Mike Pyke

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Not to be confused with the English football referee Mike Pike.

Michael Anthony Patrick "Mike" Pyke (born March 24, 1984, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada) is a Canadian dual-code football player, currently a professional Australian rules footballer with the Sydney Swans.

Pyke is the first Canadian national and the first former rugby union professional to play in an Australian Football League premiership team, having played in the Swans 2012 premiership winning side. Prior to his Australian rules football career, Pyke was a professional rugby union player having played for French Top 14 squad US Montauban and representing the Canadian national side.

He is known for his understated goal celebrations.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Pyke was born to parents Christine Peterson and Ian Pyke in Victoria, British Columbia.[3]

Pyke first started playing basketball, soccer and ice hockey, at St. Michaels University School in British Columbia, a school which has produced several Canadian national rugby players over the past few decades, before being convinced to focus on rugby.

As an amateur he was a member of various rugby teams based in Victoria, British Columbia, including the Pacific Sport rugby academy – where he led the B.C. Premier League with 210 points in 2003–2004, the University of Victoria, the Castaway Wanderers, and the Vancouver Island Crimson Tide.

Professional rugby and international representative career[edit]

Mike Pyke
Date of birth (1984-03-24) 24 March 1984 (age 30)
Place of birth Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Height 200 cm (6 ft 7 in)
Weight 104 kg (16 st 5 lb)
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Fullback
Professional / senior clubs
Years Club / team Caps (points)
2004–2006
2006–2008
Edinburgh
US Montauban
19 (5)
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
2004–2008 Canada 20 (35)

Pyke began his professional rugby career at the Edinburgh Gunners in 2004. He won his first international cap against Japan, at age 20 the same year.

In November 2006, he signed with US Montauban, where he played alongside Canadian teammate Ryan Smith.

As of August 2007, he has 17 caps for the national side, scoring 30 points in the process.

Pyke achieved fame in 2007 for running the length of the field and scoring a try against the New Zealand All Blacks off an intercepted pass from Dan Carter.

As a rugby player, Pyke typically plays on the wing or at full back, but is also capable of playing most other back line positions.

Switch to Australian rules football[edit]

Injuries sustained at US Montauban saw Pyke look for a career change. A friend, Matt Woodland, convinced Pyke that he had all the attributes of an AFL great and set in motion the code switch. Pyke put together a DVD showcasing his rugby highlights which Woodland then sent onto AFL player agent Michael Quinlan from Top Dog Management.[4] Quinlan was immediately convinced of the possibilities and after speaking with Pyke several times began dialogue with the Sydney Swans, a team known for unconventional recruitment.[3][5][6][7]

After viewing Pyke's credentials, the Sydney Swans offered him a contract. On 13 August 2008, Pyke signed with the club. The Swans had exploited a new draft rule initially designed to provide a pathway for amateur Australian Rules players outside of Australia to a professional AFL career. Although there were rules in place to protect the Gaelic Athletic Association and clubs using it for the Irish experiment, the new AFL draft rule did not preclude the recruitment of talented athletes from other sports such as rugby. As a result, Pyke became the first international sportsperson in VFL/AFL history drafted from a non-Irish sport.

Pyke believed his basketball and rugby background would help him adapt to Australian rules football. With his 200 cm height and 105 kg weight, he saw himself playing as a ruckman and/or defender.[8] Pyke was selected by the Swans as a round 4 (57th) pick in the rookie draft and added to the team's list.[9]

Australian rules football career[edit]

Mike Pyke
Personal information
Full name Mike Pyke
Date of birth (1984-03-24) 24 March 1984 (age 30)
Place of birth Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Height/Weight 200cm / 104kg
Position(s) Ruckman
Club information
Current club Sydney
Number 38
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
2009– Sydney 90 (44)
1 Playing statistics correct to end of 2014 season.
Career highlights

Pyke made an impressive debut in the NAB Cup match against Port Adelaide Power. His performance rucking against premiership ruckmen Dean Brogan and Brendon Lade earned him early favouritism to take the secondary ruckman role, supporting premiership ruckman Darren Jolly and make his AFL premiership season debut in the Swans' opening match against St Kilda.[10]

Despite solid performance in his debut, Pyke's conversion was criticised by some AFL commentators, most notably Brian Taylor, who described the experiment as a "joke" and described him as the worst player in the AFL.[11]

He was elevated to the senior list shortly before the first round, leading to speculation he would indeed be chosen, but he was announced on the emergency list for the squad, with Jesse White taking the second ruck spot. In the following rounds Pyke played for the Swans' reserves side in the AFL Canberra league. After a 20 possession strong performance with the reserves including some strong contested marks and goals, the club raised the possibility that Pyke's debut would take place in the coming weeks.

Pyke finally got his opportunity with the Swans when selected to play in round 6 of the AFL premiership competition against the Richmond Tigers. In 50 minutes of game time, he accumulated 4 handballs, 1 mark, 1 tackle and 11 hit-outs. While his debut wasn't sensational, he showed enough confident passages of play to be considered as a back-up ruckman for the Swans.[12]

By Round 14, 2010, Pyke finally managed his first senior goal – again against Richmond. .[13]

In August 2010 Pyke was given a new two year contract with the Sydney Swans.[14]

Swans' coach Paul Roos praised Pyke, saying he had developed into a genuine AFL ruckman. “This year, if someone came to their first game, you'd have to point out that this is a Canadian rugby player now playing AFL football, and that's the biggest compliment you can give Pykey,’’ Roos said.[15]

The success of Pyke's move to the AFL was further cemented at the 2010 Sydney Swans Club Champion presentation, where Pyke was awarded the Dennis Carroll Trophy for Most Improved Player.

In the 2011 season Pyke played only two games before an ongoing quad muscle injury kept him off the senior side for the rest of the season.

After missing selection for round one of the 2012 season, Pyke injured his posterior cruciate ligament playing in the reserves.[16] He made his return in Round 8, 2012, to a Sydney Swans starting side destined to win the Grand Final. The Swans added his blog, "Open Pyke", to their website in June 2012 [17] and his goal against the West Coast Eagles was featured as the SwansTV Play of the Day for Round 16.[18] In Round 21 Pyke scored a career-high three goals against the Western Bulldogs.[19]

With the Sydney Swans' win in the 2012 Grand Final on 29 September 2012, Pyke became the first Canadian to play in an AFL premiership winning team.[20] When Swans coach John Longmire substituted primary ruckman Shane Mumford, suffering from a sore hamstring, out of the game in the fourth term, Pyke was left to handle the ruck duties alone. He was recognized as playing an important role in the Swans' win.[21][22] He was credited with 16 disposals, a career high, and three contested marks, more than anyone else on the field except Hawthorn star Lance Franklin, who took four.[23][24]

On 30 October 2012, the Sydney Swans announced that they had signed Pyke to another two-year contract.[25]

Pyke played in all 25 games for the Swans' 2013 season. He took 52 contested marks, more than any player in the competition except Travis Cloke,[19] and he was the Swans' fourth-leading goal kicker with 28.[26] Pyke's success on the field led former Sydney coach Paul Roos to hold him out as a contender for the 2013 All-Australian team.[27]

Statistics[edit]

Statistics are correct to the end of the 2014 season[28]
Legend
 G  Goals  B  Behinds  K  Kicks  H  Handballs  D  Disposals  M  Marks  T  Tackles
Season Team # Games G B K H D M T G B K H D M T
Totals Averages (per game)
2009 Sydney 38 8 0 1 8 39 47 3 12 0.0 0.1 1.0 4.9 5.9 0.4 1.5
2010 Sydney 38 18 3 2 49 86 135 43 55 0.2 0.1 2.7 4.8 7.5 2.4 3.1
2011 Sydney 38 2 2 0 8 7 15 4 6 1.0 0.0 4.0 3.5 7.5 2.0 3.0
2012 Sydney 38 18 8 8 70 112 182 59 48 0.4 0.4 3.9 6.2 10.1 3.3 2.7
2013 Sydney 38 25 28 8 123 153 276 89 53 1.1 0.3 4.9 6.1 11.0 3.6 2.1
2014 Sydney 38 19 3 6 88 93 181 42 45 0.2 0.3 4.6 4.9 9.5 2.2 2.4
Career 90 44 25 346 490 836 240 219 0.5 0.3 3.8 5.4 9.3 2.7 2.4

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Mike Pyke Nonchalant Try Scoring Award". June 2007. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  2. ^ Hinds, Richard (1 May 2009). "Mike Pyke doesn't believe his grand final was a breakthrough game". The Australian. 
  3. ^ a b Lalor, Peter (8 June 2013). "Canadian Pyke to make his 'crazy game' debut". 
  4. ^ Morrissey, Tim (14 August 2008). "Swans like Mike Pyke". Fox Sports Australia. Retrieved September 29, 2012. 
  5. ^ Murphy, Catherine (2008-09-30). "Foreign legion takes shape". Sydney Swans web site. Retrieved 2012-09-21. 
  6. ^ Duffield, Mark (2012-04-30). "Swans fly under the radar". The West Australian. Retrieved 2012-09-21. 
  7. ^ Harvey, Shannon (2011-11-06). "How 'Moneyball theory' profited Swans". The West Australian. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  8. ^ Swans sign 24-year-old Canadian rugby player from news.com.au
  9. ^ "PSD and Rookie Draft: Pick by pick". 2008-12-16. 
  10. ^ Cowley, Michael (2009-02-23). "Pyke in right position to grab ruck spot". Real Footy. Retrieved 2009-02-26. 
  11. ^ James Dampney Ex-rugby player Pyke answers critics Ninemsn 2009
  12. ^ http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20090506221715706
  13. ^ Lane, Samantha (2010-07-05). "Tigers fight their way off the bottom". The Age (Melbourne). 
  14. ^ http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/afl/swans-give-canadian-mike-pyke-two-more-years/story-e6frf9jf-1225901020388/
  15. ^ http://www.sportingpulse.com/assoc_page.cgi?c=0-7259-0-0-0&sID=154776&articleID=12880109&news_task=DETAIL
  16. ^ http://www.sydneyswans.com.au/news/newsarticle/tabid/7106/newsid/148874/default.aspx
  17. ^ http://www.sydneyswans.com.au/open%20pyke/tabid/19395/default.aspx
  18. ^ http://www.sydneyswans.com.au/Multimedia/tabid/8664/contentid/469204/Default.aspx
  19. ^ a b "AFL Statistics". AFL. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  20. ^ Cordy, Neil (2012-09-29). "Swans ruckman Mike Pyke grand final date isn't exactly big news in Canada". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney). 
  21. ^ "Hawks' stars go missing (AFL Grand Final Heroes & Goats)". BigPond Sport. 2012-09-29. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  22. ^ Darcy, Luke and Barrett, Damian. "Access All Areas". BigPond Sport. Retrieved 2012-10-01. 
  23. ^ "Sydney Swans Statistics". Retrieved 2012-10-30. 
  24. ^ "Hawthorn Statistics". Retrieved 2012-10-30. 
  25. ^ Paolucci, Tanya. "Premiership trio re-sign". Sydney Swans Football Club. 2012-10-30. Retrieved 2012-10-30. 
  26. ^ "Sydney Swans 2013 Stats". Sydney Swans Football Club. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  27. ^ "Paul Roos places Sydney ruckman Mike Pyke in All-Australian contention". Herald Sun. 2013-09-21. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  28. ^ AFL Match Statistics at afl.com.au

External links[edit]