Fans Players

Players’ Voice — Tom Rockliff

It’s Round 23 at the Gabba. The game is just about over at the 26-minute mark of the last quarter when I take a set shot against North Melbourne.

We’re down by 50 points and aren’t going to win. I end up kicking a behind and remember thinking I may have just had my last kick in a Brisbane Lions jumper and, admittedly, the uncertain feeling followed me in the rooms afterwards.

Almost seven weeks later and a new and exciting door has opened as I begin my life as a Port Adelaide player. But unfortunately that means that another door has to close.

So it’s with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to the Brisbane Lions — the place I’ve called home for close to a decade.

I walked through those doors as a chubby 18-year-old kid from Benalla who’d never experienced city life and they welcomed me with open arms.

Sure enough, the 40 blokes in the locker rooms alongside me would become my closest mates and along with the coaches, admin staff and incredible volunteers, we would put nine years of blood, sweat and tears into trying to make ourselves a better team.

It’s never easy leaving the place you love so much and have such a passion for. There are so many great memories and the hardest aspect will be leaving the friendships I’ve built during that time.

To say goodbye to those guys as teammates is hard and is already a challenging thing to grasp but it’ll be worth it in the long run.

A couple of people I’ll really miss are Ryan Lester and Dayne Zorko.

Zorks is an out and out star on and off the field and Ryan is one of the best people you’ll ever meet — he’s a kind-hearted person from an outstanding family.

I’ll miss them but can’t wait to see their evolution from an on-field perspective with Chris Fagan, who’s a wonderful coach and an even better human being, behind the wheel. It’s an exciting time for them.

I’ll also miss Brisbane the city. It’s one of the nicest places for weather and it has a casual feel about it which, being a country boy, I enjoyed. I’ll miss the Brisbane lifestyle that’s for sure.

But in the end, the security of four years was the deciding factor to join the Port Adelaide Football Club.

It’s been an intense and, at times, overwhelming month personally. My partner, Sharna, and I welcomed our firstborn, Jack, into the world on September 15th and I went into shoulder surgery on the 19th.

Adding to that was Sharna being a bit sick since the birth and we also had one of the biggest decisions we’ve ever made on our hands.

I flew to Adelaide to meet with Ken Hinkley and Travis Boak and left very impressed by their vision and what they could achieve.

That’s not to say I made my mind up then and there, though. I think I changed my mind around 17 times since the season finished.

But securing Sharna and Jack’s future for four years and the excitement around Port Adelaide’s young list were the deciding factors.

I spoke to my brother a fair bit — Sharna was obviously very important throughout this process and even people who live in the area — you’re basically trying to absorb as much information as possible about the decision you’re making.

We decided on Tuesday what we thought was the best option and informed my manager, Tom Petroro, and he did the rest of the work from there.

I’m a Benalla boy so coming back to Victoria weighed on my mind but in the end we thought it would be better for us to bring up a young family in Adelaide with the beaches and more of a casual lifestyle. We’re happy and confident we’ve made the right decision.

That means selling the house in Brisbane. I’m basically uprooting a young family and taking them to a place far away from the one we’ve called home for a significant portion of our lives. It definitely wasn’t an easy decision.

We only just finished building the house but it’s only bricks and pavers — home is where your family is anyway.

What’s just occurred hasn’t quite sunk in yet and it probably won’t until I get over there and get started. It’s a little strange to say aloud that I’m a Port Adelaide player.

I can’t wait to get over there and get started. I know there’s plenty of hard work in front of me and the group. They’re fairly disappointed with how their season finished but hopefully we can take steps further and I can add something in the middle of the ground and up forward.

Moving to Adelaide means the weather won’t be as perfect but Benalla is a town based at the bottom of some snowy mountains, so I think I’ll adapt well. It’s Sharna who might struggle with that aspect early days because she’s been a Queensland girl her whole life.

I’m a bit of pyro so I can’t wait to start up the fire in the winter months with Jack, Sharna and our two dogs by my side.