Finding out the AFL season would be postponed as he was leaving home for the drive to Optus Stadium wasn’t how Luke Shuey envisaged his first gameday as West Coast captain beginning.
Even accounting for the new ‘normal’ of a rapidly changing environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was something out of the ordinary.
Shortly after making the short stroll across the stadium turf into the changerooms with Jackson Nelson, the Eagles’ 11th full-time skipper was called into a meeting by Adam Simpson.
The coach wanted to canvass the senior leaders about how to handle the latest development with the players, knowing they still had a round one match to prepare for against Melbourne – the last AFL game for at least 10 weeks.
“He spoke to a few of us just about what sort of messaging we want to give the playing group and the footy club ahead of the game,” Shuey told westcoasteagles.com.au.
“I guess all we wanted was to keep it as normal. We still had a game to play and hopefully we get back to play some footy at the end of the year and that game will mean something. We wanted to make sure we won.
“But driving to the game and for me finding out as I was leaving home that the season as temporarily cancelled was a little bit weird and hard to not think about.
“I guess it was something that deep down we probably all knew was coming for a few days.”
Keeping the players’ minds on the job was critical, and leading from the front is what Shuey does best.
When he was appointed three days after premiership skipper Shannon Hurn stepped down, Shuey’s rare ability to elevate when it mattered most and set the example was lauded by Simpson.
It was a major reason why his teammates had voted for the 2018 Norm Smith medallist to take over as captain.
"Luke's stood up on the big stage,” Simpson told reporters.
“The best leaders care the most and he cares about his mates and he cares about the club."
In the abbreviated contest over 16-minute quarters, Shuey rose to this extraordinary occasion.
Showcasing the dynamism few others share, he gathered 27 disposals, 10 contested possessions, five clearances – three from the centre – and was the highest-ranked Eagle on the ground, according to AFL Fantasy.
A 27-point triumph was job done for West Coast, although the flat feeling of have no fans to celebrate with was inescapable.
“Once the game had finished and you actually thought about not having anyone there it was really sad to not have our fans and Melbourne fans there,” Shuey said.
“Fans of every club, they’re so good for the game. We empathise with what they’re going through at the moment not being able to watch us play.
“Obviously bigger things to worry about but it’s a strange time for fans around the globe.
“It’s a good reality check for us not to take it for granted when we come back, not to take for granted how big a role we play in society to football fans all around the country.”
When the players return is currently anyone’s guess, although the AFL is aiming for a June restart.
In the meantime, the work doesn’t stop for West Coast’s players as they keep themselves fit and mentally prepared.
“A challenge for the group now after a pre-season. Normally the reward at the end of the summer is you play a full season of games, but we have to do another little pre-season now on our own I guess,” Shuey said.
“The challenge for us is to make sure we do it right and as well as we can.
“Before we know it hopefully we’re back into it and we want to make sure we’re ready to go.”