I shouldn’t say it, but I was in the car when I received a phone call from Don Pyke.
He was calling to let me know that I was going to debut against the Swans. I wasn’t overly confident that he would be calling me about that, so I didn’t pull over. I actually thought he was telling me I would be the traveling emergency.
When he did tell me, I was over the moon and quickly told my family.
My brother had a very similar reaction to me. He asked if I was kidding. Then I stirred mum up a little bit by asking when she was working during the week and whether she could get work off. Then I gave her the news and she was ecstatic.
There were a few feelings going through my mind. One was elation, but another was relief, mainly because I didn’t receive a debut in my first season.
It was tough at times not playing senior footy in my first season. It was hard to look at guys who I played a lot of footy with or against growing up that were playing already for other clubs.
But knowing that I’m at a really good club, and in a really strong culture, eased the mind because the standards are a little higher and it’s more difficult to break in. You’ve really earned it when you get the chance.
One of my friends from home gave me some helpful advice leading into the game.
He said to imagine as if I was back at home playing for my local club Sorrento at Shark Park. When I went out for my first little warm up, I pictured that it was Shark Park, so it was handy advice.
Believe it or not, I was a lot calmer than I thought I’d be. I thought it would make me nervous, but the only time I felt a uneasy was during my individual warm up, and right before the bounce, but I was quick to switch back on.
The game knocks it out of you quickly. You can’t be thinking of nerves when the ball comes your way.
My first touch wasn’t memorable. I picked up a ground ball and tried to shoot it out to Hugh Greenwood, but Luke Parker got a hand on it to deflect the ball.
Luke Parker is someone I tried to model my game around through the under-18s because a lot of recruiters thought I played in a similar vein. We’re both Dandenong Stingray boys as well, so there is a bit of connection there. It was great to play against him.
Admittedly, I got a bit star-struck walking past Buddy Franklin at times, and I played most of the game on Jarrad McVeigh so I learnt a few things off him.
We had a strong focus during the week to care about the players we had out on the field, and not about those that were injured. That was the mantra Pykey ran with, and we all followed.
To execute and get a victory was extremely rewarding.
When the final siren went, it was a special moment for all of us. Some of the boys who have played quite a few games said it was the best home and away win they’ve been a part of, so for me to get that experience in my first game is awesome. It was great to share it with all everyone.
After the game, Brian Taylor was conducting his usual roaming session, and when he came up to me to talk about my debut, he called me ‘Dylan.’ It’s fair to say that the boys haven’t let me live that down, they’ve been calling me ‘Dyl’ all week.
Outside of the club, all of my names in various group chats on WhatsApp and Facebook have been changed, too. BT was quick to run off after that. He might have corrected himself on the broadcast, but not to me directly.
It wasn’t just a memorable night for me, however.
Mum was a massive Lleyton Hewitt fan growing up, so she was in awe seeing him in the rooms post-game. I think it will be remembered as the night she met Lleyton, rather than the night I made my AFL debut!