When Mike Pyke arrived in Australia he was a rugby international looking for a new pursuit.
At the end of one of the most incredible AFL careers he’ll have at least one premiership medal and his name on the No.38 locker in the Sydney rooms.
Pyke, 31, notches 100 AFL games on Saturday against Gold Coast. He will lead the ruck division of a Swans outfit expected to be challenging for this year’s premiership.
How did a Canadian who played 20 rugby Tests for his country, who scored a famous try against the all-conquering All Blacks, get here?
“I think when I got to Australia and joined the Swans I was going to be pretty pleased to play one game of AFL,” Pyke told aflplayers.com.au this week.
“I had suffered some serious injuries playing rugby and I didn’t have the motivation or enthusiasm to keep going with it. I needed something new.
“I came to Australia and managed to play eight games in my first year but I didn’t feel like I had proven myself or established myself.
“The next year (2010) I played more (18 games) and had great tutelage from Darren Jolly and started to learn more about the art of ruckwork.”
Pyke’s crucial role in the Swans’ 2012 grand final win over Hawthorn took him from an intriguing international to standout ruckman in the eyes of many footy fans.
But the Sydney coaching staff and Pyke’s teammates were well aware of his impact well before that day.
Apart from an injury-cruelled 2011, Pyke has played 18 games or more every season since his maiden year in red and white.
His consistency and continual growth saw the Swans back him in as their No.1 big man.
He has now had 18 months without the support of Shane Mumford, who joined Greater Western Sydney. Pyke admits it was challenging taking up the lead role.
“It was a big change. Having Shane to share the ruck duties makes things quite easy, he does a lot of work up there,” Pyke said.
“Last year it took me a while to adjust. I had my first compromised preseason last year and went into the season a bit underdone.
“When I felt like I was getting up and going a bit … I did my hamstring but by the tail end of the year I felt quite comfortable and that I was competing quite reasonably against some of the better ruckmen in the comp. I certainly feel capable and comfortable with the role now.”