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Don’t underestimate Lee Spurr’s achievements

Michael Barlow has known Lee Spurr for seven years, with the pair playing alongside each other at the Dockers and even living together in 2013. With Spurr announcing his retirement from the game during the week, his close friend penned an exclusive column about the 31-year-old Docker.

It’s half-time in Launceston in our Round 8 match against the Hawks. Lee Spurr, playing his third game at age 24, had the daunting task of playing on Cyril Rioli.

Spurry must’ve given Cyril a couple of metres of space on a few too many occasions so Ross had him in his sights.

We were an anywhere, anytime team but for some reason we had a problem in Launceston against the Hawks and Ross is a stickler for the details.

The playing group sat there as Ross basically ended Spurry’s career at half-time. Ross told Lee in no uncertain terms that he was done and that his AFL career was over.

Ross would turn out to be right eventually — only Spurry would go on to play 117 more games in seven years at the elite level before retiring this week.

Not bad for a bloke who everyone thought was done after 10 quarters of footy.

Lee moved from Queensland to South Australia to follow his football dream, playing in the SANFL before getting a chance with the Dockers.

After coming over to Perth, he would’ve been thinking that it’s all come undone swiftly in Tasmania of all places. He was ready to pack his bags and ship off when he got back to Perth because it didn’t take a genius to work out where he’d be playing the next weekend.

He didn’t play again until Round 16 and it took a stroke of luck with Luke McPharlin being a late withdrawal. Spurry came in, had 19 touches and did some of the courageous things that ended up becoming trademarks of his.

Ross loves that stuff and I doubt if Spurry was ever dropped again.

He’s a team-oriented person so his relationship with Ross only thrived from there — Ross loves those types of players and he was the perfect coach for Lee throughout his career.

He actually copped another spray after kicking his first goal, which took him ages to do. After kicking it, he carried on and did a massive celebration and Ross didn’t like that. I remember Ross saying after the game, ‘It’s all about you, isn’t it’.

I don’t think Lee kicked many after that — maybe he was scarred from the moment.

Spurry said during the week, and it’s so true, that he never gave up. Regardless of the scoreboard, we could be up by 60 or down by 60, he would go as hard in a contest regardless of the situation.

Early on, Lee didn’t say much. He was very quiet and unassuming and he probably thought he had to put some runs on the board before being a bit more outgoing and boisterous.

Ask anyone there now like Hayden Ballantyne or Tommy Sheridan and they’ll tell you that he doesn’t shut up. He talks rubbish all the time.

We lived together in 2013, which was his second year at the Dockers, and we did everything together that year.

One thing Lee loved to do was a bit of tanning. As soon as the sun came up, he’d be out there in our little courtyard, sheltered from the winter breeze wearing nothing but a sock — he despised tan lines.

He rang me during the week and said that when he spoke to Ross about retiring, he brought up a lot of the stuff we used to do together in terms of preparation and the sacrifices we made along the way.

We’d always go to the beach on the morning of our main training session regardless of the weather. I think that’s something that made us click — we were on the same level.

We both loved to have fun and a beer at the right times but when it was time to train, work or recover, we’d do that with as much purpose.

As a housemate, Spurry was as good as they get. Clean and a decent cook — his culinary skills were better than mine — and we limited ourselves to take away once per week.

The only hiccup was during 2013 when our skinfolds, which were usually very low, jumped up a bit. In hindsight, we might’ve been a bit too social at the time but we were quick to get on top of that.

Spurry and I were so clean and organised that even after a night out, we’d get home, fold our clothes and put them out for the following day.

I really enjoyed that year together. He’s a very loyal person. He told me that he doesn’t have many friends close friends but he would do anything for those he is close to.

He’s also very direct and definite with some of his thoughts and beliefs, especially when it comes to money.

His main topic of conversation is about money, savings and tax deductions. Even when the AFLPA come up to talk to us, Spurry would start asking questions about money or annuity and everyone would roll their eyes in a (slightly) light-hearted way.

One thing’s for sure, if I’m ever in real trouble, he’s the one I’ll be calling because he’d put me at ease quickly.

Spurry’s a great leveller. Going into the 2013 Preliminary Final against Sydney, we drove to the game together, which we often did, but I remember being very nervous.

It was unlike me to get nervous before a game but it was daunting to think that we’d be going into a Grand Final if we won.

Seeing how nervous I was, Lee simply said, ‘We are going to annihilate them today,’ and that just filled me with so much confidence.

Whether he meant it or not, it worked because we came out and played the best half of football we played all year and got into the Grand Final. Spurry isn’t one to get overawed.

I only wish I had more photos of us on the ground together. When I thought about writing a tribute to his career, I googled us to find some images but that made me realise that we were never really near each other on the field.

I can’t ever remember him giving me the ball — he probably didn’t get enough of it!

But in all seriousness, to come from where he has, fight every inch of the way to become the player he is, and battle through injuries (he would’ve come off to get his head strapped 30 times and that’s no exaggeration) to the point where his knee couldn’t do it anymore, don’t underestimate his achievements.

And he did all that despite being delisted halfway through his third match.