I found out I was playing my first game along with Charlie Ballard during our team selection meeting. There were no hints prior to that.
Everyone walked into the room, and we noticed there were some cameras around, so a few boys started murmuring that someone was going to debut.
They rolled through the team list, and when they got to the half-forward line, they mentioned Charlie’s name so I was firstly stoked for him, but quickly thought he was the only one debuting.
I stopped thinking that it was going to be me.
Then it got to the full-forward spot and I saw my name. To say I was shocked would be an understatement.
Straight away I called my family, and they all were in disbelief and became quite emotional, to the point where I had to hang up the phone because they were all crying.
This past week, I’ve never seen my dad so emotional. After the game he was crying, and at half-time when Fox Footy interviewed my mum — they were originally meant to chat to him — but he couldn’t do it because he didn’t want to break down on TV.
He has soaked it up as much as I have because he has been on the journey before and knows how hard it can be for some people.
Like with most players who debut, you seek advice from many sources.
All the boys told myself and Charlie to play our normal game, and that everything will be the same if we turned up and played as we normally would, which is obviously a lie. Let’s be honest, it’s a huge step up!
I did try and keep the same routine and not waste too much energy on nerves.
I did what I always do pre-game, and that’s eat one banana exactly two hours before the game, and another one with exactly one hour to go.
And of course, I played in my trusty red speedos! It’s a routine I’ve had for a while and I wasn’t going to stop it at AFL level.
The best piece of advice I received was from Dean Solomon, who saw that I was getting a bit nervous in the rooms.
He came over and said that it was my first game and I couldn’t make any mistakes and that I just needed to bring the energy.
When we ran out and I saw the banner for the first time, I got overwhelmed quickly. But once I pushed through it, I got past that. They say your first few AFL minutes are like nothing you will experience in your life, and I can confirm that. It felt like I was running on air for a while there!
My game style is to be physical and exert myself on the contest, so when I bumped into Toby McLean in the first quarter, it wasn’t a deliberate thing. It was a by-product of the way I approach my football.
Steven May said before the game that I should be comfortable to play like that because I’ve encountered senior bodies before, and that I shouldn’t be afraid to give a free-kick away if the opportunity presented itself. When it’s broken down simplistically like that, it makes it easier.
Kicking a goal was something I never could have envisaged, and now looking back at that moment, there are no words to describe the feeling. All I can recall was my celebration, which was a little bit over the top.
After the game dad came up to me and told me that the media are blowing up and couldn’t stop talking about me. I quickly told him to be quiet because there was no way I believed him, until I checked my phone a couple of hours later and it was going off. It was a huge surprise!
It’s been funny to grab so much attention. My mates are having some fun with it, especially the fact that people are talking about my moustache and saying that I’m a 35-year-old in an 18-year-old’s body.
The nickname ‘Goober,’ is getting some traction, too, which I have explained in the past.
In short, it stems from my pop’s love of Spongebob Squarepants and the ‘Goofy Goober’ character. I was referred to as that because co-ordination wasn’t a strength of mine growing up.
Looking back on the game, I was never going to replace a player as good as Tom Lynch in my first match, but I felt like I did well enough to play my role and hopefully hold my spot for this week. I brought energy, enthusiasm and passion and I think that meant I fulfilled my role.