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Where are they now? Eddie Hocking

Katrina Gill  May 2, 2014 8:45 AM

Eddie Hocking in action

Eddie Hocking in action

I thought I’d throw a quick jab to back him up a bit. Unfortunately, it turned into David and Goliath.

A regular feature, Where Are They Now? shines the spotlight on a former Crow.

In this instalment, we wind the clock back to 1991 and catch up with one of the Club’s first cult heroes, livewire Eddie Hocking …

Hocking is one of four Crows to hail from the South Australian town of Clare in the Mid North region. He spent his early days playing local footy and against his uncles and cousins …

“I actually played for both Clare teams, North and South, at different stages. I started off at North Clare, but I had an uncle who played for South Clare and mates in both teams. I changed teams two or three times. As a young boy growing up, I probably just played for whoever bought me a pair of shorts and socks!”

At only 168cm tall, some doubted the talented junior footballer could take the next step into the SANFL. But at age 16, Hocking accepted an invitation to train with Central District. Within 12 months, he made his league debut, aged only 17. In 1990, the then 20-year-old rover came within a vote of winning the Magarey Medal …

“It was definitely an obstacle being only 5’4”. I was lucky enough to have a bit of pace and reasonably good skills, and that got me over the line to play at SANFL and then AFL level. I was surprised I polled so well in the Magarey. I didn’t think I would even get a vote. Fortunately for me, that was the year the Crows were being formed. I’d obviously had a good year with Centrals and was one of 70-80 blokes invited out to do a pre-season with the Crows. From there, I was lucky enough to impress and get a contract with the Adelaide Football Club.”

The dashing and courageous rover not only made the inaugural Crows squad, he was selected to play in the Club’s first AFL game against Hawthorn in 1991 …

“It was our first game and the first AFL game at Footy Park, so it was a packed house. It was a very exciting night for the city of Adelaide and the Crows. I started on the pine, as I normally did, because I was a pinch-hitter. The atmosphere was just electric. I was very nervous before the game, knowing we would be part of history in South Australian football.”

Hocking had a handful of possessions off the interchange bench as Adelaide went on to record a memorable first victory over the fancied Hawks. The exciting Crow, nicknamed the ‘Scud’, quickly became a crowd favourite because of his skill and explosive speed. He provided one of the highlights of the night, sending the 45,000-strong crowd into rapture with a classy mark …

“It wasn’t a hanger, but it was in between a couple of Hawthorn greats, Gary Ayres and Chris Langford. I wasn’t sitting on their heads or anything, but I remember the crowd being pretty loud.”

Hocking’s trademark was his ability to baulk the player on the mark when lining up for goal. The clever onballer would make out he was going to take the set shot, and then at the last minute dodge around his opponent, who by that point was mid-air, and run into an open goal …

“It was definitely a move I used a lot throughout my career starting from when I was a kid playing in Clare. I was always one of the shorter kids, so I needed to have a couple of tricks up my sleeve. It started from there and stuck with me when I was playing for Centrals and then in the AFL. It worked for me a few times over the journey!”

Another moment that sticks in the minds of long-time Crows fans was Hocking’s run in with Collingwood ruckman, James ‘Charlie’ Manson, in Round 15, 1991. He might’ve been the shortest player ever to represent the Adelaide Football Club, but Hocking didn’t take a backwards step when the 194cm, 108kg, brute came at him, giving Manson a quick right-hook to the face …

“I think that punch was probably my career highlight for most people! It was my 15 second of fame. Just before I jabbed him (Manson) in the nose, we came together in a contest. We both ended up on the ground and as I got up, he threw his arm back and whacked me in the face. I turned around and had a few words and he came at me.

“I was brought up playing footy with and against seven or eight uncles on the back oval. They didn’t take it easy on me, so I learned to stand up for myself a little bit and that came into my head at that moment. There was a big bloke coming at me. Either I had to stop him, or he was going to grab me and beat me up. I thought I’d throw a quick jab to back him up a bit. Unfortunately, it turned into David and Goliath.”

Unfortunately, Hocking’s AFL career was short-lived. He played 11 games for the Crows in 1991, but couldn’t find his way past the likes of Tony McGuinness and was let go at the end of 1992. He finished his football career in the SANFL …

“I remember when the squad was first put together. I was training with guys like Chris McDermott, Andrew Jarman, Bruce Lindner, David Marshall, Bruce Abernethy and Grantley Fielke – guys who had played State of Origin footy. I was in awe of these great players. It was exciting, but it also made it tough for me to crack into a side like that. After I was delisted, I went back to Centrals and played a year under Alan Stewart. Then I went to West Adelaide and played for Neil Kerley for two or three years, which was a great experience.”

Hocking remains involved in football. He’s involved with the SANFL and its Indigenous Development pathway, coaching the South Australian Under-15 Indigenous team. His son, Tyrell, was a member of the side this year alongside the son of another famous former Crow …

“I’m involved with the SANFL and the State Under-15 Indigenous team. I’ve been coaching that team for the past four years. We’ve had some really good kids come through that program, who are now playing under age or reserves footy for SANFL clubs. This year, we had Connor McLeod and my young lad, Tyrell, in the team. We had a good group to take to Coffs Harbour and ended up finishing third overall. It was a good carnival. We’ve got seven boys, who have been selected for the AFL Flying Boomerangs squad to participate in the Under-16 National Championships on the Gold Coast in July. The team also heads of to China later this year. I was lucky enough to go away with the Flying Boomerangs boys on the tour of South Africa at the end of 2012 and experience the culture there. It was a fantastic opportunity to play some footy and experience different places like Johannesburg, Durbin, Cape Town and Soweto … it was a life-changing experience.”

Closer to home, Hocking is rapt to see his home town of Clare hosting the Adelaide Football Club’s first-ever ‘home’ SANFL game on Sunday …

“It’s a great opportunity for Clare and the region to showcase its hospitality. Clare is a fantastic town, which is growing. It’s a beautiful spot. I’m sure people who travel up this weekend will enjoy the atmosphere the game will bring but also the food and wine. They love their footy, so to have the Crows and the Port Magpies up there will be real thrill.”