For a 200-gamer, Farren Ray tends to fly under the radar.
The underrated St Kilda midfielder joined the 200 club this season, as the 518th player to reach the double century milestone, against his maiden AFL club the Western Bulldogs.
Ray took on his old club where he spent the first five years of his career and played 75 games after getting drafted in the first round of the 2003 national draft.
Ahead of that match, the 29-year-old discussed how he wasn’t ready for the big time when he first moved from Western Australia to the kennel.
“you need to identify your strengths… Obviously you work on your weaknesses as well, but I think your strengths are what will keep you in the game.” – Farren Ray
“Early days – obviously being pick 4, young, and from country WA – I didn’t really know what AFL footy was and I started playing footy when I was 14 so I came into all this scrutiny at the Bulldogs,” Ray said.
“I probably didn’t have the body. I was drafted with Adam Cooney, who was a ready-made body – he was a bit fat at the time – and I had to put on a bit of weight.
“You walk through the doors and everyone is equal, so you do cop that criticism and scrutiny but I’ve taken that as a challenge and hit it head on. That’s what you cop.”
Ray’s career didn’t start out too dissimilar to other early draft picks. He was eased into the League with seven games in his first season, debuting against the Bombers in Round 7, 2003.
Ray steadily improved in his second season and, by the end of 2006, was a regular in the Dogs line-up – competing in his first finals series at year’s end.
The Peel Thunder recruit collected a then career-high 27 disposals, eight inside fifties, and kicked two goals in the 2006 elimination final win over the Pies in a match best remembered for Brodie Holland’s hit on Brett Montgomery, which resulted in a six-week suspension to Holland.
After opportunities dried up in 2008, Ray was traded to the Saints for pick 31 (Jordan Roughead) and made an immediate impact at his new club, playing every game in 2009 including the Grand Final loss to the Cats.
Reflecting on his early days at the Dogs, Ray had some advice for young draftees coming into the AFL system.
“I think we’ve all got strengths and weaknesses so, once you walk through the door, you need to identify your strengths and work with them to make them as good as you can. Obviously you work on your weaknesses as well, but I think your strengths are what will keep you in the game. There needs to be a balance but work out those two quickly.
“There are a few guys in the AFL who don’t use their non-proffered foot all that much but they probably have bigger strengths on another side of their game. There are so many things to work on in the AFL but as long as you keep improving you’ll stay in the game.
“I’ve always used my left foot a bit… Probably too much. Rodney Eade wasn’t a huge fan of it, but I used to play soccer and that teaches you to use both sides.”
As the seasons wore on, Ray became an important cog in Ross Lyon’s St Kilda line-up as they nearly tasted the ultimate glory on three occasions in two years.
Now, Ray has picked up a third AFL club – rookie listed by North Melbourne on Friday. He will join former teammates Nick Dal Santo and Shaun Higgins who have switched to the club in recent times.