The weekend before my first game, I played alright in the WAFL and had a feeling that I was in contention to make my AFL debut.
The week panned out and I was considering in my mind that it was a possibility, but that was just guess work.
We had a night session on the Wednesday and we were about 10 minutes into training and Adam Simpson called all the boys in asked them what the number 233 meant to the West Coast Eagles.
One of the boys was clever enough to work out what it meant and explained that it was going to be the next player to debut. Then, he congratulated and informed me that I was playing in the Derby. I can’t really describe that feeling, but I’ll try.
When ‘Simmo’ told everyone, it was a relief. As soon as it made sense in my head that I was going to play my first AFL game, my thoughts quickly turned to the challenge ahead. That’s a lie, they turned to informing my family.
After training had finished — which was about 8:30pm WA time — I knew that I had to call my family who are over in Victoria. It wasn’t until 10:30pm EST that I spoke to them due to the time difference, so they were all in bed.
I called mum and she was over the moon to hear the news and Dad was as delighted, which was a special moment. They were more excited than me. It was a dream come true for them also.
The nerves start to kick in as you get closer to the game, and the feeling of excitement starts to make you feel on edge and you’re basically counting down the hours before the bounce. I was that keen to get out there that I was jumping out of my skin.
To debut in a Derby was insane. It’s funny, being from Victoria I didn’t have an appreciation for how big the game was, and how much media attention it receives. There’s just so much talk around Perth.
I tried to stay as relaxed as possible on game day and to replicate my normal routine. The fact it was my first game, though, added the extra nerves because it was the unknown.
One thing I’ll never forget was running down the race and seeing the banner and the crowd. It was unbelievable. I get goose bumps thinking about it.
The boys told me at the time that I should soak up everything and not worry about the crowd or any distractions. Just worry about football. The nerves dropped after hearing that which helped. After all, you only debut once, so make the most of it!
Once you realise there is a game to play and a role to fulfill, it makes you feel better.
As soon as the game started, I felt focused on the task at hand. I started in the forward pocket and I knew that I’d be on the ground for four or five minutes and then be rotated off.
The plan was to go as hard as I could for that time and crack in.
My first touch came via Liam Duggan who took a mark on the wing. As soon as I saw he had secured it, I led out from centre half forward towards the bench and he kicked it to me. After getting it, I turned around straight away toward whoever it was on the mark and I tried to handball it to Andrew Gaff but he turned away.
It wasn’t the best first disposal in AFL history, but it was nice to get into the game.
Just touching the footy helps to relax the nerves because you build it up in your head so much before running out. Once you get that first touch, you at least feel as if you’re in the game and you’re focused on what comes next.
The rest of the game is a bit of a blur, but the overriding feeling was delight at the fact that we won.
I was completely wrecked when I got home after the match, so I crashed pretty hard. I’ve copped a few knocks to the knee in the last few weeks and received another hit on Saturday night that flared up the injury a bit. It’s nothing too serious and won’t force me to miss any time which is a relief.
The game day experience was bigger than I anticipated — from the crowd, to playing, to that winning feeling. It takes you by surprise.
I can’t wait to do it again.