Few athletes challenge you to conceive of the possibility of what the offspring of a baby deer and a benevolent extra-terrestrial would look like as much as Eric Hipwood does.
Of this year’s rising star crop, Hipwood is surely the most unique. The other talents are versions of players we’ve seen before. Hipwood is special. Hipwood is strange.
His strides are loping but weaponised, his pace subtle but electric. He looks a little uncoordinated until you realise that he’s the most coordinated. His kick, booming but also finessed, is perfect.
His technique is reminiscent of Damien Martyn’s. It looks relaxed in the build-up, almost to the point of casual, but only the uninitiated and forlorn could ever confuse it with indifference. Then the connection comes and the preface is made even more majestic. The strike is so sweet that everything briefly recedes and all you know is that you’re at the football. A high arcing dart through the two big sticks. A back-foot cut shot skimming along the grass.
Dayne Zorko is Brisbane’s best player, Dayne Beams is their most consistent and accomplished, and Rhys Mathieson is their most beloved in this corner of the internet. But the Lions, somehow, already feel like Eric Hipwood’s team.
Brisbane just had the most uplifting five-win wooden spoon season in recent history. It makes total sense yet seems completely unfair that West Coast finished ten spots above them.
Hipwood too was underwhelming by metrics that are destined to underwhelm. He kicked 1.5 goals per game as his team’s number one forward. Only twice did he kick more than two goals. Only once did he touch the ball more than 12 times.
But playing almost a full season, only three times did he fail to kick a goal, and only once after round nine. His threat is already ever-present and becomes a reality, however briefly, every weekend. He is no longer flashes, he is a rising star in full ascent.
He is nineteen years old, four years younger than Dakota Fanning. His ceiling, for a career, for a game, for a moment, is undefinable. He will kick goals like Lance Franklin does, the world his Cale Hooker. He will take hangers, outsprint quick midfielders, and kick goals from sixty. And he will be written about.
Rising Star Week
All week, the Onballers will pump up the tyres of a contender for the 2017 NAB AFL Rising Star award.
Tuesday: Eric Hipwood, the alien with limitless potential
Wednesday: Andrew McGrath, the number one number one pick
Thursday: Ryan Burton, Mr Natural
Friday: Sgt, Powell-Pepper, and his endless body count