Melbourne skipper Max Gawn says Western Bulldogs ruckman Stefan Martin is still a close friend despite their years apart, and he's looking forward to their "battle within a battle" in Saturday's grand final in Perth.
The pair spent three seasons together on the Demons' list before Martin jumped ship to Brisbane at the end of 2012.
Gawn has since established himself as the premier ruckman of the AFL, winning five All-Australian jerseys along the way.
Martin's 198-game career hasn't reached the same heights, but by Saturday night he could be a premiership player if the Bulldogs triumph.
The 34-year-old has battled a combination of Achilles, shoulder and hip/groin injuries this season, but he looms as a crucial figure in halting the influence of Gawn.
Gawn, who booted five goals in the preliminary final demolition of Geelong, can't wait for the contest to start.
"Stef's almost my most played ruckman over the journey," Gawn said.
"We rucked against each other for two or three years when he was at the Dees. I still call him a close mate.
"I can't get my mind off that first centre bounce, because he's an interesting character, he's a real close friend, we've been texting this week.
"He's such a unique ruck. He plays a bit undersize but he's so strong.
"Tim (English) will come in there as well at times. I've got Luke (Jackson).
"I'm not sure if everyone is going to look at that ruck battle as the centre piece of that game. But I certainly think it's a genuine battle within a battle."
Gawn is well aware of Melbourne's 57-year flag drought, and he's been picking the brain of some former premiership players in a bid to learn a thing or two.
"Jordan Lewis is someone that I've reached out to. He's played in four flags himself and I've got a couple of other friends who have played in grand finals," Gawn said.
"You reach out for as much finals experience as you can, but in the end I'm going to do it my way, I'm not going to do it the way these people told me to do it.
"I'm going to do this week the way I want to do this week. I'm going to let my teammates do the week that they want to do this week.
"Hopefully that recipe along with everything that Goody (coach Simon Goodwin) is telling us and Burgo (performance manager Darren Burgess) is telling us, that recipe is the recipe that's going to get us to hold up the cup on Saturday."
Australian Associated Press