Heartbreaking as it was at the time, Sydney defender Dane Rampe feels lucky to have been overlooked by the Western Bulldogs after being invited to train with the AFL club.
Rampe knows he wasn’t ready for the rigours of elite football six years ago when the Bulldogs contemplated drafting him.
The All Australian defender also believed he wouldn’t have developed as a footballer without the sun, surf and support offered by his home town.
Rampe moved to Melbourne to chase his AFL dream after finishing school but fell out of love with the game during a VFL stint with Williamstown.
The 26-year-old said the turning point of his career came when he packed up his car and shifted back to Sydney.
“I hold no grudges against them. I’m not bitter towards them for not picking me up because I wasn’t ready,” Rampe said.
“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me … had I been picked up, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I don’t think I’d even still be on a list.
“Down there, it was all one thing. My life was really focused on footy … footy doesn’t define me now.
“I’ve got an outlet to switch off with friends and family, just doing things with people that any normal person does.”
Rampe is one of Sydney’s many rookie-list success stories who will run out on Saturday onto the MCG . In 2012, he was supporting them from the SCG stands, while dominating for UNSW-Eastern Suburbs in the local league.
The 26-year-old made his debut and played 23 games in 2013, helping fill the void left by Alex Johnson. He featured in the 2014 grand final and, this season, earned his first All-Australian selection.
Rampe doubts whether he would have achieved such a rapid rise at the Bulldogs or any Melbourne-based club.
“I don’t think so. I’ve got real respect for the players based in Melbourne, especially the big ones who can perform with so much scrutiny at bigger clubs,” he said.
“It’d be a genuine challenge.”
Rampe, who was one of many Swans to play well below their best in the 2014 season decider, suggested he’d learned some lessons from that gutting loss to Hawthorn.
“It’s just about trying to keep a level head, appreciating what’s going on this week but not getting consumed by it,” he said.
“The main thing is the job’s not done yet. While it is an achievement in some ways to get to a granny, it means nothing if you don’t win.
“We’d be disappointed with anything but finishing off as premiers.”