Without trying to sound dramatic, my life changed last Thursday afternoon.
It was just a normal week. I was told I’d be playing NEAFL and that meant I wasn’t needed for a specific team meeting on Thursday.
Just as I was about to walk out the door, Callan Ward stopped me and said it might be worth attending this one and, out of nowhere, Leon Cameron read my name out. I was going to play my first AFL game.
I was frozen, I could barely move and it didn’t feel real. All the boys were getting around me as well, it was one of the best and weirdest moments of my life. I couldn’t stop shaking for a while afterwards.
My parents were the next phone call and they were stoked. They made the trip to Adelaide with my five brothers, my sister and even my Nan to watch the game!
Because we were playing on Sunday, Friday was our day off. My housemates Jack Buckley and Nick Shipley were busy preparing for their NEAFL match so I was mostly home alone that day.
I think it enhanced my nerves and there were many things going inside my head. Friday was about filling in the time so I cleaned, went to the country club and watched a movie to keep myself from thinking about the game.
We were flying out on Saturday at lunchtime so the morning was spent getting everything ready for the game. Despite spending at least two hours making sure I had everything, I still managed to forget my skins and a few other small items!
I was probably the most nervous when the flight was landing. The feeling of the unknown and how big of an occasion it was for me was getting to me.
Luckily, the captain’s run that day came at a good time. To get out on the field, have a kick and expel a bit of that nervous energy did wonders for my mind. I was feeling more comfortable.
I had my own room on Saturday night and slept really well — even though I had a nap just before dinner!
I don’t have many routines leading into a game. I can be the bloke who does things by himself or the one having a laugh with a few teammates — it depends on my mood, I guess.
In regards to superstitions, I only have one and that is to have a clean bedroom before I leave for the game. That’s probably why I spent a fair portion of Friday cleaning. My room tends to get pretty messy during the week so what better thing to return home to after a game than a clean room.
Next came the match. I had a role on Darcy Fogarty to begin with, who I know quite well from our time at the National Academy together. I was familiar with his game but my line coach was helpful in simplifying the instructions and messages so I had a clear idea of my role.
Out on the ground, Phil Davis instilled a lot of confidence in me. It was the simple things like a thumbs up, a wink, a smile and generally getting around me that made a difference and helped me feel at ease.
I’ll always remember my first possession — a handball to a teammate in our defensive 50. But I’ll also remember trailing in Darcy to a contest inside their forward 50 midway through the last quarter because I was cramping with every step. Somehow I managed to impact the contest enough for us to clear the ball away.
When the siren went, it was a dream come true. It’s difficult to describe how amazing the feeling was and I ran to the closest teammate and gave him a hug — I don’t even remember who it was!
This has been my dream since I can remember. It didn’t feel real and it still doesn’t. It was the best day of my life.