Hawthorn Hawks’ Ricky Henderson is playing on the edge


“I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder in regard to that but I wanted to prove to myself, more than anyone, that I could still play my best footy, even at the age of 30,” Henderson, now 31, said.

The indignation led to a change of mindset from the unobtrusive former Crow, who concentrated on basketball from the age of 15 until Adelaide recruiter Hamish Ogilvie placed him on the rookie list after watching him play just a couple of matches for Trentham.

Henderson plays with a gliding style reminiscent of premiership Hawthorn wingmen of the past, including Isaac Smith, Clinton Young, Anthony Condon, Colin Robertson and Rodney Eade.

However Henderson’s ability to stop amid congestion and let it wash over him like a wave while he finds the right option separates him in style from that impressive flag-winning quintet. He relies on endurance, smarts and class rather than pace to be a vital link in the chain.

Henderson said it was only after two years at the Hawks – who secured him as a delisted free agent in the same year Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara arrived – that he was able to contribute as he hoped he would.

Though he loved the change Hawthorn provided and the club environment, becoming the player he wanted to be took time.

“I didn’t understand how hard it was going to be,” Henderson said.

“It is not an easy gig to change clubs and people probably take it for granted and think if they can do one thing at one club they will be able to slide into another system.”

Unfortunately for Henderson that momentum he had gained was interrupted in March this year when the AFL shut the season down temporarily, while he slid up and down the MCG wing against the Brisbane Lions without a soul in the stands.

He admits that his football life flashed before his eyes.

“I did think I could have played my last game at the MCG in round one without a crowd there,” Henderson said.

Thankfully it appears that won’t be the case as the Hawks gear up for round two, having kept themselves fit during the break.

Henderson has also been looking after his three-year-old daughter Rylee and infant son Billy, and suspects his wife Jenny has appreciated his presence.

“There has been a bit of toilet training, a bit of riding the bike, all the fun stuff I would probably miss out on if we were playing, so it has actually been good,” Henderson said.

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Now he’s back at training as the Hawks attempt to keep pushing back up the ladder with many new faces sprinkled alongside premiership players from the club’s golden era.

Henderson wants to be part of their push for another piece of silverware and can’t wait to get the season rolling again, as he feels like his best years on a football field remain in front of him.

“We’re trying to find a balance between trying to create something new and holding on to a team that was so good and those players that were there in that era and the experience they bring and see what we can draw from that,” Henderson said.

“It is a completely new era so we have to just try to forge our own path.”

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