St Kilda's Tom Highmore had doubts about whether his AFL dream would come true.
And even then, it was not at all what he envisioned as an aspiring Canberran footballer.
He'd spent years driving up and down the Hume Highway to watch the GWS Giants play, before coming part of the club's academy.
It's only natural his dream included that orange jersey, with the ACT having a pathway and affiliation with the Giants and all.
But draft after draft, his name was overlooked. So it was a bit bizarre that his long-awaited debut came at Giants Stadium, just for the opposition team.
Highmore, 23, made a statement in the Saints' gusty eight-point win over Greater Western Sydney on Sunday, launching his AFL career on a high.
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"It was a bit bizarre playing at Giants Stadium in Sydney against them," Highmore said.
"It probably made the victory that little bit sweeter, it's funny how it works out I think."
Highmore and fellow SANFL recruit Callum Wilkie were thrown straight into the defensive end, which was without co-captain Jarryn Geary, Ben Paton and James Frawley though injury.
Although the mature-age recruit waited five years for an AFL berth, he admits it came quicker than expected once in the Saints' ranks.
Highmore, 23, was taken with pick No.45 in the 2020 draft, having left a lasting impression with his SANAFL campaign with South Adelaide.
It saw him link up with Canberran Jack Steele, who presented Highmore with his first jersey in a special moment before the round-one clash.
"It was so nice, it was special. It's been a long time coming I suppose, four to five years," Highmore said.
"You probably question whether you'll ever get to this stage, getting drafted firstly, let alone playing a game and in round one was pretty significant.
"That was super exciting. The game drew a lot of my attention in the meantime, it was about not getting carried away with the occasion or buying into it too much. I had a role to do.
"I wasn't too nervous for the game to be honest, I knew I had a role and that I was up to it. All the boys put full faith and trust in me which was good.
"Being able to run out alongside these boys in the St Kilda jersey, in front of family and friends, is something I'll never forget. It's a moment I'll cherish forever."
Saints coach Brett Ratten hinted Highmore would be in the mix to make his debut in round one as the club wade through a mounting injury crisis.
He'd also played across half-back for the A side in the Saints' intraclub match a month prior, but even then having his name read out on the starting sheet was a pinch-yourself moment for Highmore.
"It wasn't unexpected, but you still never think it's going to be you having your name read out for round one. It was so exciting," Highmore said.
"I think my opportunity has come quicker than expected, Ratts has spoken about how you might never known when your opportunity might come or if it comes at all.
"I've got my first opportunity and now it's up to me about how I go about it. It's probably been a bit different with how it's come about but I'm grateful for where things are at."
Zak Jones (hamstring) and Max King (concussion) will likely return for Saturday's clash with the Melbourne Demons at Marvel Stadium, while Brad Crouch could be available within the fortnight.
With other players expected to trickle in over the coming weeks, Highmore has a window of opportunity to build from his debut straight off the bat.
"I think Ratts said it quite well, one solider goes down and another one pops up if an opportunity presents to someone else," Highmore said.
"Like me, who has been able to hopefully take that opportunity and cement a spot."
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