Sydney defender Dane Rampe has won the AFLPA’s Most Courageous Award, proudly presented by Our Watch. Former teammates Heath Grundy and Nick Smith reminisce about playing with Rampe and underline the noticeable improvements in his game.
Dane Rampe was just a young player trying to make his way in the AFL when he shared the backline with former Sydney teammates Heath Grundy and Nick Smith.
Now, Rampe is the elder statesman of the Swans’ backline and is the one receiving the plaudits for the way he approaches the game with his attack on the football and his ability to back back bravely into oncoming traffic, leading to him being judged as the Most Courageous player presented by Our Watch.
Grundy said that desperate mentality was there from early on in Rampe’s career.
“He’s always been able to scrap extremely hard,” Grundy told aflplayers.com.au.
“He puts his head in the hole when he has to and he’s certainly leading by example in that way. He’s getting better and better and he and Millsy (Callum Mills) are the best at it down there.”
Smith said that it’s Rampe’s intensity at training that makes him stand out from the pack and that dedication to his craft is a key reason behind his ascension to becoming one of the best defenders in the AFL.
“I think the way he trains is probably the reason why he’s been so good, and he was a guy that you didn’t have to teach too much, he instinctively knew what was required and was self-motivated and did all of those things himself,” Smith said.
That he played for more than a month with a broken hand, protected by a glove, is testament to his courage.
Smith said this year’s setback encapsulated the Dane Rampe story – standing tall after things went against him and making the best of a tough situation.
“It really does epitomise how he got to play AFL. He got rejected twice, went up and played in the Sydney league and finally got an opportunity,” Smith said.
“I guess this year has a similar theme for Dane. He hurt his hand, had a setback, so you can either throw the towel in and say this is too hard or you can choose to play. I think it was a typical response.”
Rampe has improved in every season he has been in the AFL and would have been in All Australian contention if not for the hand injury he sustained in round eight and re-aggravated in round 12 – forcing him to have surgery and knocking him out for the season.
His versatility in being able to play on tall and small opponents, despite often being outsized, is what makes him such a consistent player according to Grundy.
“When he plays on bigger players he has that speed to be able to catch up with them and close them down,” Grundy said.
“That was something I tried to work with him on, was using his body more when he was younger and he was a great listener and really improved rapidly in that area.”
Grundy said Rampe has always had the desire to improve himself and make the most of his opportunities.
“He had that intent when he first got to the club. Some young guys come in it at 18 years of age and they take a bit of time to find their way. But because he’s older and more mature he didn’t want to waste his opportunity.
“Within a couple of months he was one the best trainers and was eager to learn, ask questions and just try to change things straight away. He’d take the feedback on board and then look to improve himself quickly.”
Off-field, both Smith and Grundy said that Rampe is unashamedly himself and provides great energy particularly for his younger teammates.
“He’d always like to sit in the rooms before games and do some meditation or something like that,” Grundy said.
“He’s just a little bit different to everyone else and good on him. He’s not just one of the followers, he’s always able to do his own thing obviously within the team guidelines.
“Whatever worked for him he’d go and do and wouldn’t care what he looked like and if he looked stupid he couldn’t care less. He’s prepared to do what he can to get the best out of himself and that’s what he does really well.”