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Jacob Surjan talks footy, life and 19th man saga

PHOTO: Port Adelaide Football Club.

JH: You won a colts flag there and won best on ground one year – what was that like?

JS: We won back-to-back colts’ flags there in 2002 and 2003, and our 2003 team was unbelievable.

We had Matt Moody and some other blokes who got drafted into the AFL like Paul Duffield and another guy.

We had four or five blokes from one team that got drafted and some rookies, which was a pretty amazing team.

Two out of the three guys in my bridal party played in that colts team, and they’re still very close mates to this day, which is what it’s all about.

They’re still some of my most cherished moments winning those back-to-back flags.

JH: In the 2003 AFL Draft, you were touted to go in the top 30 but didn’t get selected. Were you disappointed at the time?

JS: Yeah, I was very disappointed at the time.

The lessons that you learn, and I try to tell some of the guys now that recruiters will say things like ‘if we have this pick at this time we’re probably going to look at you, and we’d go for you.’

A lot of teams had said that to me in the top 30 and for whatever reason it fell through and it wasn’t my opportunity.

I went to work that morning and was very disappointed I didn’t get picked up, but about two minutes after the draft had finished (West Coast coach) John Worsfold called me and said, ‘I can’t believe this has happened, we want you to come out and train to get on the rookie list.’

That emotion of not being drafted went away pretty quickly.

Then the Monday morning I got to rock up to training with Daniel Kerr, Ben Cousins, Chris Judd, Dean Cox and all the guys there.

I was a West Coast supporter so to train with them and watch them train for the short amount of time, I was very lucky and grateful for the opportunity.

JH: You were then picked up by Port in the pre-season draft, did you have much contact with them up to that point?

JS: It was the 2003 pre-season draft, I spoke to Alan Stewart the day before the rookie draft, he asked me how I’m going, how am I enjoying the lifestyle and how I’m training.

I was pretty honest with him, I said this is what I want to do, and we had a really good chat.

He said to me if I’m around at their first pick in the rookie draft they’ll take me, and I was honest with him and said I’d committed to West Coast in the draft and their pick was earlier.

Not knowing Port had some pre-season picks in the draft, I was pretty lucky to get picked up with Josh Mahoney and the rest is history.

Jacob Surjan and Josh Carr after North Adelaide’s 2018 SANFL grand final win. PHOTO: Twitter

JH: You made your debut against Essendon in round one of 2004, what do you remember about it?

JS: We belted them, and it was amazing to go from not being on a list in November, finally getting on one in late December to March, April and making your AFL debut.

It was just a whirlwind.

I think I earned the guys’ respect with the way I went about my football and the way I trained, I was playing forward at the time.

So, the way I was putting on pressure in the forward 50 and going at the opposition.

I’d like to think I had a spunk and that’s why ‘Choco’ drafted me, it was a whirlwind.

To debut with Michael Pettigrew who came across from WA as well was just a dream come true, and to win in the manner we did against such a big club at the time in Essendon was unreal.

It’s something I still look back now and go wonder if that really happened.

Not too guys who get drafted into the system, especially at Port Adelaide, aside from Steven Salopek as a first-year player.

But fortunately, enough for me and ‘Petters’, we got to make our debut together.

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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.