Dane Swan is nothing if not distinctive.
Most obviously, the abundance of tattoos that adorn his body ensures he stands out from the crowd. Athletically, he has a running gait – some teammates have referred to it as a waddle – unlike any other player in the league. And given the amount of possessions he acquires throughout any given match, it’s impossible to miss him.
Yet for all that stands out about Collingwood’s famous number 36, in some respects he has a low profile.
Each week Channel Seven’s #discovered series takes a look at one of the game’s most intriguing characters, and allows them to tell their story. The latest instalment, focusing on Swan, gives a great insight into one of the game’s great cult figures.
“I’m just Dane – I’m not the AFL footballer. I’m mum’s little boy, all grown up and with tattoos all over him, which she hates” – Dane Swan
“I grew up like any normal kid. I had some ups and had some downs and like every kid got in a bit of mischief,” Swan admits.
“Uni and that wasn’t high on my radar. My dad was on the wharf, and my grandpa was on the wharf, so that was probably a fall-back at some stage. Thankfully I didn’t have to think about that because it would’ve been a struggle to find something that I enjoyed.”
Swan plays football in an old-fashioned, instinctive manner that suggests he was born to do it. But the 30-year-old has never taken the game too seriously.
“You might play a bad game or you’re in a bad mood because we lost or something like that but then you can put that in perspective a little bit and realise that it’s just a game and there’s people doing it a lot harder than I am,” he says.
“It’s pretty easy to wash footy off your back when you come out and try to give a little bit back.”
Speaking about the reality check he gets when he volunteers at a food shelter – something he does once or twice a month – Swan says, “You go to these places and you realise how fortunate we are.”
“They’re struggling a bit and doing it really tough… I know I’m not going to change the world – it probably helps me as much as it helps them.”
The modern ideal of professionalism isn’t something with which Swan is normally associated, yet he’s been one of the most consistent players of the modern era. He has made the All Australian team for five consecutive seasons, won a Brownlow, a premiership, and three Collingwood Best and Fairest awards. There have been times when he’s been criticised – many would say unfairly – but it’s never bothered him. His family has supported him throughout his journey.
“I can do no wrong in their eyes,” he says.
“Whether I’ve made a blue off the field or not, I’m just Dane – I’m not the AFL footballer. I’m mum’s little boy, all grown up and with tattoos all over him, which she hates. They’re number one in my life and always will be. Whether people like it or not football is going to be number two because you don’t play footy forever, but your friends and family are forever.”
The full #discovered feature can be found below.