AFL player David Armitage returned to his roots at the Eastern Swans' Rogers Oval at South Mackay yesterday.
The St Kilda player was just another person in the crowd as he watched a schoolgirls' game at the ground where he started his football career at the age of six.
"This is the ground where it all started," he said.
"I played here for the Swans before moving to Brisbane at 16."
Armitage was picked up by the Saints from Morningside as No 9 pick in the national draft in 2006 and has played with the club since, securing a regular spot in the senior side with 22 games last season.
"I played all the games bar one from suspension, which is the best I have done," he said.
"I just hope I can keep that going.
"We had a slow start to the season but got a bit better as we went along, but got knocked out in the first week of the finals."
That loss to the Sydney Swans has Armitage, 23, primed for a big year with the Saints where he has signed for another two seasons.
It will also be a season of change, with new head coach Scott Watters taking over from Ross Lyon, who quit after the loss to the Swans and is now coach at Fremantle.
Lyon took the Saints to successive grand finals in 2009-10, the club finishing seventh in 2011.
Armitage said AFL players were closely scrutinised in Melbourne.
"It can be hard, you play football and they have something to say to you, whether it's good or bad. That's what it's all about," he said.
"But I love Melbourne, I've been there five years now.
"It's a great city and there's lots to do.
"I love it down there and I'll be there for another two years at least."
He said while it was a hard road from Mackay to the AFL, it was possible.
"We've got some good players (from Mackay) on their way," he said.
"Matt Sondergeld is playing at Redlands in Brisbane, he's doing well down there. Anything is possible."
AFL Mackay is currently conducting a three-week series of schoolgirls matches involving Mackay North and Mackay high schools.
The winning team will have the opportunity to compete in a carnival in Cairns.
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