Mature-age draftee Greg Clark used West Coast champion Matt Priddis’ story of perseverance as inspiration to keep his AFL dream alive, and six years after he was first eligible to be drafted the new Eagle arrives at West Coast ready to make an immediate impact.
Clark had turned off the TV on Thursday night after the Eagles selected key forward Jack Williams at pick 57, believing his opportunity had passed by until the rookie draft on Friday.
But just minutes later his manager called to share the good news the 24-year-old had been granted his wish, with West Coast trading away a future fourth-round pick to secure Port Adelaide’s pick 62 to use on Clark.
After 93 games for Subiaco – highlighted by three premierships and a Simpson Medal in this year’s Grand Final triumph – Clark follows in the footsteps of Sam Menegola, whose Lions stint earned him a shot at Geelong after Fremantle and Hawthorn delisted him, and Priddis by being recruited in their 20s.
“Everyone here knows the story of Matty Priddis. That’s just so inspiring,” Clark said.
“Obviously I didn’t get to see it first-hand but I did a bit of work with him through my state 18s time and he was one of the most humble people I’ve ever met.
“It’s just something you stick in the back of your mind to know what it means to be a good footballer and good person.
“I’ve taken massive inspiration out of those two.
“I look back on it now and I wouldn’t change my journey for a thing.
“It’s been the best thing for me to build resilience, build the perseverance and I think it just sets me up now at 24 to get the start of my career running and restart and go again.”
Clark is excited to link up with former Subiaco mentor Jarrad Schofield (strategy and stoppage coach) and ex-Lions captain Kyal Horsley (development coach) at West Coast, while Josh Rotham, Jake Waterman, Sam Petrevski-Seton and Tom Cole are other familiar faces.
The big-bodied 193cm midfielder appears readymade for the AFL and isn’t shying away from his ambition to play early next season.
“I think the purpose for all of us (new draftees) is to play good football for the football club, but being that bit older I have that expectation of myself – and I’ve spoken to members of the football club – that it is to have an immediate impact, and I’m not going to shy away from that,” Clark said.
“But at the same time I’m under no illusion it’s just going to be a walk in the park, I’ve still got to learn the way, learn the culture of the football club and really buy in.
“I’m not sure yet what the role is that Simmo might see me playing, but I’ll embrace it with both hands and go from there.”