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Danyle Pearce: ‘Playing local footy has reignited my love for the game’

Sturt’s Danyle Pearce had a lethal left foot and was the first winner of the AFL Rising Star award to come off the Rookie List. After 258 games with Port Adelaide and Fremantle, Pearce returned has returned to the Double Blues to finish off his playing days. He went One on One with Jack Hudson.

PHOTO: South Adelaide Football Club.

Jack Hudson: We’ll go back to the start of your footy days; where did you play your juniors and what do you remember about them?

Danyle Pearce: My first ever memory of footy would have been when I was five or six years old running on the hill at Broadview Football Club watching my dad.

I was getting entrenched in the smell of deep heat, tape and oil and the boys getting ready in the change rooms – that real sort of love and want to play started there.

I started playing at Fitzroy Football Club in Adelaide, I lived in there and my closest friends all played there.

I played a few years there, and at about eight years of age we moved to Meningie, I was playing there for about three years.

From there, my family moved back into Adelaide and from under 13s, 14s and 15s I was playing at Edwardstown Football Club, and at the same time it was when the youth development squad started at the Sturt Football Club.

Everyone at Edwardstown was zoned out there, and I tagged along and followed them.

I was actually zoned to Glenelg at the time, but I think there was a small transfer fee that was paid, and I was allowed to go out to Sturt, and everything grew from there.

JH: What was it like when you first walked through the doors at Sturt?

DP: It was good in the little development league, before they brought in the under 16s and 18s, they had the 19s, 17s and 15s and they had the McDonalds Cup games for 13s and 14s.

Between games at Edwardstown you’d have games at Sturt and you’d play up there, we had some nine-a-side games at the old Football Park at half-time of some AFL games, and we were very successful.

We went on and won the under 17 premiership, I missed the under 19s and reserves and went onto seniors.

It’s been fantastic since day one being there, I was lucky enough to have all my friends at the time playing there, everything felt natural to be honest.

It was the natural progression to the next step and wanting to keep playing.

Going to Sturt I was family friends with Michael Graham, in high school Malcolm Greenslade was my PE teacher and I grew up around him.

I grew up around a lot of Sturt legends and everything blended together, and I got a chance to play there.

JH: You were then picked up in the Rookie Draft by Port Adelaide – was it expected?

DP: No, it wasn’t, we had the under 18 championships and I didn’t play great over there.

Then we went to the National Draft camp and did well there, I broke a few records there too.

Then you start hearing the talk of getting drafted and going to different places and unfortunately, I missed out on that, which was a big disappointment.

I was almost ready to throw in the towel and give up on any chance of being drafted, I did my own thing for a little bit.

I didn’t even know there was a Rookie Draft, I didn’t know there was a rookie list, someone made mention to me about the draft.

Mark Williams invited me and Elijah Ware out at the time, we trained with a little side squad at Alberton in front of ‘Choco’ and a few of the coaches.

I think they had a pre-season selection which got someone straight onto the senior list, and a rookie pick – they took Elijah with the pre-season pick and myself with the rookie draft.

Back in those days, there had to be a senior spot on the list (for a rookie elevation) and someone had to be injured and you got half the pay of the originally lowest paid player on the list, you weren’t in the team photos.

I was in the photos for all the sponsors and everything, but as soon as the team photo comes on, all the rookie listed players are asked to come out of it, that really sucked at the time.

I remember thinking how much I hated it.

Prior to training with Port, I had two weeks out with the Adelaide Crows, I was out there with Matt Priddis and Elijah was there as well.

As the season started, I couldn’t foresee any chance of playing, things were going well at Sturt for myself, and unfortunately it was Elijah who hurt his knee and was put on the long-term injury list, and that opened up a spot on the senior list.

I got the elevation in round 15 and played in round 16.

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Jack grew up in Gawler, South Australia – just 45 minutes north of Adelaide – and has a passion for all things football and soccer. Jack has worked in the media for more than four years, and hosts his own sports show on Barossa radio station BBBfm. He previously played football for Elizabeth, South Gawler, Gawler Central and at junior level with Central District, and is a die-hard Port Adelaide fan.