In 1998 Matthew Pavlich was a star footballer at Sacred Heart College on Brighton Road with an ambition to play for Adelaide or Port Adelaide in the AFL.
Both clubs overlooked him in draft and he went back to school to to complete Year 12.
Now some 290 games later the dedicated champion has a chance to hold football’s ultimate prize, the Premiership Cup – as the captain and sporting icon of Fremantle.
South Australians will be vocal supporters for Freo tomorrow, with a raft of former South Aussies in the side, including Danyle Pearce, Lachie Neale, Cameron Sutcliffe, Jack Hannath and Lee Spurr.
“I’m definitely a South Australian.” Pavlich said recently.
“I’ve been living here for a significant amount of my life and absolutely have embraced that lifestyle and the people of WA; it’s been a special place for me. But I’m still South Australian.”
Pavlich played for SA in under-16s and under-18s and in the SANFL as a 17-year-old.
He also has SANFL bloodlines through his father Steve and uncles Mark and Greg who played for West Torrens.
Despite the SA heritage, on Saturday Pavlich will stand as the iconic figurehead of WA football.
He has carried the fledgling Dockers outfit through its tough years where it more often than not finished tenth or worse.
He has won six best-and-fairest awards and and six All-Australian guernseys.
Pavlich has played 290 AFL games – the most by any current player without appearing in a premiership decider.
The 31-year-old was the early supreme leader in Fremantle’s rout of Sydney in Saturday night’s preliminary final.
He took less than 10 seconds to make his mark – literally grabbing the opening kick of the match from teammate David Mundy.
His set shot at goal missed, and he soon sprayed another, but Pavlich was the dominant forward, finishing with two majors in Freo’s thumping of the shellshocked Swans.
Pavlich missed 10 games this season with a foot injury and, soon after returning, was suspended for three games for a front-on hit on West Coast’s Mitch Brown.
But the preliminary final was his sixth game back and he looms as Fremantle’s trump card against the Hawks at a ground he loves: in 27 games at the MCG, Pavlich has potted 72 goals.
Pavlich’s grand final appearance also rewards staunch loyalty – the South Australian has turned down repeated lucrative offers to return home and play to his native state.
Tomorrow should be his day; and when he holds the Cup aloft, there might be a couple of former SA recruiting staff ruing the day in 1998 they let a champion slip.
– with AAP
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