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Anatomy of a debut — Colin O’Riordan

I’ll never forget Tuesday the 10th of July — the day I was told I would play my first AFL match.

John Longmire called us into a room where the playing group were shown a video of a leprechaun dancing with my face on it — we all got a kick out of that one — and he made the news public. It was a great moment to share with everyone.

I went to do a bike session soon after with the boys before Tadhg Kennelly reminded me that I needed to ring my parents before they went to sleep.

I’m the youngest of five boys and every one of them were filled with elation when I told them the news. But the most memorable moment from the whole week-long experience was actually just after I told them.

I came back to the room to complete my bike session but everyone else had finished so I sat in there staring at the wall for a couple of minutes taking it all in.

I was emotional. It was an emotional day from finding out first of all to thinking about the journey and how far I’d come. I always reminded myself that it’s only a game but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t emotional.

It’s sounds like a really simple memory but it’s one I’ll never forget.

There was a spring in my step for the rest of the week. I felt a bit taller, that’s for sure, and I had more energy than I ever had before.

We left for Melbourne on Saturday afternoon and stayed in a hotel that night. I must admit, sleeping straight away was tough. When I closed my eyes, all I could see was the ball coming at me the next day.

Other than that, the only time I got nervous was running onto the ground.

On Sunday morning, I was up and ready to go an hour before the bus arrived to take us to the stadium. I was ready so early that ‘Horse’ and the boys were giving me a bit of stick because of it!

I was that excited and just wanted to be out there.

I don’t have many quirks before a game, the only thing I have to do is tie my left boot first — I guess you’d call that some form of superstition.

Josh Kennedy had a chat to me and presented my jumper to me. He said that everyone will get around me and that I just need to play my game and enjoy it.

When the skipper is telling you to do something, it gives you the confidence to go out and do it so that piece of advice helped me feel comfortable.

Walking onto the big deck of Etihad with the roof closed and the atmosphere building was a great experience. It’s a bit of a circus on the field for the first few minutes as you try and soak it all up.

I was nervous during the warm up but once the ball was bounced, it was like any other game. I just wanted to go in and treat it like any other game and the nerves disappeared as the game began.

The atmosphere was electric in the stadium, it was truly something else.

I started the game on the bench and came on a few minutes in. There were mixed emotions running onto the ground for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect.

Everything else takes a backward step. It’s hard to explain but everything flashed through my head with how far I’ve come and how it might just be the beginning. But I soon realised that I was actually out on the ground and needed to knuckle down and concentrate on what was happening around me.

I just wanted to enjoy it and that’s what I kept telling myself.

I think my first touch of the footy was a hospital handpass. I tried to make something happen and it didn’t quite come off as I would’ve liked but luckily no one got hurt.

I didn’t expect to play well — I just wanted to go out and enjoy it and play football because that’s what I’ve been doing since I was a kid. It might’ve been a different shaped ball but it’s something I love doing regardless.

The enjoyment factor helped me out there but the boys were directing me into the right positions, which made things a bit easier.

So despite getting 10 intercept possessions or whatever it was, it was the guys who helped me get to those spots that deserve the credit.

I haven’t read too much into my performance because I just want to hold my place in the team. It’s a ruthless industry, I play in a side that’s difficult to crack into and it’s even harder to stay once you get in the team.

In the end, it was special day that capped off a special week. It was a topsy-turvy match, you didn’t really know who would win, but it was a dream game to make my AFL debut.

When the siren went, I felt pure elation. There was a lot of relief that I got a win in my first game — it was a special moment and one I’ll never forget.