The clock would strike 3:30pm, the bell would ring to signal the end of the school day and Tom Rockliff would begin the small trek to pick up his younger cousin.
Every weekday, Rockliff (in Grade 6), along with cousin Charlie Morrison, would greet Charlie’s younger brother, Harry, at his kindergarten only a few doors down from the Morrison home. As always, the younger Morrison was happy to see his cousin, with his cheeky smile evident from the moment he recognised the pair.
It’s a vivid memory for Rockliff and where the duos bond began before extending to the backyard as Morrison grew old enough to compete against his relatives, with Rockliff being nearly nine years his senior.
Growing up in Benalla, the Round 20 Rising Star nominee has a few commonalities with his cousin, both are slick ball-users and have similar frames.
But the pair share more than genetics, with the second-year Hawk is also following his cousin’s career trajectory, according to Rockliff.
“It’s a little bit eerie in regards to our career paths,” Rockliff told AFLPlayers.com.au. “We both played one game in our first season, didn’t play the first two games of our second years before playing just about all of the rest of the season.
“I got dropped once in my second year and he’s been dropped once as well. It’s a bit strange how things are lining up next to each other.”
The pair also had their fair share of adversity before entering the AFL system, with Rockliff badly breaking his leg and Morrison rupturing his ACL – both occurred in the latter years of their junior careers.
Rockliff was always happy to council Morrison and the two regularly spoke, with Morrison even venturing up to Rockliff’s former club to get some insight.
“I remember speaking to him about it and saying to him that it’s probably not the worst thing because his body needed a rest,” Rockliff added.
“He was a really active young guy, playing basketball and cricket as well, so it wasn’t the worst thing to let his body rest and grow. He spent a bit of time in Brisbane visiting and I took him into the club and let the physios look at him.
“They gave him a program as a guide and he spent a day with me in rehab getting some good advice to strengthen his body. He learnt a fair bit about himself during that time. You don’t wish that upon anyone but he’s come out of the other side better for it.”
Hawthorn found itself a steal with pick 74, its first pick in the 2016 National Draft and one received after trading club legend Sam Mitchell to West Coast.
In 16 games this season, Morrison has shown he can get the ball, highlighted by his 22 disposals against the Bombers in a tight contest on Saturday, but also an ability to stick to a task when he restricted Jason Johannisen to just seven disposals in the second half of their Round 16 clash against the Bulldogs.
The 19-year-old has a quiet and calm exterior and Rockliff said Morrison picks and chooses his moments.
“The good thing about Harry is that he listens and takes everything on-board,” Rockliff said.
“He works on his deficiencies with the feedback he’s been given, can adapt and play different roles for the team.
“He’s a sitter and a listener. He’ll happily sit there and perhaps not look like he’s taking much in but he’s quite witty. He’ll wait for his opportunity to whack someone verbally, particularly back home.
“He comes across as shy and reserved but he’s just taking it all in and waiting for his opportunity. He’s a good character but he might not be as shy as everyone thinks.”
Rockliff and Morrison played against each other for the first time since their backyard encounters in Round 11, when the Power lost to Hawthorn by three points in Tasmania.
As it stands, Morrison has the bragging rights, which doesn’t please Rockliff too much and he admits to trying to ‘check’ his cousin during the game with the pair exchanging some friendly words.
Since then, Morrison has steadily grown in stature among hawthorn fans but Rockliff believes that might due to his eating habits.
“He’s a big eater. He eats probably double what most people would eat but he doesn’t show it – he’s quite skinny and lean looking. He doesn’t mind a feed that’s for sure.”
Despite the friendly barbs, Rockliff has genuine love, care and pride in Morrison’s achievements and he knows it’s just the beginning.
“They’ve got a good one there,” Rockliff said. “I can’t wait to watch his career blossom.”