, and is relishing turning up to work.

"I still feel a bit weird when guys talk about finals coming and not booking holidays in September," he said.

"I think we've come ninth once in my career. I'm just loving showing up on a Monday with a smile on your face because we know we've put in a good effort on the weekend.

"I'd love to be part of a finals series. I'd just love to be part of a team week in, week out winning games."

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs