If you are an AFL player, I imagine that there are certain milestones that will always stick out in your memory when you reflect on your career. A premiership if you are lucky enough to win one. A Brownlow Medal if you are lucky enough to be awarded one. Being presented with your first team guernsey. But up there with the fondest of memories must be the memory of making your AFL debut.
Last week, it was Jacob Hopper’s turn.
Last weekend, like many other GWS Giants fans, I was absolutely swept up in the story of young debutant Jacob Hopper.
It started last week when in front of the squad, Coach Leon Cameron announced that Hopper would be making his debut on the weekend against the Gold Coast Suns. Flanked by his friends and his teammates, you could tell that Hopper was absolutely overwhelmed by the moment – and why wouldn’t you be? After years of hard work, sacrifice and dedication to a dream of playing football, the dream had come true – he was going to play footy.
Following the announcement, GWS Giants media followed Hopper and filmed him making 2 phone calls to two very important people – his mum and dad. Mum and dad were the first people to know about Jacob making his debut, apart from the squad and coaching staff.
The phone calls were truly a joy to watch. First, he spoke with mum Deanna and told her ‘I’m in. I’m playing’, with the biggest beam on his face. His mum was ‘so proud’ of him and ‘ecstatic’.
My favourite moment of the call was when Jacob said to his mum ‘get the tickets sorted’ and then realised his error and changed the story to ‘I’ll get the tickets sorted’.
Next person on the phone was dad, James. His response to Jacob getting the call up was ‘praise be to Jesus’. He then proceeded to apologise for swearing, despite having not said a curse word.
It’s reflective of the fact that behind our heroes in orange are families that have also sacrificed a tremendous amount so that their boys can play football. Mum and dad will have been with Jacob every step of the way and were essentially the representatives of a family absolutely swept up in the emotion and joy of their boy finally making his AFL debut.
I’m struggling to imagine what the nerves for young Jacob would have been like on Saturday pre-game. I wonder what his pre-match ritual was. Did he listen to a particular song? Did he have a particular meal? Does he have a certain routine?
Whatever he did, he should do it again – because it worked. 31 possessions (with 11 of those coming in the first term). 9 clearances. 17 contested possessions. 7 inside-50s. 5 marks. Composed despite being matched up on one of the greats, Gary Ablett. Despite having to wait eight games to march out onto the field at Spotless Stadium, it was worth the wait for Giants fans, who loved every second of the youngeters debut.
With the win over the Suns, the Giants have now won 5 in a row. The cherry on top for Jacob would have been that last weekend he was nominated last weekend for the NAB AFL Rising Star.
A tremendous reward for the young man from Leeton, who joined the Giants academy at just 13 years of age, culminating in his selection during last year’s draft.
I wanted to write a story this week to congratulate Jacob on his debut and to wish him well for the remainder of the season. Such an impressive first game is truly a testament to many years of hard work and I look forward to watching your progress as the Giants march towards their first finals appearance since the club’s inception.
And despite Jacob stealing the show on the field on the weekend, it was once again dad James that stole the show post-game when he told the world that he fondly remembers one of Jacob’s Auskick games where Jacob ‘looked at [him] with all the seriousness that a 6 year old could have and said, ‘I’m going to play AFL’.
And he was right. How lucky are we that he did it with the Giants.
Ladies who Leap xxx