Sam Menegola has spent the best part of six years wondering when – and if – he would ever make his AFL debut.
Then when it finally happened, he barely had time to think about it.
The 24-year-old utility arrived at Simonds Stadium on Saturday evening fully expecting to be an emergency.
But a bitterly cold and wet day in Geelong had got Cats coach Chris Scott thinking.
Ruckman Zac Smith had been sore during the week and Menegola had been knocking down the door with impressive form in the VFL.
So the switch was made, with Menegola ending a hugely impressive debut with 26 possessions – more than half contested – in the Cats’ comprehensive 30-point win over Adelaide.
“The conditions were just enough to tip it in Sam’s favour,” said Scott.
“We made the decision right at the last minute.
“I did say to Sam `it’s probably not the way you imagined it but you’re in buddy so stand up and do a good job for us’.
“He absolutely did that.”
Menegola spent 2011 on Hawthorn’s rookie list and the following three seasons as a Fremantle rookie, all without managing a single AFL game.
A standout 2015 in the WAFL for Subiaco prompted Geelong to give him one last shot.
“I’ve probably refined how I work in the contest and what I do with the ball when I win it contested,” said Menegola.
“Just composure with the footy and adjusting some habits, like quick kicking from stoppages.
“As much as anything it’s just fitting into Geelong’s system.
“It’s such a good system that you don’t want to be the one letting it down.”
Menegola wasn’t the only lesser light to stand up against the Crows, with Jed Bews doing a number on the dangerous Eddie Betts for the second time this year.
Tom Hawkins and Dan Menzel booted four goals apiece, while Steven Motlop had seven tackles to go with 24 possessions in a year where his workrate has been regularly questioned.
“We’ve had a few guys that have been down and a few guys who have been under pressure internally,” said Scott, whose team will return to the top four at the conclusion of round 18.
“I know the external focus has been on a couple of guys, most probably Hawkins and Motlop, who were pretty good tonight.
“I can honestly say we’re excited about what we can do if we get a lift from probably a third of the team who are below expectations.”