Dukes of depth - Saturday 29 July 2000

There's a long history of footballers who are keen surfies. Players find any excuse to drag on the wetsuit, wax down the plank and hit old briny. The best known wave rider of recent times is former West Coast and Melbourne star Craig Turley, runner up to Jim Stynes in the 1991 Brownlow Medal. Turley retired in 1997 to search the world for ultimate swells.

Other player-surfers include Tony Modra and Chris Mainwaring and David Spriggs and Jess Sinclair and Richard Osborne. From appearances possibly Daniel Chick. While he may never have strapped on a leg rope, a bloke that had the classic malibu look with long fair hair and a bit of a tan was Jeff Hilton. Appropriate that he started at St Kilda, a club with a tradition of blonds. Because Hilton was drafted from Dromana, he may well have pipelined with the best of them.

Jeffy played his first game with the Saints in 1991. He showed a maturity beyond his 19 years. A confidence and a willingness to put himself in. The Hil man was in and out of the seniors during his first season. Finished with 5 games for 6 goals. 1992 was a consolidating year. He played mostly in the seconds. Called up for a single game in the ones. At the end of the year a total of 6. JH was then secured by Melbourne with 1992 national draft pick 99. A bargain. Over the pre season he got himself into the top shape of Mark Occhilupo when the legend made his comeback to international surfing. Hilton spent some time finding his sea legs through the seconds. But he saw corduroy to the horizon through 1994. His game in round 1 was the biggest thing since Nat Young's world title. During the merciless walloping of Geelong, Jeff kicked 3 goals. One was a blaster of a kick from 50. Another a clever snap from the boundary. He was a reliable single goaler in the round 21 game against Collingwood that the Pies won 13.14 to 9.10. Over the high scoring round 24 exchange with the Swans at the SCG, Hilton set up 3 for Schwarz. One consisted of dodging two opponents and popping a handpass over to the big number 5 on his own in the square. Plus Hilton posted a major halfway through the last term. Demons home 27.5 to 18.13.

Jeffy boy continued to ride the crest of a wave into 1995. Round 7 versus Brisbane at the MCG. In a low scoring encounter, Hilton played like skill was his middle name. He changed the complexion of the game by recording three elegant sixers as well as giving one away to Neitz. Demons by 5 points, 12.10 to 10.15. Round 11 was 120 physical minutes with Carlton. Hilton hung five on the head of Dean Rice who had to leave the ground. The Dees lost the match but won the fights. Fortunately, Hilts avoided a report. Round 18. Essendon at the G. Jeffo was the highest goal scorer on the ground with two. His first was reading the ball brilliantly off the pack in the square. Walked in and booted the imperial leather into the upper reaches of the Southern Stand. An easy six pointer. Yet the Dees lost by 33 points.

Fast forward to round 1 1996. Melbourne versus Geelong at the MCG. Hilton supplied a goal but the avalanche was in the opposite direction. Ablett kicked 8 and McKinnon 3. Otherwise it was a difficult year for Jeffrey. Charged with trying to put a sleeper hold on Jayson Daniels following round 3. Thereafter a nagging calf injury and a drop in confidence. Hilton found himself in the reserves but encouraged the kids. Unfortunately he was delisted at the end of '96.

A total of 43 senior games, 37 at Melbourne. Some 50 reserves appearances at two clubs.

If he wasn't Murphy the Surfie already, Jeff Hilton had time to get that gorilla grip going.


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