The New Clancee
At the end of the 2011 season, Clancee Pearce admits that he was at the crossroads of his career. Rather than accept his AFL journey was over, he cleaned out the cupboards and started again.
When approached about doing a feature story, Clancee Pearce’s reaction was not that of a man who has become an integral and widely respected member of an elite sporting club.
“Who me?,” he said with genuine surprise.
It seems that Pearce himself doesn’t quite realise what all the fuss is about.
The football world has.
He has been among Fremantle’s best players on a regular basis in what has been a strong rise up the ranks for the 21-year-old this season.
The beginnings of the remarkable turnaround in a career that was at the crossroads can be traced back to an early October day in 2011.
Called into a meeting with his coaches, Pearce was left shattered by what he was told.
“They didn’t really say I was delisted, they said I wasn’t required,” Pearce, who was officially delisted later that month when Fremantle had to submit its squad changes to the AFL, recalls.
However, he was offered the opportunity to train on with the squad by new senior coach Ross Lyon, with a possibility of being re-rookie listed in December.
Still suffering a bit of shock, Pearce went home, “chilled out” for a while, and spoke to his parents and his manager Jason Dover, who all told him to stay positive.
“I told them the situation, that I’d be delisted, but that they were going to give me a chance,” he says.
“It’s pretty hard to stay positive when something like that happens.”
Pearce took a few hours of solitude to think about his situation. His father, Des Pearce, came home from work to offer his support and some words of advice.
“Dad said ‘you’re not fully de-listed, they’re going to give you a chance’,” Pearce says.
Faced with a decision, Pearce asked himself: “Do I really want to be an elite sportsman?”
The answer was yes, but if he was serious about changing, he was going to do it properly.
The first step was to clear the cupboards.
Not just figuratively — he actually emptied all the food in his pantry he considered unhealthy.
“I went to the shops that afternoon, and I spent about $400 on food that was more nutritious,” he says.
Pearce then embarked on a rigorous cardio and weights training program.
“My days would be a run, come home and do half-an-hour on the bike, and then do weights,” he says.
“It was really just a mindset — that I wanted to train. As soon as I got into it, it became an everyday thing.”
Back in mid-October, when he knew being delisted was imminent, Pearce began to ink a new sleeve-tattoo of a tiger on his left arm.
He admits it could be seen as a symbolic reflection of the new Clancee.
“I just decided to get it,” he says.
“I like the tiger, it symbolises strength and courage.”
Pearce, who was selected by Freo, again, with pick 75 in the 2012 Rookie Draft, says the changes in him have been all-encompassing.
“I think I’ve grown up since being delisted,” he says.
“If you want to be an AFL footballer or an elite sportsman, you can’t indulge as much as other people.]
“I just try to lay low and let my football do the talking.”
If there’s one part of Pearce that hasn’t changed, it’s his humility.
“I try not to let it sink in,” he says.
“I just think about where I came from. I’m still a rookie player. I’m not the best player going around. I’m not Chris Judd.
“I’m just a hard working football player that’s trying to do his bit for the team.”
And, it’s the team that he credits a lot of his improvements to.
“My teammates and coaches have been fantastic,” Pearce says.
“They are the reason why I’ve been going so well.”
As it turns out, the worst day of Pearce’s football career, being delisted, provided the impetus to reignite his AFL dream.
“It’s probably one of the best things that’s ever happened to me,” he says.
“My training over the break is what
I’ve built on. I’m so happy that I did it.”
Pearce now feels better qualified to offer advice to anyone who finds themselves in a place similar to where he was at.
“Don’t let it get you down,” he says.
“If they’re going to give you a tiny little bit to keep your foot in the door, just give it all you’ve got.
“Even if it means not having a break during the off-season. When you’re playing good football and the team is going well, it’s all worth it in the end.
“I wouldn’t change a thing.”
The only thing that’s changed is Clancee Pearce.