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George Fiacchi: ‘Putting on a Port Adelaide guernsey made you feel superhuman’

He grew up in an Italian family which had little idea about Australian Rules football. Now years later, George Fiacchi is a seven-time Port Adelaide premiership player, a Jack Oatey Medallist, and most recently, a Port Adelaide Hall of Famer. The silky defender went One on One with Jack Hudson to look back on his career.

PHOTO: portadelaidefc.com.au

Jack Hudson: You grew up in a family that had little idea on Aussie Rules football. So, how did you get to here?

George Fiacchi: I’ve had a bit of time to reflect recently.

My brother, who is six years older than me, he was playing football.

I just followed up, and I started kicking the footy around, and one of my uncles bought me a pair of black and white hooped socks in the early 1970s and that’s what made me a Port Adelaide supporter.

That’s how I got into it, I didn’t have a lot of family influence aside from my brother, but I just started playing at Rosewater and went through the system there.

I got to Port Adelaide at under 15s, and worked my way through 17s, 19s, reserves and into the league side.

I was very lucky to have a successful career playing in seven premierships, 236 games and a lot of fun.

JH: What was it like at Rosewater growing up?

GF: It was a great football club, it was great for me as a junior.

I had some great coaches there, now when I do reflect, I can see the ones that really helped me get through a lot of difficult times and made me realise that it set me on the path and said this is what you needed to do to develop.

Yes, you’ve got a lot of natural ability, but you need to work hard, you need to work on this part of the game, and they set me up for success.

That’s what you want when you’re playing junior footy, you want your coaches to be out there to develop players and instil the will to win, but it’s also about developing and watching players go through the system.

JH: When was the first time you walked through the doors at Port Adelaide?

GF: I reckon I was (as a player) about 13-years-old.

I was training with the under 15 squad back then, that was the only squad they had.

It was the first time I got to put on a Port Adelaide guernsey.

I played against Norwood in the Kookaburra Cup, and we had a win.

We ended up in Port Lincoln and played against a Port Lincoln combined side, which was our country zone.

A lot of those players that we played in that under 15 competition, we ended up playing with in league football.

It was unique, it was good to see.

JH: How early was it hammered into the players that “Port Adelaide exists to win”?

GF: As soon as you walk in the door, it’s crazy.

The expectations from the under 15 coaches, you are now at Port Adelaide, here’s a thing that you need to do to be Port Adelaide.

Silly things like if you see someone’s hand on the ground – step on it, that’s Port Adelaide.

I can do that, no problems at all.

But it really got hammered in when I was 17, I was training with the league squad, and they had a psychologist come through.

The psychologist said ‘look, I’ve gone through the history of the Port Adelaide Football Club’; there was probably about 120 years of history.

He worked out what Port Adelaide’s average position where they finish on the premiership table each year is.

I asked people the question, “what do you think Port Adelaide’s average year was?”, they always say maybe fourth or third.

An average year for Port Adelaide is to finish second, Port Adelaide plays in a grand final every year.

There’s the expectation.

It could’ve been a bit daunting, but we thought, ‘that’s fantastic, we play for this awesome club that has all its success and now it’s my opportunity to grow on that success’, which we were able to do.

Some people see that as pressure, and I say it’s not pressure, it’s expectation of a footy club; we should be proud of that.

It wasn’t always easy – my third league game, I look back now, we played Glenelg down at the Bay, and we got smashed.

I remember picking up the paper the next day and there was a statement that said, ‘this is the worst Port team since the war’.

I was thinking what have I done? I was thinking when the war was, about 40 years ago.

Then I thought, gee, I hope he’s not talking about World War I.

There were big expectations, but the biggest thing I found was the expectations of the supporters.

I grew up in the Port Adelaide area, I used to run around making out I was Russell Ebert, Brian Cunningham, Paul Belton, Andy Porplyzia, and they used to say on radio that these players were superheroes, and you’d hear these comments.

So, I believed as soon as you put on a Port Adelaide guernsey, you become superhuman.

I put my first Port guernsey on, I looked in the mirror, I said ‘oh no I’m in trouble here, I’m not superhuman’.

Until I ran out onto the field, the supporters and all the expectation, that’s what makes you superhuman.

They expect you to win, they even wrote the song “Magpies expect to win”.

It’s pressure you love; you know if you win, people are going to have a good week, they’re going to celebrate, and it makes your life a lot easier.

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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.