It’s undeniable one of the good news stories this season is the resurgence of the Western Bulldogs. Written off after a horror off-season in which they lost their coach, captain and a host of senior players, the Dogs’ success so far this season has been unexpectedly stunning.
One of the unsung architects in the Bulldogs’ success is medium-sized forward Tory Dickson, who is enjoying a break-out season, having played in every game after making just four appearances in the seniors in 2014.
What’s especially apparent this year is his superb accuracy in front of goal, where he has kicked 34.8 at a strike rate of almost 81 percent, the best strike rate in the league for any player that has kicked more than 20 goals. Further, Dickson’s career numbers of 82.28 at 74 percent place him second overall in the VFL/AFL since 1965 for goal-scoring accuracy.
It’s been a pay-off in persistence and perseverance for Dickson, now 27, had to bide his time before he got his chance to shine at AFL level.
It was an unconventional entry into the AFL system for Dickson as his initial foray into sport was as a talented junior tennis player at Haileybury College. However, the lure of team success persuaded Dickson to pursue a career in Aussie rules.
After a couple of years developing his game at VFL side Frankston, he showed enough class to win the Dolphins’ best and fairest in 2009 under senior coach Shannon Grant. However, family commitments and the lure of playing under well-respected former Frankston reserves coach Mick Fogarty at Noble Park meant Dickson would choose to step back and play his football with the Bulls in the Eastern Football League for season 2010.
After a fruitful season that netted him 112 goals, Dickson was persuaded by Shannon Grant to give the VFL another crack and he joined the Bendigo Bombers in 2011. Under the coaching of Grant, Dickson impressed in his return to VFL level with 48 goals in 19 games for the Bombers.
The move of Grant to the Western Bulldogs as an assistant coach under newly appointed senior coach Brendan McCartney was good news for Dickson, and their influence was enough for the Bulldogs to select him with pick 57 in the 2011 national draft.
After a handy beginning to his league career in 2012 with 17 games and 23 goals, Dickson followed up with similar numbers of 22 goals in 13 games the next year. However, Dickson’s footy took a backward step last year as he struggled to crack it for senior selection after suffering a pectoral injury, making his last appearance for the Bulldogs in round eight.
He enjoyed a handy second half of the year at VFL level for Footscray, averaging almost 15 disposals and kicking 25 goals in 11 games, including two in the Dogs’ premiership win over Box Hill. However, it was the arrival of Luke Beveridge at the Whitten Oval at the end of 2014 which has given Dickson’s fledgling AFL career the kiss of life.
Now just five weeks out from September, the Bulldogs are sitting in fifth place on the cusp of a finals berth and Dickson is second on the club goal kicking only two goals behind Jake Stringer. The pair have kicked 70 goals between them at an average of more than four per game and with the return to form of Stewart Crameri – who booted a career-high seven goals against the Bombers – the trio potentially form one of the most potent forward lines in the league.
It’s a far cry from kicking around in suburban footy at Noble Park as a 23-year-old, but if his form so far in 2015 is anything to go by, expect Tory Dickson to make an impact for the Dogs up forward in September.