Imagine telling the 10-year-old kid in the Figtree guernsey you’ll play for the Swans one day.
And not just for the AFL club you support, but you’ll make your debut in Bloods colours in front of your friends, family and former teammates at home in Wollongong at North Dalton Park.
The stuff dreams are made of.
So it may be the second-tier North East AFL, a significant step away from the bright lights of the elite level and the SCG.
But for Sam Thorne – putting it on the boot for the Figtree Kangaroos under 10s in 2011 in that picture – it’s a day he’s dreamed of.
Thorne, who will turn 17 in less than two weeks, sat at home with his dad in 2012, cheering like every other fan when the Swans won the flag.
A well-spoken small forward who loves the chance to shift into the midfield, Thorne will run out with Sam Reid, who played in that premiership team, against the GWS Giants.
“It’s pretty cool, my whole family are mad swans fans,” Thorne said.
“It’ll be a great moment to pull on the guernsey, especially at home, it means a lot.”
Kyle Veerhuis, another Figtree junior also named on the interchange, has already had a taste of it.
So too Shellharbour’s James Bell, the 19-year-old on-baller on the Swans’ rookie list, closing in on the big-time, as he learns off the likes of AFL stars like Dan Hannebery, Luke Parker and Josh Kennedy.
A year older than Thorne, Veerhuis played footy with Thorne every second year during juniors.
He’s now at Camden in the AFL Sydney competition, Thorne at UNSW Bulldogs.
So Saturday’s game against the Giants is just the beginning.
Veerhuis is in Year 12 and will juggle exams with footy for the rest of the year, keeping an eye on AFL draft prospects in December as he studies.
“The ultimate goal is to get myself on an AFL list, but at the moment it’s about getting as many high-quality games as possible to give myself the best chance,” he said.
“It’s pretty full on at the moment, going to Sydney 3-4 times a week and studying for the HSC, it’s definitely tough.”
This time next year, Thorne hopes to be in a similar position.
Swans NEAFL coach Jeremy Laidler urged the Illawarra juniors to make the most of their chance.
“It’s a great reward especially playing at home,” Laidler said.
“These guys have the opportunity to learn a lot in the development squads and now they can play vital roles for us.”
And there could more opportunity coming up for the duo, with Swans suffering key injuries in Thursday night’s AFL loss to Geelong.
Jarrad McVeigh (collarbone), Kieren Jack (knee) and Hannebery (calf), as well as defender Lewis Melican (hamstring), who played in the NEAFL last week, will mean the Swans will have to rely more than ever on their development playing depth.
NORTH EAST AFL
SYDNEY SWANS v GWS GIANTS
North Dalton Park
B: 6. Jordan Foote 21. Jack Maibaum 2. Alex Johnson; HB: 34. Jordan Dawson 31. Harrison Marsh 47. Toby Pink; C: 41. Jake Brown 52. Harrison Parker 51. Connor Flanagan; HF: 20. Sam Reid 28. Nic Newman 50. Sam Wicks; F: 55. Bailey Stewart 46. Joel Amartey 58. Mitchell Rogers; Foll: 17. Darcy Cameron 38. Colin O’Riordan 32. James Bell. Inter: 53. Max Ries, 49. Isaac Bartholomaeus, 56. Dylan Smith, 57. Kyle Veerhuis, 48. Sam Thorne.
B: 50. Tyh Evans 39. Tim Mohr 29. Matt Wilson; HB: 48. Max Beaumont 42. Jake Stein 13. Isaac Cumming; C: 54. Riley Budd 51. Riley Corbett 52. James Peatling; HF: 45. Jack Rowston 43. Darcy Cordell 11. Ed Perryman; F: 53. Will Clark 28. Zach Sproule 47. Tom Banuelos; Foll: 30. Matthew Flynn 46. Rhys Pollock 21. Matthew Buntine; Inter (from): 16. Brent Daniels 36. Harry Perryman 40. Adam Kennedy 34. Nick Shipley 10. Aiden Bonar 25. Lachlan Keeffe 14. Tim Taranto 19. Nick Haynes.