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Jacob Surjan talks footy, life and 19th man saga

JH: You were a gutsy sort of player – how does that mentality develop?

JS: I guess that was just me, whenever people think about me now and the way I played they say that, they say, ‘you were courageous, you were a tough little prick’ and stuff like that.

That’s the reputation I had and that’s the reputation I like to have, and people to remember me by.

But it just came down to the willingness to win and compete and if I had an opponent I just wanted to beat him.

I guess that’s what footy is, and if you can do that better than the next bloke, then you’re going to get the opportunity week in, week out and I think that was my strength of the team back then.

JH: 2007 was a pretty good year up until that grand final, what do you remember about that year and that day?

JS: That year was unbelievable, we had a mixture of some old veterans and some middle guys and some really young exciting talent.

It was a great year, you sort of moved into the pressing and the zoning game in 2007, we were just a bunch of kids that wanted to go out and play footy and hang out together.

It was a fantastic year and then grand final day, it was a really disappointing day not just for the team but the supporters.

The way I see it was we were a team before a time with some older guys, and Geelong were a team who were ready to go.

You look at that team now, they have 8-12 hall of famers at any stage of their lifetime.

They were a phenomenal team, when I talk to people about it, I say ‘I have no regrets about it, and yeah we lost a game of football, but I got to play in front of 100,000 people, have you?’
No-one can say that, there were 44 guys, 22 from Port Adelaide that got that opportunity and I’m very grateful for that space.

JH: 2008 and 2009 was a bit of an up and down time for Port, what do you remember about it?

JS: 2008 was a frustrating year, we were in and out of the finals, it was a bit more of a development year, we brought some more kids in to trial.

In 2009 was my most consistent year, that and 2007, I felt like I was one of the premier small backmen in the competition, I was rarely beaten by any small forwards at that time.

It was the best year I finished in the best and fairest too, which was about third or fourth.

In the crunching of the numbers it probably shows that was my best year, and I felt I had something to prove to people and did.

JH: 2010 you were made vice-captain; how did that feel?

JS: Yeah, ‘Choco’ made me vice-captain for the year, and he left halfway through the year.

It was a frustrating year for me, we’d hired a new weights coach and it was all about getting big and strong like Geelong, and unfortunately for me I had a bit of cartilage removed out of my knee and it wasn’t getting right, and I was playing at about 87kg, and it was too heavy, I was putting too much stress through my knee.

I played up to my 100th game and then I was out for the rest of the year.

I remember I wanted to put off the operation because it was Choco’s last game, but I was booked in and the docs wouldn’t let me.

JH: What was the transition like from Choco to Matty?

JS: Interesting.

I really liked Matty and I like him as a person but when you’ve been in the same system for such a long-time, I was probably a bit disappointed.

I think Matty did a great job after taking over from Choco, but I was always a little disappointed in the club for not exploring other options.

In saying that, I had a really poor attitude that pre-season.

I didn’t do any training because I couldn’t train, and I rocked up in pretty poor form.

It was probably one of the regrets I have not coming back in better shape and as a leader, as a vice-captain and saying let’s get in behind Matty.

I felt for Matty a bit as he didn’t have the support as coach that an AFL coach should have.

Once Keith (Thomas) came in, he started putting in the list management and a few other coaches came in.

Unfortunately for him it probably wasn’t the right time and we probably needed a coach had some experience in running a young list and, unfortunately for Matty, he’s a ripper and a great Port man, a lot of the playing group takes a bit of the onus on where we were at that stage.

I was one of those guys who came back with a really poor attitude and thought the club’s done wrong and we should’ve gone outside and looked for fresh ideas, but that’s the decision the club made, and they have to live with and I have to live with.

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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.