Frank Hickman began his football at Gawler High School before venturing down to Adelaide to play for Payneham in the Amateur League. Still only a teenager while at Payneham, he gained a fine reputation as a clever, high marking centreman and gained the attention of Norwood selectors and invited to take part in trials.
Hickman played extremely well in the trials and was chosen at centre for the seconds in the season’s opener against North Adelaide. Although in a losing side, Frank was generally accepted as the outstanding player on the ground. One reporter describing him as a dominating figure with his marking an outstanding feature.
Two similar games for the seconds and one as a reserve for the league saw him included in the league starting lineup against West Torrens and what a debut it was.
Hickman was chosen at centre, opposed by one of the league’s champions, Pontifex. Frank’s performance was brilliant. Pontifex was completely overshadowed. Hickman’s overhead marking was a feature and he frequently opened up the play with smart dashes.
The Norwood faithful were enthused. Worries that their outstanding centreman Alec Lill, who had retired the previous year, could not be replaced were no longer founded. A number of reporters claimed it to be the best debut ever seen. Frank retained this form for the rest of the season and at the end of the minor round was named in The Advertiser as one of the four favourites to win the Magarey Medal. He came fourth behind the eventual winner, ironically, Pontifex. Norwood made the finals but two consecutive losses resulted in third place.
Unfortunately, Frank’s remaining two seasons never reached the same heights as his first. The 1933 season began badly for Hickman when games were missed as he succumbed to an outbreak of boils. This was followed by a toe injury but Frank overcame the setbacks and remained the club’s first choice at centre,
He was part of the 1933 finals campaign when the Redlegs drew with North in the first semi-final but won the replay, defeating Sturt in the preliminary final but losing to West Torrens on Grand Final day.
Hickman’s final season in 1934 was certainly one of Norwood’s low points. Inconsistency and a horrible run with injuries saw any chance of a finals campaign disappear well before season’s end. The pressure led to Harry Krome resigning the captaincy. Chinnery was the new captain and Hickman his deputy.
Little changed and Frank, for the first time, moved out of centre and played two games on a half forward flank. Norwood finished in a dismal seventh position with only South Adelaide below them.
Frank’s final match was against Glenelg on September 8th. In keeping with the nature of this season it resulted in a 43 point loss. Frank’s career that started with such a bang ended with what was more like a whimper. There was however one more accolade to come his way. In his final season he was the only Norwood player to play in all 17 games.
B Ridge May 2022