Persistence and angst — two of many words which can be used to describe the footballing journey of Harrison Marsh.
There is no doubt that football is an emotional roller-coaster, filled at times with glorious highs and, unfortunately, devastating lows.
Just ask Marsh who lost his place in Sydney’s 2016 Grand Final side due to the return of co-captain Jarrad McVeigh after playing in Sydney’s three finals up to that stage.
“At the time, I was one of the fringe players, and with those boys playing off half-back I knew I could be on the chopping block,” Marsh told Aflplayers.com.au.
“There’s countless stories about it happening to other blokes and it just turned out to be my turn. You can’t do anything to change it.”
If there was ever a need for extra motivation as a professional athlete, the terrible feeling of missing out in a Grand Final that your team ultimately lost would be it.
In 2017, he is keen to make a difference, having played in the Swans’ first five games.
“It definitely is motivation — I wasn’t going to forget it quickly. I don’t want to be in that position again. I want to make sure I cement my place in the team and make sure I’m not the first one out.
“There is nothing like playing with the seniors, and we may not have had the best start but I’m sure we will get there.”
That road block is just one Marsh has faced since being drafted by the Swans back in 2012, a day the 23-year-old will never forget.
While he faced the daunting prospect of travelling across the country to continue that journey, Marsh was well prepared for the move from East Fremantle to the Sydney Swans.
“I had the opportunity of moving out of home when my family was still down in Margaret River, moving to Perth to live with my aunty and uncle. But I was still seeing them at least once every couple of weeks.
“It was sort of a transition instead of being thrown in the deep end, I got used to living away from my family, a little more than most kids do when they get drafted.”
But the grandson of famous Western Australian footballer Ray Sorrell, says the culture at the Swans made him miss home much less.
“I didn’t struggle with it too badly, but when I got ruled out for half the season that’s probably when I was a bit homesick, just because you’re not training and you’re not with the main group. It’s not a great spot to be in,” Marsh recalled.
“At the time there was a lot of senior guys with me, which made it so much easier. It made it much more enjoyable.
“It was awesome to come to Sydney, everyone is just so welcoming. The thing about that is everyone had come from the same situation. A lot of us have come from interstate and might not know a lot of people in Sydney so then everyone becomes mates and hangs out with each other.”
It would prove to be a frustrating start to life in the red and white, however, as Marsh was de-listed at the end of the 2015 season, before earning a place on the club’s rookie list.
Marsh knew this was potentially his last shot at the big time.
“It wasn’t a great period, but I wanted another chance. I knew a place on the rookie list was it,” Marsh explained.
“The way I looked at it was whether you are on the rookie or senior list you are still at an AFL club, and there’s still the opportunity to play senior footy. I took that with both hands.
“I came back in good shape and I didn’t want to let the opportunity slide knowing that it could be my last year.”
Without former teammate and now development coach Rhyce Shaw, things could have quite easily gone in the wrong direction.
“Shawry was huge. He brought it all back to the basics and just enjoying playing, having fun playing. He was probably one of the most important people in getting me back to playing good footy and ultimately playing seniors.”
The time the duo spent together would pay off in Round 10, 2016 when Marsh earned his maiden senior call-up, which was capped off with four points.
“I won’t forget it anytime soon. I couldn’t have asked for a better debut. Friday night, Indigenous round against North Melbourne — it was just perfect.
“I wasn’t nervous or overly worried about the whole thing. I was just ready, I was more excited than I had ever been before.”
At that moment, ‘Stan’ as he is affectionately known by his teammates — stemming from South Park character Stan Marsh — capped off a life-long goal.
“I always knew that I could play senior footy and I just kept that with me. I used that as motivation to keep going and prove to everyone that I deserved to be out there.”