Peter Street doesn’t go unnoticed. At 211cm, he is the equal-tallest AFL player ever recorded, leading him to be easily identifiable while roaming the streets of Footscray as a detective since finishing his playing days in 2008. The 37-year-old chats to AFLPlayers.com.au about his AFL and Victorian Police career.
It was reported a few years ago that you joined Victoria Police, are you still there now?
Yeah, except I’m a detective now and have been for just over three years while being a police officer for around eight years. I’m based out at Footscray.
When did the passion to become a police officer begin to surface for you?
Towards the end of my career and more specifically in my last year, I was able to do some work experience at the Footscray department and I loved it so I figured I’d give it a crack when I finished up with football and here I am.
So did the thought only enter your mind in your last year or was it there perhaps as a kid?
No, not as a kid. I always wanted to play football growing up but after being in the AFL system for a bit, I realised I needed to figure out what I was going to do.
I dabbled at university with primary school teaching and hated it but policing always interested me. It wasn’t until my last two years in the AFL where I thought it might be something I consider doing as a career.
What is it about the job that you enjoy?
It’s not the same every day — it’s always different. When you go to work, you don’t know what you’re going to get. It’s not dissimilar to a footy club environment where you work with other people and in teams and I enjoy that aspect.
Does the AFL club environment become so routine that you know what you’re going to get each day?
A little bit. The aspect of training and all that stuff is routine but obviously on game day you don’t know what you’re going to get. With VicPol, you’re continually learning on the job and there’s so many courses you need to undertake within the force.
You can never quite become an expert at it all and there’s plenty of different career paths within the Victorian Police.
All jobs have their downfalls, is that the same as being a police officer?
I like being a detective more than being in uniform. With uniform, there’s a lot of rushing around and answering a lot of phone calls, whereas as a detective, you have a bit more time to investigate and the freedom to be more in-depth.
I actually enjoy dealing with victims because they rely on you to help them out — I like the responsibility. I find it satisfying to track down people and come up with results — it’s a rewarding job.
What do you enjoy more, policing or footy?
I loved playing footy, but towards the end, although it was still fun, It wasn’t as fun. It’d be a lot worse these days. When I finished in 2008, social media was in its infancy and there are a lot of pressures on footballers these days so I might’ve struggled. Towards the end, I probably didn’t enjoy it as much.
I loved playing but it’s a hard one. The career I’m in now will be the one I’m in for the next 20 or 30 years and I’d say I enjoy both footy and being a detective equally.
Let’s move onto your footy career then. Where and how did that journey to the AFL first begin for you?
I’m from Tasmania and I played footy all through the junior ranks there. I played TAC Cup with the Tassie Mariners when they were still around and was drafted to Geelong in 1998, where I still live now, I never moved away even when I went to the Bulldogs. I spent five years at the Cats and five years at the Dogs.
It was a smooth transition for me to go from footy into work in another industry.
So when you were a little tacker running around Hobart, what made you get involved in footy in the first place?
Footy was really the only thing you’d do as a kid. Tassie is a massive AFL state so there wasn’t really another choice than footy. When I started becoming quite tall, there was interest to play basketball but I never considered it — it was always footy for me.
At what point in your life did you think you could genuinely make a career out of playing?
It wasn’t until I was 16 or 17. Being so tall, I did standout but as a 17-year-old, bottom-aged player in the Under-18 carnival, I made the All-Australian team and that’s when I started to believe I might be able to progress on into the big time and, as it turned out, I got picked up which was a bit of a surprise.
But it wasn’t until a year before I actually got drafted that I thought I might be a chance.
Was it genuinely a surprise to get your name read out on the day?
It’s not a complete surprise and I thought it might happen because I’d spoken to plenty of clubs, although they never tell you definitively what they’re going to do. Pick 17 was Geelong’s first pick in the draft that year and I was surprised I went that high.
Next comes moving to Victoria and the systems weren’t in place back then to properly assist teenagers moving interstate to play footy, how did you find the transition to Geelong from Tasmania?
I actually found it okay. Moving to Geelong was a bit more comparable to Hobart, it’s not big city like Melbourne. I was a bit homesick for the first two or three years because I’d moved away from mum and dad, all my friends and I’m the oldest of four, so moving over to Victoria knowing nobody was quite tough.
But Geelong were really good about it and helped me out when I needed it. I did struggle for a little while but I must’ve liked something because I still live here.
Opportunities were scarce at the Cats but what was the highlight from your time there?
Yeah, I only played 17 games in five years with the Cats and didn’t play a senior game until halfway through my third year. When I first came over, I was as tall as I am now but probably around 40kg lighter so I wasn’t built for AFL straight away.
But in terms of a highlight, I played with some great players at Geelong like Garry Hocking and Gary Ablett and I was lucky enough to play in that VFL flag in 2002 with Ablett, Jimmy Bartel, Steve Johnson, Paul Chapman and James Kelly so that was a highlight but my debut would have to rank as number one.
That VFL flag will go down in history as the precursor for what was to come at AFL level. Could you see that those guys would form the core of something special in years to come?
Those guys have been phenomenal players and back then, I would’ve been 22 so they would’ve been around 19 or 20 themselves, and you could tell they had their heads in the right places. You could see that they were going to be good footballers and as it turned out, they were even better. I have great memories from my time at Geelong.
How and why did the trade to the Western Bulldogs come about?
Steven King, who was an All-Australian ruckman, was there when I was at the Cats but I managed to play the last eight games in 2003, I actually ended up getting two Brownlow Medal votes in my last game for Geelong, so they were keen to keep me but I was always going to behind Steven King.
I’d spoken to my manager who had a couple of chats to some other clubs and the Bulldogs were offering me a three-year deal and more opportunities. I didn’t leave Geelong because I didn’t like it but I wanted more opportunities and the Bulldogs stood out.
Your career at the Bulldogs was somewhat dependent on Luke Darcy’s availability. Would you consider that 2006 year to be your best?
Yeah, I played the last 11 games in 2005 and got some consistent footy together. Luke Darcy did his knee in the pre-season and I didn’t play the first three games of the 2006 season but I played the last 21 matches including the two finals.
That would easily be my best season of footy. I ended up getting married at the end of 2006 so that was a good year all up. But I encountered some injury problems and was inconsistent in 2007 and eventually delisted at the end of 2008.
I had a chance to go to Brisbane, who offered me a two-year deal, and I gave it some serious thought but I’d just had a young son and my wife had a pretty good job so my head wasn’t in it. My body could’ve given it a crack but my head and heart wasn’t in it anymore.
But you continued to scratch that competitive itch in the local levels around the Geelong area, didn’t you?
Yeah, I played for St Josephs in the Geelong Football League for five years, Russell Robertson actually coached me for a couple of them, then I played a couple of years at Lara before heading to the Bellarine Football League to play for the Geelong Amateurs for a few years. We actually won back-to-back flags, which was the perfect way to finish off.
I won a flag, was best on ground in the Grand Final and won the best and fairest award in one of those last two years too, which was a pretty good season.
How did you balance being a police officer while playing footy at local level?
They’re pretty good around footy and I don’t think I missed any games through work. During the winter, I didn’t work many Saturdays which meant I worked a few more in the summer when it’s cricket season and that was fine.
During your AFL career, you were somewhat of a cult figure, particularly during your time at the Bulldogs. Were you aware of the attention around you at the time?
Not really. Obviously being tall, I tend to be recognised a bit more but I didn’t think I had a cult following.
Do you still get a bit of attention these days, particularly being as tall as you are?
Living in Geelong, people remember me a bit from my time at the Cats but there’s not many who are 6-11 getting around so I do get recognised a bit, even nine years after I’ve finished playing.
Do you mind the attention?
Nah, it’s fine. It’s nice that people still recognise me and that I had some sort of impact on their memories rather than just being forgotten about. It’s nice.
And you’re a family man these days as well, how old are the kids?
I have a son, who will be 10 soon, I have twin girls who are now six and I have a three-year-old daughter as well.
Any sporting interests among them and have they caught the height gene from yourself so far?
My son will be tall, probably not as tall as me, and he loves his footy and basketball and the girls have just turned six so they’re still working everything out really. But whatever they all do is fine by me as long as they’re happy.
Thanks for the chat Peter and all the best with everything.