BIG V RECOLLECTIONS

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Daniel Flaherty

My first experience of representative football was back in 2003, when both a young Tim Biggs and myself were selected in the U23 state squad. Back then there was strictly a policy that only one player from each club could get picked. Timmy was a very handy player and that year my team mate Tim Biggs got picked. 
Those training sessions with Timmy gave me a taste of state footy, experiencing the intensity at training and cut throat nature of selection in the build up to the match. It was a real chance to get a sense of what representative football was all about and I wanted more. I remember thinking if I was to ever get the chance again that I would make the most of it. I ended up being picked as an emergency and seeing the boys win and watching them sing the song was entrenched in my memory. This was my first taste of rep footy and although I didn’t play, the hunger of missing out was there. Luckily in the following 2 yrs I played in both games.
The next two years 2004/2005 we played WA and SA both at Elsternwick Park. Nick Bourke was coach and my coach at PEGS Frank Dunnell was chairman of selectors. I must thank Frank as he was instrumental in giving me a chance to play representative football. I remember little things like Bernie Dineen the captain talking to us on the eve of training. He wanted us to think about how many great players you played with at your club that had never had this opportunity we had, to think about the number of great players that you had played against in the league and the privilege that we all had or the responsibility we had to play well, to not only play for us but those other great players. I remember the coaches didn’t over coach they let the players show there skill, use their run and play the VAFA way. We were reminded not to bring the ball in too early at Elsternwick Park and to stick to the outside, a common theme was to use our skills and to run, run, run at all costs.
The intensity at training was a massive step up to what I had experienced at club level, the ball would move from side to side, it was great to be a part of it.
I remember just watching the older guys train.  Names such as Paul Corrigan, Bernie Dineen, James Hope, Quinton Gleeson, Andrew Ramsden, and Murray Pits. I tried to learn as much as I could from these guys, I remember their voice leadership and direction they gave especially to us younger players.
During that time we also played Vic Country (the VCFL), Brett Ratten was coach for the Vic country team. We tried hard but lost that day and it was my first taste of a loss at state level. I remember the feeling of that loss and how it had been a huge step up on the level I had experienced against SA and WA. It was clear that the Vic country side was the benchmark for representative football.
Over the next few years I played football in Queensland and didn’t get the chance to play representative football. I came back to Melbourne in 2009 and I watched the boys lose to Vic country the year before. I had missed playing on the big stage and longed for another chance to play. I was 27/28 and playing my best footy and wanted desperately to get back into the team.
Luckily I did we had a new coach in Dean Anderson. Ando was very easy going, a real blokes bloke, the boys responded to him very well. However, I could sense he wasn’t entirely convinced on me so he had Bloody (Michael Blood) as his chairman of selectors come and watch me play few games. Luckily I got a few kicks and Bloody was instrumental in getting me into the team and at CHF. I still remember game day Ando put the acid on me as he felt we were vulnerable at CHF and that I needed to step up. I remembered what previous players had told me before and I didn’t want to let Ando, my club, my team-mates or my family down. All of who were at the game.
    I  remember playing with players like Jack Watts who was a natural leader, David Boundy who kicked 5 next to me on the HFF. Josh Agius from Xavs dominating in the pocket. It was a great team, and was great to have players hitting you up lace out, the skills were sublime. Players like Luke Wintle Cam Howart, Torney and Paul Wintle down back all had great games.
    In 2012 we played the Vic Country- As I eluded to earlier this game was the pinnacle of rep footy, to play against the best players from Country Victoria, across all those great country leagues. They just had a wealth of great players to choose from. I was lucky enough to get a game probably based on form from the year before. This game had a massive build up, I d been involved in game many years prior they had lost a cliff hanger after leading majority of the game at home. We were playing them away, however we still had the nucleus of the team from the AFL sydney team. With the addition of Colbert, VFL legend Saunders, and young Sam Dunnell now at St Kilda and a few others. I remember the last 10 min how players were out on their feet, but it seemed that the game meant more to us having lost to our country counterparts in the past. You could sense we wanted it and it was ours. Howat, Colbert, Torney were huge. Enjoyment after the game was amazing. You could see how much the win meant to Anderson and the coaches and how much it meant to the VAFA. The celebrations that night were huge kicking on at the pub after, Sholly shouting the bar.
    Ireland- Squad was picked based on the Vic Country team. Mix of A- D2 players. I had played with probably half the players and my team mate and captain David Biggs was also part of the trip. I Remember the close bond we formed. The trip was heavily subsidised and alot of the clubs had fund raisers to raise money. The trip was in effect a reward for alot of guys that had played rep footy and especially players that given up the chance to play for money elsewhere and stay by the VAFA. We came together very closely, a lot of us still stay in contact and share a beer after a game when we play. Great characters.
    For me it was a special trip as I have family from Ireland. I caught up with family and saw where my grand father grew up. We played the Irish at Croke Park. To me that was one of the best experiences of my life. The ground was sacred to the Irish and after all the history prior, for us to be given the chance to play against the national Irish team was huge! It was a great experience, the culture, the Irish people were so friendly.
    The group of guys that went on that trip were very special, most of us were older and we were old enough to appreciate the moment, along with coaches and support staff who were ripping people it made the trip the most enjoyable trip of my life.
    For those rep players that are starting out the following words from some of the older players when I first started will always resinate with me, ” think about the number of great players that you play with at your club, remember the great players you have played against, remember the great competition you play in, we are the best 22 picked out of all those players, we have a responsibility to them to give it all we have and make the most of our opportunity”.  Hopefully I can say that I ve done that.
PEGS footballer Daniel Falherty wrote this piece as part of the Big V Recollections series. Daniel played times for the Big V.