American Jason Holmes capped his outstanding AFL debut with a surprise phone call that was equal parts touching and hilarious.
On Saturday night, Holmes became the AFL’s first American born and raised player when he had 34 hitouts for St Kilda in the draw with Geelong.
The former college basketballer, recruited only two years ago, Holmes thrilled Saints fans with his massive vertical leap at centre bounces.
It was also a landmark night for Holmes’ direct opponent Nathan Vardy, who played his first AFL game since the 2013 preliminary final after overcoming a wretched run of injuries.
Holmes was having a post-match interview with 3AW when the radio station patched in a phone call from his father Kevin.
“Congratulations – I love you, great job,” said Holmes’ father, who was in Ohio and watched the game via the internet.
“You looked like you belonged out there.”
Jason, clearly caught unawares, said “Thanks Dad, I fucking love you.”
As Kevin and the radio commentators roared with laughter and the 3AW producer frantically hit the mute button, an embarrassed Jason said “oh, I’m sorry … I didn’t expect that”.
His father then added: “what a game – it was too bad they didn’t get the win.”
Jason asked his father, also a former basketballer, what he needed to work on in his game.
“Stamina” said Holmes senior, to more laughter.
“It’s very hard to put into words – I am so proud of him,” Kevin said.
“I know this is the tip of the iceberg.”
Kevin will be in Melbourne next Sunday to watch his son ruck against Sydney’s Canadian star Mike Pyke.
Saints coach Alan Richardson and Cats counterpart Chris Scott praised Holmes for his debut.
Holmes’ massive vertical leap helped St Kilda do well at centre clearances.
“Holmesy’s ability at times to get a foot above … that was very positive for us tonight,” Richardson said.
Holmes is one of three Americans on AFL lists.
“I don’t think he’ll be the last American ex-basketballer to play AFL,” Scott said.
“It’s a great story.”
While Holmes had the better of the ruck contests, Vardy also had a strong game and kicked two goals.
“We thought he was really important,” Scott said.
“We didn’t have any great expectations of him (and) that was a real positive for the night.
“He’s had a wretched run, Vards.
Scott said Vardy and teammate Daniel Menzel, who is on the verge of returning to the AFL after a succession of knee reconstructions, now look at the game differently to most.
“He (Vardy) will cherish every minute of AFL footy that he gets and that’s the way it looked to me like he played tonight – he was loving being back there,” Scott said.
“He’s seen the other side.
“He and Dan Menzel have a different perspective on footy to most guys out there in the AFL and we can all learn a bit from that.”