Tom Maloney might be one of the last of his kind; one of the last models to roll off of a storied production line before the nameplate is retired.
Not in the way he plays the game, but in the way he arrived into the senior VFL arena.
A tireless, hard working, selfless team man, he is the prototypical twenty-first century small forward. Just as happy creating the turnover that leads to a goal as he is kicking one himself, 2017 was a year of growth and, yes, development in a league which existed to provide just that to aspiring young footballers.
Having given himself fully to an apprenticeship that demands hard work, values persistence and rewards patience, Maloney ended the season as the Club’s final ever Development League best and fairest and with an invitation to return for season 2018.
It was an invitation that required little in the way of consideration, as Maloney sensed he was on the verge of another step forward in his footballing journey.
When I last spoke to Box Hill’s then number 46 – he now dons the 17 – he’d just put pen to paper and set short and medium term goals for the season to come: train well, put himself in the mix to play come round one, play consistent footy and grasp the opportunity if and when it comes.
Having checked the first two boxes during a gruelling pre-season program, Maloney got the nod as Box Hill’s 23rd man for the Hawks’ round one engagement at Williamstown.
“It was a big pre-season and I worked really hard to get into the position I am,” he begins.
“I was really happy and thankful to ‘Newy’ to get a chance, get the win and play in a great game.”
Maloney’s assessment of his performance is, perhaps, a touch modest, but totally in keeping with a young man who knows one showing in isolation is just that and nothing more.
“It was a good day and the boys made it really easy to settle in.
“I had a few fumbles and skill errors, which were maybe down to some nerves, but otherwise I thought I was alright.”
Still, twenty three disposals, seven inside fifties and four clearances on debut is nothing to be sneezed at.
Along with Billy Murphy, Maloney’s pressure across half-forward was instrumental in wearing the Seagulls’ defence down and causing the fatigue that begat the turnovers that ultimately broke the game open.
“The message all week and pre-game was to be myself and play my own game.
“I get a lot of satisfaction from putting that pressure on – those acts are something I really pride myself on.
“Sometimes when I’m struggling to get into the game I find going those little things can really get me going and, hopefully, some reward comes as a result.”
Pleasingly, the kid out of Sandringham under 18s sees the teammates he’ll vie with all season – the Murphy’s, Lane’s, Dorien’s, Kilpatrick’s et al – not as rivals, but a group that can drive one another to be better individually and collectively.
“We’ve got a lot of good young players who play a similar position to me, so nothing is guaranteed or a given week-to-week.
“I’ve got to make sure I work hard on the track – keep doing what is expected of me in game and during training – and stay in good nick to ensure my name is up there every week.”
And what about this week against Frankston?
“I hope so! We’ll just have to wait and see.”