FORMER Ovens and Murray Football League star Rob Hickmott took his new career as a horse trainer to the pinnacle when Green Moon saluted in the Melbourne Cup at Flemington yesterday.
Hickmott, who became the private trainer for Lloyd Williams in 2009, was a star player for Wangaratta Rovers during their dominant era in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
He also played for rival clubs Wodonga and Myrtleford, but was best known for his roles in the 1988 and 1991 grand final wins by the Hawks.
O and M Hall of Famer Laurie Burt coached Hickmott and recalls a talented player torn between two sporting loves, racing and football.
His father John was a trainer based at Wangaratta and his son soon developed a passion for racing that put him on a collision course with his football coach at various stages.
“He had that many grandparents, uncles, aunties whose funerals he had to go to,” Burt said last night.
“He would ring up and say ‘sorry, I can’t make training. I’ve got to go to Swan Hill or Moe to go to a funeral’.
“One time (club president) Sam Perna actually sent some flowers.
“But all to no avail because there was no funeral.
“He was off at the races somewhere.”
Even on match days Hickmott struggled to divert his attention from the racetrack with Burt discovering a radio planted in his locker on one occasion.
“It must have been 1.55pm with a race on somewhere,” Burt said.
“Here we were trying to prepare for a big game and Hick was trying to listen to a race.
“But if you were asked who were some of your best players from that time, Robbie was certainly in the best 20 I’ve coached.
“He did some amazing, miraculous things as a young fellow.
“He was one of those blokes who could turn a game.”
Hickmott followed his father to Murray Bridge and his football career ended when he broke his leg in country South Australia.
He returned to Victoria and worked for trainers Colin Little and Tony Vasil and after a brief stint in Queensland he joined Team Williams.
He was credited with playing a major role with Williams’ previous Melbourne Cup winner, Efficient in 2007, when Graeme Rogerson was the stable trainer.
Hickmott replaced John Sadler as head trainer in 2009. His father John also had a runner at Flemington yesterday.
Local trainer Leanne Smith worked for the Hickmotts when they were based in Wangaratta and was delighted.
“His mum still does my books and was up here on Saturday afternoon,” she said.
“We spent the afternoon at home cheering home Fawkner for Robbie in the last race.
“Today is a very special day for me, remembering Robbie as a kid and now seeing one of his horses win the Cup.”