It isn’t how he once pictured it, but in 249 AFL games Grant Birchall has learnt never to take anything for granted.
The four-time Hawthorn premiership player will be wearing a Brisbane guernsey on Saturday against West Coast in a milestone game a long time coming.
Flying as an integral member of the champion Hawks side a decade ago, the 32-year-old has managed just eight AFL games since their 2016 semi-final loss to the Western Bulldogs.
A broken jaw was followed by repeated knee injuries before Brisbane coach Chris Fagan, a former mentor at the Hawks and fellow Tasmanian, came calling.
After stumbling over the team song in his Lions debut against Fremantle last week, Birchall can now see a new chapter unfolding in Brisbane.
“It means a fair bit (to play 250 AFL games), because it’s been pretty tough with me and my body the last few years,” he said.
“It’s quite a big achievement and something I’m proud of.
“Things have certainly changed quite a bit the last few years, but I’m excited for the fresh start.
“There was no crowd, a different uniform, different teammates … all a bit weird but the more games I play with these guys we’ll get some cohesion going.”
West Coast will be smarting after their upset loss to Gold Coast, while key defender Jeremy McGovern will contest a ban for striking in an effort to play.
“I’d be pretty happy mate, he’s a pretty handy player… multiple All-Australian, can certainly play the game so if he’s not there it’s certainly handy for us,” Birchall said of McGovern’s potential absence.
Birchall expects the Eagles to come in hot after their humbling last weekend, but he wasn’t that shocked by the scoreline.
“Nothing really surprises me these days; it’s such an even competition, anyone can beat anyone,” he said of the Suns’ surprise win.
“They’re a young exciting group, would’ve been fresh and you have to be on your game.”
Birchall’s arrival has coincided with former teammate Luke Hodge’s retirement, while Gold Coast recruit Callum Ah Chee and improving 20-year-old Brandon Starcevich were notable defensive contributors in Saturday’s win.
“I’m completely different to Luke Hodge, he’s a superstar footballer,” Birchall said.
“But I want to help the guys as much as I can … it’s great to play alongside those guys, they’re going to be the future of the footy club.”