As Steven Salopek ran blindly into the forward 50 on this day 10 years ago, it was an action we had seen from the Power midfielder before.
Rewind three weeks earlier and Salopek did exactly the same thing in an almost identical spot of Football Park and was hit solidly by Hawthorn defender Joel Smith’s backside in a marking contest — knocking him out in one of the scarier scenes of the 2007 season.
Fortunately, the carbon copy situation three weeks later in Port Adelaide’s qualifying final against West Coast had a better ending, with Salopek latching onto a Michael Wilson kick after galloping forward early in the last term.
After entering the last quarter trailing the Eagles, the then 22-year-old converted the shot at goal and put the Power in front by seven points in a low scoring affair.
This was also after Salopek received a bump from an oncoming West Coast hard man, Beau Waters, in the second quarter, which flattened the Victorian native after again running with the flight of the ball out of defence.
The incidents with Smith and Waters didn’t waiver Salopek’s on-field commitment but despite showing his courage on multiple occasions, he doesn’t consider himself a brave player.
“I wouldn’t think I’m a courageous player. For whatever reason I found myself in that position a few times and you have to make that decision to go,” Salopek told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“It’s determined a bit by where you are on the ground and what your role is. Back in those days that sweeping quarterback role was starting to take off — those half-backs who would run and link up and I played that role a little bit where you had to play in front of some big forwards and often had to run backwards into defensive 50.
“But it’s no more courageous than diving for a tackle or a smother. There’s a million of instances in games where players put their body on the line.”
Salopek has no memory of the Smith hit in Round 10, where he amazingly returned to the field, but now says that was a mistake. Thankfully, the Waters bump didn’t result in any concussion-related symptoms.
But Salopek believes things could’ve been worse had Waters really lined him up.
“It was like running into a brick wall but I know Beau from playing footy against each other throughout our juniors and he could’ve put me into next week, I reckon, so thankfully he didn’t run totally through me.
“I also remember Troy Chaplin screaming at me to get up as I was lying on the ground regaining my breath.”
This qualifying final was littered with little pieces of play that stood the test of time. Warren Tredrea’s shepherd on Adam Selwood in the middle of the ground and Ben Cousins pulling a hamstring in the third term are a couple that spring to mind.
The Power would capitalise and win by three points, with a Justin Westhoff goal sealing the victory. Port Adelaide would fly past the Kangaroos two weeks later to surge into their second Grand Final in four years.
Despite how things eventuated for Salopek’s side in 2007, they will need similar efforts throughout this finals series if they are to make it as far a decade later.