‘Runt’ Stephen Hill is really a Fremantle Dockers ironman
Plenty gets said about Stephen Hill.
If we’re not debating how he compares to fellow top-10 draft selection Daniel Rich, we’re talking about taggers and how he deals with them.
What’s been lost amid the scrutiny and the fans’ excitement is that Hill is also the AFL’s most unlikely ironman.
The skinny kid taken by Fremantle at No. 3 in the 2008 national draft has played 67 of a possible 68 games in his first three seasons.
He would boast a perfect record if not for Mark Harvey’s controversial decision to rest Hill among a host of stars against Hawthorn in Round 21, 2010.
“I was quite thin and I only weighed 69-70kg when I first got to the club, so I was pretty light back then,” the 21-year-old said.
“Looking back at it, coming up against big men like that . . . I’m glad I got through, I guess.”
To underline Hill’s achievement, teammate David Mundy is one of only seven players to have played 100 consecutive games from debut in VFL/AFL history.
Hill played all 22 games in both his debut season, as the Dockers went with a youth policy in 2009 and again last year.
“It’s been a bit surprising and I’m really proud and happy that I’ve been able to stay in the side and play as many games as I have,” he said.
“I’ve been pretty lucky I haven’t had any major injuries. Hopefully it stays that way.”
Hill’s most significant injury challenge to date came a year ago, when his 2011 pre-season was derailed by shin soreness, which restricted the amount of running he could do.
His 2011 campaign was generally viewed as disappointing, despite the fact the West Perth product narrowly managed to post career-highs in disposals, contested possessions and clearances.
“I probably wasn’t as fit as I could have been leading into last year,” he said. “I would have liked to have had more of an impact for the team and play my role a bit better.”
While still quiet and understated after three years in the system, the now 81kg midfielder possesses a serene, unflappable nature that seems likely to help him as he continues his journey in a football fishbowl that magnifies both highs and lows.
“It’s my fourth year into the club now, so I think I’m matured a bit more and my body’s adapting and feels a lot better. I definitely still love playing football,” he said.
“This pre-season’s been a lot better. This year is looking pretty good.
“I think if I do get tagged in games I’ve got to be able to beat them. I did get tagged a little bit last year so if that happens this year, hopefully I’m stronger and my fitness can help me out a bit more and I can overcome it.
“I want to be able to win my own ball more and play inside as well as run and play on the outside.”