Bobby Hill sets AFL grand final alight to win Norm Smith medal

<span>Photograph: James Ross/AAP</span>
Photograph: James Ross/AAP

Within four minutes of the first bounce, Collingwood forward Bobby Hill made it clear it was going to be his day. On all days, in an AFL grand final at the MCG.

Four goals, a speccy for the history books and enough fire to set Melbourne alight, it didn’t matter that he didn’t add to his tally in the second half.

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Hill capped off an incredible performance and impressive first season with the Magpies by securing Saturday’s best-on-ground award.

When former AFL player Chris Judd read out his name from the podium, announcing him as the 2023 Norm Smith medallist, Hill’s teammates swarmed around him in celebration and chants of “Bobby” echoed around the packed stadium.

Hill finished the game with four goals, 18 touches, eight marks and five tackles.

“I’d like to thank Brisbane for a great game, you were hard to play all year,” Hill said on stage.

“To everyone at the Collingwood football club, thank you for making me and my family welcome here. To the Collingwood faithful, we love you guys. Up the Pies.”

No one else came close to Hill in the Norm Smith medal count; his 15 votes were 10 ahead of next best Keidean Coleman of Brisbane. Magpies Nick Daicos (four), Tom Mitchell (three), Jack Crisp (two) and Scott Pendlebury (one) were the other four players to poll. It was Scott Pendlebury who won the Norm Smith in Collingwood’s last flag in 2010, making Hill just the fourth Pie ever to win the medal.

Speaking to Channel Seven after the ceremony, the 23-year-old Noongar man said his premiership-winning performance was inspired by another Indigenous great.

“To be honest I was watching Cyril Rioli’s grand final highlights,” he said. “So, there you go. Cyril, thank you, and my teammates as well for backing me in, to kick me the ball and let me do my thing.”

Hill’s AFL career has been busier than most considering his age. In early 2022 he and his partner, Georgia, had their first child, Bobby Jr, and then in May last year, Hill had surgery for testicular cancer and did not play for the rest of the AFL season.

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“It’s a family club and I’ve never been happier,” Hill said of his decision to join Collingwood from GWS 12 months ago. “It just shows coming out to play my best footy.

“I only had one meeting with you guys [Collingwood] in Sydney, it just clicked. I knew it was the right spot.”

On Saturday, Hill led the way with the spectacular goals. His third came from a run and leap on to the shoulder of the much taller Lion Brandon Starcevich to take a mark that would challenge GWS Giants’ player Harry Himmelberg for mark of the year.

Even without kicking another goal, Hill was crucial in the second half, running his legs off to find space and play into Pendlebury and Jack Crisp.

“Bobby had his own struggles last year and they’ve been well documented ... the resilience shown for him to overcome that,” Magpies coach Craig McRae said. “Obviously he wanted a change, sometimes we need a change at times.

“Funnily enough I was texting Bobby the year before. We saw the potential in this young lad. He chose us and we’re really grateful. I just love seeing young men grow up. Just the resilience shown over a number of years. We are a family club and we love you very much, Bobby.”