Newly-crowned premiership player Fletcher Roberts has a good history in Grand Finals.
Before he curtailed the influence of Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett with the help of teammate Joel Hamling in the 2016 Grand Final, Roberts had success as a forward in his last game as a junior.
Suffering from an “inconsistent year” in the lead up to the last Sunday in September, 2011, Roberts needed a big Grand Final to prove to recruiters he had something to offer an AFL club.
Playing against the seventh-placed Oakleigh Chargers, Roberts’ Sandringham Dragons were trailing by 20 points at three-quarter time.
With Jack Viney dominating the game in the middle for the Chargers, Roberts kicked four goals in a last-quarter blitz to help the Dragons run over the top of Oakleigh and claim their second TAC Cup premiership.
For Roberts, the performance boosted his draft prospects and put him on many recruiters’ radars.
“I wasn’t really too sure about getting drafted. I didn’t have the best TAC Cup year, I was a bit inconsistent, but I had a good finals series,” Roberts tpld Aflplayers.com.au.
“I didn’t have the best pre-season that year and I was a little bit interrupted with school cricket, so I started a bit slowly before finding a bit of form at the end of the year.
“I was nowhere to be seen in the first half [of that Grand Final], but I started to find a bit of the ball in the second half and managed to kick a few in the last which was pretty handy.
“I think that game was a fair whack of what the recruiters saw in me. I was really unsure going into draft day but was lucky enough to get picked up.”
Roberts was selected with the last pick of that season’s pre-season draft. Fast forward four years and he entered the 2016 season as a defender with 19 AFL games, wanting to cement his place in the Dogs backline.
He forced his way into the side in Round 6, missing only one game for the remainder of the home and away season, but was squeezed out of the team before week one of the finals.
Summing up his form, the 23-year-old says the year had its challenges but was ultimately a career-best season.
“It was an up and down year. It started off slowly and managed to find form for 10 or so games in a row at AFL level but a few guys came back from injury and forced me out of the side,” Roberts added.
“I just tried to stay positive and go back to VFL and play the best footy that I could. I obviously missed the first two finals and that thought [of not getting back in] obviously goes through your head but I just tried to play well at VFL level.”
“I still managed to play 18 AFL games during the year which is a positive and I came in against GWS and played okay. I was lucky enough to hold my spot for the following weeks which is a good spring board to play every game next year.”
Had the injured Matt Suckling recovered in time for the 2016 Grand Final, Roberts could’ve been the unlucky one to make way for the silky half back.
And although he managed to hold his spot for the Dogs magical and long-awaited premiership triumph, Roberts admitted the uncertainty around his spot in the side took its toll in the aftermath.
“There were a few different emotions. Earlier in the week I was unsure if I was going to get selected and the second half of the week once I found out I was in the side I was nervous for the game.
“It was a bit nerve-racking week, but definitely worth it for that feeling after the match.
“It was a pretty exhausting week. It gets a bit tiring when you’re celebrating but you’ve also gone through all the stuff throughout the week which was a bit of a challenge.
“We went in trying to play the best footy that we can and we were able to do that this year. We all hoped we would play in a premiership but you don’t think about it too much. In the end, we were lucky enough to be the premiers of 2016.”