WHEN it comes to timing, Mitch Morton could be the poster boy.
Parachuted into Sydney’s best 22 on the eve of the 2012 finals series, the former Richmond and West Coast player won a premiership medal in just his fifth game in red and white.
“Realistically, I was a reserves player that year,” Morton says.
“I was never that far away from the senior squad, but we just kept winning. I got a chance as the sub in Round 21 (against the Western Bulldogs), was sub for one or two weeks and then got dropped.
“The senior team went down to Geelong and got thumped in the last round of the season. If they hadn’t got beaten that day we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Morton kicked two majors against Adelaide in the qualifying final, a match Sydney went into as underdogs but emerged as 29-point victors.
“My first full game was the first final against Adelaide,” he recalls, still somewhat stunned a decade later.
“That was a surreal feeling, to be told my first proper game for Sydney would be in a qualifying final.
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“It’s crazy and only really been bettered by a few people, like Marlion Pickett. The Grand Final was my fifth game for the Swans. I’m very lucky.”
While Morton was the new kid on the block, defender Ted Richards had been a mainstay for years.
At the peak of his powers as the All-Australian centre-half back, the former Don had the unenviable task of lining up on Hawks superstar, Lance Franklin.
It was a task made all the more difficult by a syndesmosis injury sustained in the club’s 26-point win over Collingwood in the preliminary final.
“Instead of having all these ‘what ifs’ that you’d usually have around the game, I was only worried about one thing: whether my ankle would get me through the game,” Richards told AFL.com.au.
“I can remember thinking, ‘If I go down in the first five minutes of the game, I can’t play and we go on to lose the game … how selfish is that of me’.”
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Richards didn’t train in the week leading up to the Grand Final. In constant dialogue with Longmire, it remained a possibility he wouldn’t take to the field. In essence, he didn’t want to be a liability to his teammates.
“Rightly or wrongly they said, ‘We can strap this up and give you pain relief at quarter-time, half-time and three-quarter time’.
“If it wasn’t for the jabs I wouldn’t have been able to play. It took a long time to heal.”
Richards went to Franklin, busted ankle and all. Buddy kicked three goals, but inaccuracy cost him with four behinds.
“Buddy was in a mood,” Richards laughs.
“He was up and about, moving well.
“I remember he was leading out in the third quarter, 50 or 60 out. Buddy’s not a great overhead mark. I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to smash this into the fourth tier of the Southern Stand’.
“He just clunked it. I remember thinking, ‘You got me there’. Then he just casually went back and kicked it from 60. I remember thinking, ‘Touche, you get me there, too’.”
Spectacular as it was, Buddy’s long-range bomb would be eclipsed with the last major of the day, the sealer from an unlikely sort in Sydney defender Nick Malceski.
“The Malceski goal, to date, would be the best moment of my life,” Morton, who kicked two memorable second term goals of his own that day, says.
“I knew how much time was left on the goal. It was so special.
“The fact that he thinks he kicked it sweet but if floated through makes it even better.”
On Saturday, when the Swans celebrate their 10-year reunion of that 10-point Grand Final victory, there’s no doubt that moment will be recounted ad nauseum.
Better still, former teammates will have the opportunity to reconnect and acknowledge what they achieved. After all, it was Hawthorn, a team that went on to win three consecutive flags.
“We have a WhatsApp group for the 2012 premiership team,” Richards says.
“The 2016 and 2014 Grand Final teams that I was part of and lost, we don’t have WhatsApp groups for those. It might only be a little thing, but the premiership has given us a bond that’s really enduring.
“It’s been playing out the last decade in an app way and finally it’ll be done face to face.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Morton.
“We all have those moments in life where you look back and you wish you’d celebrated it a bit more because it was special,” he reflects.
“I feel really, really lucky we get to celebrate this again after 10 years. For me, there are some players I haven’t seen in nine years, so it’s going to be a really special weekend for me.”