COLLINGWOOD mature-age recruit Sam Dwyer knew his window of opportunity was closing.
With each passing AFL draft, the former South Warrnambool talent felt his chances of stepping up from a distinguished VFL career with Port Melbourne to the elite level became slimmer and slimmer.
Yesterday, after eight seasons and 130 games at Port Melbourne, Dwyer’s wait was over.
Collingwood took a punt on the hard-working midfielder, using pick 28 in the AFL rookie draft on him.
Dwyer, 26, ensured he was still on the radar of AFL clubs.
Consistent performances with the Borough, a VFL powerhouse, kept him in draft calculations year after year.
Dwyer, who played junior football at CBC, now Emmanuel Hawks, alongside Hawthorn premiership player Jordan Lewis, was at work when he found out his wait was over.
The electrician received a call from Port Melbourne premiership coach Gary Ayres.
It signified the start of the career he’d always dreamed of.
“I got a couple of messages off a couple of friends and Gary called,” Dwyer said. “I was flat out at work so I couldn’t watch it at all.
“It’s pretty exciting. I am looking forward to getting down there and getting stuck into it.
“I spoke to them during the season and had a meeting with them a couple of weeks ago but apart from that I had no indication.”
The former Geelong Falcon said the news still hadn’t sunk in.
“With more mature players picked up you’re always a chance but obviously the window gets smaller and smaller each year,” he said.
“Every year you get a bit fitter and stronger and have a greater knowledge of the game and you develop in all areas.”
Dwyer is under no illusions — he knows he’ll have to earn his spot in a star-studded Collingwood line-up.
The three-time VFL team of the year member said he expected to play a midfield-cum-forward role at Collingwood.
“My aim is to play senior football. It’s going to be tough,” he said.
“They are all quality players.”
Ayres, who coached Dwyer at the Borough for five seasons, said his drafting was reward for effort.
“It just shows what persistence can accomplish,” he said.
“Sam’s been able to consistently play super football for Port Melbourne Football Club at VFL level and we believe the VFL is firmly the second best competition outside of the AFL.” Ayres said with self-confidence, Dwyer blossomed into a strong player renowned for his creativity, ability to find space and goal kicking.
“He continually got better and better,” he said. “He was voted into the leadership group for the first time this year.”
Collingwood recruitment manager Derek Hine said Dwyer was on the Magpies’ radar for the past two years.
“We saw him as a type of player who can come in and play midfield, wing, or forward areas,” he said.
“He’s a mature player who could potentially come in if needed.
“He started the year really well and unfortunately he hurt his leg towards the end of the year.
“Obviously he’s been medically cleared and we’re prepared to give him an opportunity.”
South Warrnambool teenager Louis Herbert and former Terang Mortlake and Collingwood footballer Luke Rounds were overlooked.
Herbert could be offered a spot as a 19-year-old on North Ballarat Rebels’ 2013 TAC Cup list and Rounds is training with Port Melbourne.