Marlion Pickett, the smooth operator who makes the game look easy


The twirl that saw him wrong foot All-Australian Lachie Whitfield and find Richmond’s Jason Castagna inside 50 early in the second quarter was audacious.

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It revealed the quickness of Pickett’s feet as he took 10 steps inside an imaginary two square metre box within 10 seconds while remaining as balanced and aware of his surroundings as an Olympic diver leaping off the diving platform.

He had done that move before on a football field, as a child growing up in Western Australia, as a man trying to find purpose while inside prison, as a footballer for South Fremantle harbouring an AFL dream and as the VFL player that made every Richmond VFL match from August onwards in 2019 compulsory viewing.

Tigers skipper Trent Cotchin, who was alongside Pickett and Martin when Damien Hardwick told him he was playing in the grand final, said he had never seen someone move as smoothly as Pickett on a football field.

“He makes the game look easy and it is unfair really,” Cotchin said.

The premiership captain was spotted laughing immediately after the move as he ran towards Pickett to show his appreciation.

Marlion Picket in action against the Magpies in a pre-season game. Credit:AAP

Cotchin had not played alongside him until that day but he had trained with him and seen how Pickett seemed to eat up the ground like Pacman as soon as he grabbed the football, making the exhortation most players hear from coaches to take grass when space opens up, unnecessary for the first-game veteran.

As time has passed he has got to know him even better and Cotchin’s admiration for the man called Marlion has only grown.

“He is older but he is also mature. He is a phenomenal person, to be completely frank. He is just a very humble human being, who has learned a lot of lessons throughout his life,” Cotchin said.

Those lessons have led to Pickett being a guiding light for many.

Melbourne rookie Harley Bennell is known to have told others he was drawing hope from the quiet Tiger who wore No. 50 in the grand final as he tries to restart his career with the Demons.

Pickett is determined to build on that showing as he looks to spend as long as he can in the AFL, having been finally drafted in the mid-season draft at 27 on a base income of $50,000.

And the Tigers are equally bent on letting him find his way in the game free of the suffocation that can come when something that happens within two hours on a football field turns an otherwise normal existence upside down.

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Some will question whether he can keep on keeping on but those close to him have no doubt.

The reality is that whatever happens now the game is richer for the presence of Pickett that day in his first AFL game, aged 27 years and 265 days, the first player to make his debut in a grand final since 1952.

And everyone is ready to enjoy whatever his talents can offer in 2020.

“He is an incredible family man and a bloody good footballer,” Cotchin said.

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