Two years after he looked up to Mike Pyke’s trailblazing AFL achievements, Jason Holmes will ruck against him in a Canada v USA duel.
Pyke and Holmes will probably contest the opening bounce when St Kilda host Sydney on Sunday at Etihad Stadium.
Last weekend, Holmes became the first American born-and-raised AFL player and impressed in St Kilda’s draw with Geelong.
Saints fans were rapt with Holmes’ massive vertical leap.
Holmes had barely heard of the AFL until two years ago, when talent spotters convinced him to switch from college basketball.
His first destination was the Swans, where Holmes met Pike – another overseas AFL convert.
The Saints then signed Holmes as an international rookie.
Pyke switched from an international rugby union career to join Sydney in 2008.
He put the novelty factor of the switch behind him years ago – Pyke has played 106 AFL matches and was a key member of Sydney’s 2012 premiership team.
And Holmes cannot wait to test himself against Pyke.
“That will be pretty exciting – he was one of (my) inspirations when I first started trying to play,” Holmes told 3AW.
“It will be great to go up against him.”
Saints chief executive Matt Finnis said Holmes’ achievement was, in a way, tougher than Jarryd Hayne switching from rugby league to the NFL.
“If you think about what Jarryd has done, there’s a lot more similarity in the games he’s playing,” Finnis told SEN.
“Holmesy, he’s come from college basketball – I just think it’s an amazing feat.
“His selection was enormously popular among the players because of the way he’s gone about it.”
Holmes’ mother and father will fly out from the United States this week to watch him play.
There was speculation that compatriot Mason Cox might make his AFL debut this Friday night for Collingwood after kicking five goals in the VFL.
But Magpies coach Nathan Buckley said that will not happen.
“He’s not ready,” Buckley said.
But Essendon will give Northern Ireland player Conor McKenna his debut on Saturday night against Richmond.