The accidental footballer
Fremantle defender Luke McPharlin was initially hesitant about pursuing an AFL career, and he has some persistent recruiters to thank for what will become a 200-game career on Saturday night.
McPharlin, who will enter his milestone game against Essendon at Patersons Stadium in close to career best form, reflected this week on his recruitment by Hawthorn almost 13 years ago.
There are tales of “skulduggery” around the 1999 National Draft, with suggestions the Hawks hid the talented youngster from view in the lead-up.
But the 30-year-old said that was not the case, and he had simply been “unorganised” in his preparation for a career in the AFL.
“I wasn’t playing any footy at district level or state level, I was just playing for my high school and a few talent scouts had encouraged me to play a single colts game so that I could be eligible to nominate for the draft,” McPharlin said.
“I only decided to play that game the night before, so they didn’t have time to change the names in the record and I actually went under a different name: Clint Hopkins.
“I managed to kick eight and play pretty well, and I think a lot of the scouts around the country were pretty excited about Clint Hopkins and what he could do.
“But it turned out it wasn’t him at all and from that, there was a bit of a story about ‘was there some skulduggery going on’?”
McPharlin was convinced by a handful of recruiters following that game that he had what it took to make it as an AFL player, and he got his own head around the idea.
After two seasons with Hawthorn, he has gone on to carve out a fine career with Fremantle, playing as a key forward, a ‘swingman’, and most recently a permanent defender, where he has played the most consistent football of his career.
“I’ve been fortunate with my body in the latter parts of my career where I actually feel pretty good and everything is up and going,” McPharlin said on Tusday ahead of his 200th game.
“I certainly don’t feel like I am slowing down at this point and that’s a positive thing.
“Recovery from games is taking a little bit longer than it used to. But that’s no issue. I feel pretty good.”
McPharlin conceded he was drawing towards the end of his career and his future was now a year-to-year proposition.
Unlucky not to win a club champion award or All Australian honours thus far, he said he would like to be remembered as a consistent contributor who managed to play a role at both ends of the ground.
“It’s been an enjoyable experience, albeit a pretty tough one given the lack of success at this club over the years,” he said.
“But to play with some guys like Matthew Pavlich, Aaron Sandilands and Antoni Grover and to spend 12-13 years with these sorts of players, you really build some strong bonds of friendship. It’s been a great experience from that point of view.”