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‘Team-first’ Sloane 2017’s Most Courageous

Sam Blease played alongside Rory Sloane at the Eastern Ranges in 2008 and saw first-hand the toughness he displayed as a youngster on the field. Blease explains why Sloane is a worthy winner of the Robert Rose Most Courageous award, presented by Australian Almonds.

When Rory and I played for the Eastern Ranges, he was almost the perfect teammate. He was in and under every pack winning the ball, so I could just stand off and wait for him to win it for me.

I was 15 when I met him and his personality was what I really liked about him. You can see what he does on Saturdays for two hours, but it’s the genuine care that he shows for his teammates that stands out.

He looked after the younger guys at the Eastern Ranges, and took a real interest in them, and how they were going personally as well as what they were doing in footy. He genuinely cared, and I have no doubt he does the same at Adelaide.

Sloaney’s game hasn’t changed from when he was a junior, he’s just refined and improved it.

That kamikaze attitude towards the footy has always been there, and he has always come off better than the other players because no one goes as hard as him.

He fell a bit further in the 2008 draft than I expected, but he would have shown up in Adelaide and dived head first to win the contested ball, and outrun every bloke there, just like he’s always done and always will.

There is no better way to describe him other than ‘team first.’ He doesn’t play for himself because he’s focused on helping his team win and making the guys around him better. That’s what champions do.

He always gave a sense of, ‘We’re all in this together.’ It didn’t matter who you were, if someone was having an off day or going through some things, Rory was the one that would help them out and lead by example.

Sloaney is a natural leader, and leadership has been a big part of his AFL career. I’m sure the young blokes at Adelaide and in the wider football community look up to him and they should admire how he handles himself.

Heading out onto the field with Rory, it made the whole team walk taller and I felt that every single time we played together — it didn’t matter if it was pouring rain in Bendigo or a sunny day in Box Hill — he was always ready to play and he’d drag the rest of the team along with him.

That courage he displays every week isn’t manufactured. Honestly, it must have been ingrained in him from a young age because every time he steps out onto the field he’s going head-first with absolutely no fear. He’s been like that since the moment I met him.

Throughout my career I had the privilege of playing with some great players and he and Joel Selwood are undoubtedly the most courageous guys I’ve seen.

I’ve been racking my brain, trying to come up with a story or a particular moment of bravery from him, but there’s so many that I can’t pick one.

The thing that stands out is the consistency. Week-in and week-out you knew if there was a contest to be had, he would be in it and nine times out of ten he’d come out on top.

Now that I’m out of the game and can watch him go about his craft with the Crows from a distance, I can appreciate even more the way he can shake off a big hit or play through an injury.

He’s a real warrior and his ability to withstand adversity and shine on the big stage no matter the situation is a real credit to who he is and what he’s about.

Rory is living proof of the old adage that the best way to protect yourself is to go in the hardest and that’s something he’ll never stop doing.

He never gave less than 100 per cent to win the ball and put his team in a position to succeed and he’s reaping the rewards of that, but he’s never in it for himself, he’s all about team success.

Above being a superstar player, Rory is a fantastic person. He has such a bubbly personality, and knew when he had to be serious and put in the hard yards but also when it was time to relax.

I loved playing with him and being around him — he brought a real sense of composure and you always knew what you would get from him every week. He was so reliable on and off the field, and guys like him are hard to find.

He’s done some amazing things in his career and I’m sure there’s more to come, but he’ll never change from acting like a country kid from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.

Following on from the 2017 Hard Nut Campaign, Australian Almonds have extended their sponsorship of the AFL Players’ Association’s toughest and respected players, presenting the Robert Rose Most Courageous award. Australian almonds are a perfect snack option for after training, during work or after school as they are high in protein, vitamin E and helthy fats and are a choice for many AFL players.