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Anatomy of a debut — Jordan Ridley

I didn’t really know what was happening when Woosha brought the whole team together after training last Wednesday. It had never really happened before, so I knew it was something different.

That’s when he told Dyl Clarke and I that we would be playing our first games. There was a big cheer from all of the boys and they all got around us, so it was an unreal feeling and something I’ll never forget.

I thought I was a chance to play but I didn’t expect it to happen like that—I thought he’d just pull me into his office later and tell me there!

As soon as I got inside after training, I called my dad and told him the news. He’s always been super supportive of me playing football and he’s a bit of a footy head himself, so he was very excited for me.

As exciting as it was, though, I tried to keep a lid on things as much as I could for the rest of the week. I think it can be easy to get in the trap of thinking too far ahead and playing the game in your head so I just wanted to treat it like any other game.

I managed to keep myself pretty relaxed in the build-up overall but I was definitely a bit nervous the night before. That Friday night I tried to keep myself really busy so I wouldn’t think about it and wouldn’t get any more nervous than I had to be.

I couldn’t believe it but I actually ended up sleeping pretty well despite the nerves—I somehow slept in and woke up a bit later than I wanted too!

My housemate Matt Guelfi was playing too, so we went out and had some breakfast on game day. We grabbed some eggs on toast and had a chat, just talking about anything but footy.

The game was at a bit of a weird time with a 4:30pm start so we had some time to kill after that. We went and played some basketball until it was time to drive to the ground and made the trip in together.

Once you’re at the ground, everything you do at VFL level just translates to AFL level and you get into your routine.

I was lucky enough to have my parents in the rooms before the game and Brendon Goddard handed them with my jumper to present to me. BJ talked a bit about my road to the AFL and then handed it over to them – it was a super proud moment to share with my family.

Most of my nerves were gone by the time I ran out onto the ground and I was more excited than anything. It didn’t feel like it was really happening and the whole thing was a bit surreal. All I was thinking about was that this was my dream come true.

That moment of running up the race, onto the ground and through the banner for the first time was a special one. It was a bit weird running through the banner—you obviously don’t do that at VFL level.

I got my first touch pretty early on, which helped kill any nerves I still had. It was about five minutes into the game, Geelong’s Mark Blicavs shanked a kick and it went straight to me. I ended up turning it over straight back, which wasn’t ideal, but it was nice to get my hands on the ball early.

The other lasting memory from the game was how loud the crowd was when the siren went. Even though there was only about 50,000 fans there, to me, it felt like 100,000. I’d never heard something so loud and to see how happy the fans were after we won was something that will really stick with me.

It was an unreal feeling playing in such a great win. Singing the song and copping the Gatorade shower is something you dream about and it’s a moment where you can let your hair down a bit and savour the moment after all the work is done.

At the same time, footy moves on quickly so I tried not to live in the hype too much because we have another game to focus on next week.

It’s been a tough journey for me with injuries and setbacks and that made the whole experience a little bit sweeter. Hopefully those injuries are behind me now and I can knuckle down and play some footy.