By Josh Preston.
Brisbane Lions young gun Eric Hipwood’s future is unquestionably bright.
The 19-year-old former Caloundra junior, in the midst of his second season in the AFL, has earned praise from some of football media’s leading voices, among them Lions legends Jonathan Brown and triple premiership coach Leigh Matthews.
The 202cm key forward’s combination of speed, skill and agility – a rarity for any player of his size – has also seen him pick up a nomination for this year’s NAB AFL Rising Star award after his three-goal performance against the Western Bulldogs in Round 5. Asked about the nomination and the excited whispers from outside voices on his superstar potential, Hipwood chooses to concentrate on what’s next – a characteristic indicative of his perpetually competitive mindset.
“Individual accolades are a massive honour, but footy is a team game,” he says. “Personally, I won’t be really satisfied until we start consistently winning games and chasing that premiership. That’s the ultimate goal.
“The honour isn’t lost on me, I’m happy to be included with some great names and be recognised for all the hard work I’ve put in so far, but it’s not the be all and end all. It’s not the reason why I play.”
When it comes to his own expectations, Hipwood aims for ‘persistence and consistency’ as his career continues to progress.
“It’s important to wake up every morning with the mentality that I’m going to make myself better than I was yesterday. That way I know I’m bringing everything I can to the team,” he says.
“If you can get to a stage where you feel you’ve done everything right – all the training going into a game – the rest starts to take care of itself. You start to believe that you can do anything, you can beat your man no matter what. I know I will make mistakes along the way, but it’s about learning from them instead of dwelling on them, turning the negatives into positives and accepting that it’s a learning curve.”
As part of a young Lions squad at the beginning of a lengthy rebuilding phase under new coach Chris Fagan, Hipwood admits there are ‘frustrations’ that come with repeated losses on the field.
“It can be very tough. I’m a very competitive person by nature, so I want to win every week, no matter who we’re playing,” he says. “Often times you learn more from a loss than you do from a win, but that doesn’t stop the frustration.”
Hipwood acknowledges club support networks as good reference points for players maintaining a healthy and positive attitude, both on field and off.
“We have a club psychologist talking to us two times a week at the moment, as well as a couple of welfare people, so if any of us are struggling with the pressures of footy or with social media commentary or whatever, conversations and communications with them are really beneficial,” he says.
He points to a strong relationship with Fagan as a sign of the club’s promising future.
“He (Fagan) has been fantastic for us. He’s given the whole playing group a great understanding of what we need to do to get to where we want to be. He has been on the pathway before, he’s been to the top from his time at Hawthorn, so he knows what it takes.”
Through every high and low in the life of an elite young athlete, Hipwood knows that staying ready and ‘keeping it about the love of the game’ will make the equilibrium easier to maintain.
“There’s no time for complacency in the AFL, it’ll just come back to bite you straight away,” he says. “Every week brings a different opponent. I need to make sure I go into every game with the same hunger and desire to win.”
Player Profile – Eric Hipwood
D.O.B – 13/9/1997
Height – 202cm
Weight – 92kg
Guernsey Number – 30
Games – 19
Goals – 24
Nickname/s – Eel, Rafa, Hippy
Music currently listening to –The Wombats, Milky Chance
Best teammates to compete with at training – Harris Andrews, Dan McStay
Follow Eric on Instagram or Twitter – @erichipwood