Pearce Hanley admits he was more concerned with sinking beer than he was with perfecting his drop punt during his first two years with the Brisbane Lions.
But after copping a rocket from the Lions, and a few choice words from then football manager Graeme ‘Gubby’ Allan, Hanley knuckled down and changed his ways.
The popular Irishman will play his 100th game against the Sydney Swans at the Gabba on Sunday, but even he conceded that looked a long way off in the early days.
“I think I was drunk my first two years,” Hanley said on Friday.
“I still had a great time and it’s made me who I am now. My professionalism has got a lot better and I’m really enjoying my footy at the moment and I’ve definitely pulled my head in.”
After being plucked from Ireland by Allan and the Lions at the end of 2007, Hanley says his lack of professionalism almost cost him a second contract at the club.
He came from County Mayo as a 19-year-old who had enjoyed the university lifestyle and amateur Gaelic football.
It was difficult to change his ways.
“It dawned on me at my three-year mark,” Hanley said.
“I got in a bit of strife and thought I was in a bit of trouble. The club were very good to stand by me.
“I thought I wasn’t going to be given another contract and I thought I was going to be sent home.
“I remember I got a bit emotional in front of the boys and I think from there I turned my year around.
“The next pre-season I knuckled down and from there my game has got better and better and I’ve turned into the player I am today.”
That player is undoubtedly one of the best Irish imports to grace the AFL, arguably behind only Jim Stynes and Tadhg Kennelly.
Hanley combines his love of running and bouncing the ball to break lines, with an exquisite kick and vision that is among the best at the club.
Before off-season hip surgery cost him the first nine games of this season, Hanley had played 84 of the Lions’ previous 88 games – a mark of his improved durability and professionalism.
The 26-year-old is now a game-changer and says he has no regrets about the boozy start to his career.
“I think it’s turned me into the person I am today,” he said.
“When I came I was pretty much the worst player on the list because my skills were bad, my game knowledge was bad, everything.
“It’s just grown from there. Looking at my transition over the years, it’s been a fun ride.
“It just takes hard work. It’s taken a long time but I’m very proud of myself for managing to reach it.”
Hanley’s family has flown out from Ireland to be with him for the milestone.
His mother, younger brother and two sisters have been in Australia the past fortnight to join him and younger brother Cian, who is on the Lions list and recovery from an ACL injury.