Isaac Heeney was par of the Sydney Swans junior academy.
Isaac Heeney was par of the Sydney Swans junior academy.

In: Fyfe. Out: Dusty: Tigers’ huge fan flip

Playing in the AFL for the team you love is every footy fan's dream.

Sadly, in the cut-throat AFL industry it rarely happens. But that doesn't mean we can't imagine what the competition would look like if recruiting had an element of romance.

Childhood Richmond (and Richo) fans Nat Fyfe and Marcus Bontempelli would be running around in yellow and black, but two of the Tigers' biggest stars would be playing fo rthe Saints. Meanwhile, a Grand Final hero for Geelong and Collingwood would be a Swan - a club he admits he still has a soft spot for.

Scroll down to see the teams we've picked made up of players who barracked for Richmond, St Kilda and Sydney as kids. And check back all week as we reveal what more teams would look like if AFL (and AFLW) stars could pay for the team they grew up barracking for.

 

RICHMOND

Nat Fyfe had a plan going into the 2009 draft camp.

"I was actually a passionate Richmond supporter when I was younger and my least favourite team was the Dockers - I absolutely hated them," he said in 2015, the year he won his first Brownlow Medal for Fremantle.

"This was to the extent that at the AFL draft camp, two weeks before the AFL draft, I was trying desperately to get in front of the Richmond recruiters, but they weren't interested in me at all."

Sadly for Fyfe, and Tiger fans, players don't usually end up playing for the team they grew up barracking for. But what if they did?

The Tigers would boast an incredible onball division of Fyfe, quirky Demon Max Gawn - who says his favourite players as a kid were lesser lights Clinton King and Ray Hall - and Marcus Bontempelli, snapped with Tiger champ Matthew Richardson at a clinic 15 years ago.

Bont's former captain Bob Murphy earns a spot on the bench so he can play alongside Richo, his childhood hero.

 

A young Marcus Bontempelli (right) with his Richmond hero Matthew Richardson.
A young Marcus Bontempelli (right) with his Richmond hero Matthew Richardson.

Murphy recently had Richardson as a guest on his podcast where he confessed to mixed emotions as the Tiger forward booted 10 goals against the Dogs early in his career.

"I had great seats. It was a different uniform on, so I was a bit conflicted that day, but it was a thing of beauty," Murphy said.

In the coach's box (or working the boundary for Channel 7) is Tim Watson, who made his debut for Essendon against the Tigers and admitted later he was awe-struck by playing against his boyhood heroes Francis Bourke, Kevin Bartlett and Kevin Sheedy. And there must be a role for Wayne Harmes, who says he remained a Richmond supporter even during his 169-game career with Carlton, including three premierships - one of them against the Tigers.

 

RICHMOND FANS BEST 22

Team of players who grew up barracking for Richmond

B: Easton Wood, Kristian Jaksch, Jarman Impey

HB: Luke Hodge, Tom Langdon, Adam Cerra

C: Tom Scully, Dom Tyson, David Myers

HF: Brandan Parfitt, Sam Weideman, Noah Anderson

F: Jimmy Bartel, Matthew Richardson, Ben Ainsworth

Ruck: Max Gawn, Nat Fyfe, Marcus Bontempelli

Inter: Mitch Crowden, Lewis Taylor, Tom Green, Bob Murphy

Coach: Tim Watson

 

 

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ST KILDA

Imagine Dustin Martin storming out of the centre square and hitting Jack Riewoldt on the chest - and Saints fans going wild.

It could have happened if AFL players got to play for the team they supported as kids. And we have photographic proof of both Tiger stars wearing 90s era Saints merch.

Dusty would be part of a power-packed midfield in a best 22 of childhood St Kilda fans alongside Rory Sloane (a huge Lenny Hayes fan), Lions gun Dayne Zorko and recently retired four-time premiership Hawk Sam Mitchell (who grew up idolising Robert Harvey).

Exciting Lion Eric Hipwood didn't have much choice but to barrack for St Kilda after his parents got married in the Moorabbin grandstand, while twins Max and Ben King grew up 10 minutes' from the Saints' old home ground.

 

A young Jack Riewoldt (back, centre) ready to go and watch cousin Nick play for the Saints with his family in Tasmania.
A young Jack Riewoldt (back, centre) ready to go and watch cousin Nick play for the Saints with his family in Tasmania.

 

Bomber Michael Hurley also has strong family ties.

"There is even a family connection to the club's only premiership in 1966," he wrote in the Herald Sun.

"My grandmother's cousin is Bob Murray, who is famous for his game-saving mark in defence in the dying seconds of the Grand Final."

Docker Griffin Logue's former devotion to the Saints got him in trouble in a game in 2017 when he gave the ball to childhood hero Nick Riewoldt, rather than Tim Membrey, giving away a 50m penalty.

 

SAINTS FANS BEST 22

Team of AFL players who grew up barracking for St Kilda

B: Grant Birchall, Michael Hurley, Liam Stocker

HB: Jasper Pittard, Griffin Logue, Nathan Jones

C: Rory Sloane, Dayne Zorko, Connor Rozee

HF: Eric Hipwood, Jack Riewoldt, Darcy Vescio

F: Jack Higgins, Max King, Jack Lonie

Foll: Ben King, Dustin Martin, Sam Mitchell

Inter: Rhys Mathieson, Darcy Tucker, Jye Caldwell, Ellie Blackburn

 

 

SYDNEY

Isaac Heeney grew up a passionate Sydney supporter and was part of the club's junior academy.

Lenny Hayes was a regular at the SCG for Swans home games, even if it drew some odd looks from friends in rugby league heartland.

Aliir Aliir did things a little differently. After being born in a Kenyan refugee camp and moving to Australia at age eight, he fell in love with the Swans after meeting Michael O'Loughlin while playing with the World VIII team in 2010.

"I picked up my phone for a second and then my brother was like 'You've been drafted to the Sydney Swans!'," he said after being drafted four years later.

"Then I actually saw my name at pick 44 next to the Swans and I just kind of froze and couldn't believe it."

 

Isaac Heeney (second from right, front row) was part of the Swans junior academy. Jordan Foote (second from left, back row) is now a Sydney teammate.
Isaac Heeney (second from right, front row) was part of the Swans junior academy. Jordan Foote (second from left, back row) is now a Sydney teammate.

 

Travis Varcoe also owes his allegiance to the great Micky O.

The two-time Geelong premiership player and current Magpie grew up in South Australia barracking for the Swans. And he still does.

When he was seven, his father Brian explained that one of the stars of the Swans team that would go on to play in that year's Grand Final, Mick O'Loughlin, was his cousin.

"I thought, 'Wow, that's pretty cool'. Having one of your blood relations running around (in the AFL) that gave me something to aspire to and I've followed Sydney ever since,'' Varcoe told the Herald Sun in 2015.

"Everyone has a soft spot for their childhood team, it's just that when you play against them you still want to flog them.''

 

SWANS FANS BEST 22

Team of players who grew up barracking for Sydney

B: Jake Lever, Aliir Aliir, Jarrad McVeigh

HB: Callum Mills, Lewis Roberts-Thompson, Travis Varcoe

C: Isaac Heeney, Lenny Hayes, Ash Brazil

HF: Tom Papley, Matt Kennedy, Tony Armstrong

F: Nick Blakey, Josh Bruce, Riley Collier-Dawkins

Foll: Emma King, Josh Dunkley, Keiren Jack

Inter: Jamie Stanton, Maddy Collier, Caleb Serong, Chris Yarran

 

 

Originally published as In: Fyfe. Out: Dusty: Tigers' huge fan flip

A young Dustin Martin with Nicky Winmar.
A young Dustin Martin with Nicky Winmar.

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