TOMMY Jones watched the 2012 Warrnambool and District league grand final knowing his time would eventually come.
The teenage speedster was an emergency for the decider against Kolora-Noorat but watched from the sidelines as the Bulldogs snatched a thrilling win.
He was the next in line to play on the Thursday night and had run out with the seniors seven times during the home-and-away campaign.
But with every player emerging unscathed from training, he missed out on being a part of club history.
Jones wasn’t disappointed. By contrast, he was rapt — for the club, community, coach Simon “Tocka” O’Keefe and his teammates.
“I remember Tocka rang me up the night before. We were waiting on injuries and seeing if lads were right to play,” Jones said yesterday.
“I was the emergency. I brought my gear and I obviously missed out. It definitely got me revved up this time.
“At the time I was the youngest lad there and there were more experienced players to be put in.
“Being the youngest player there, I had only played a few games that year. I was happy to step down and let someone else in a better position play.”
Jones, 17, is still the youngest player in the Panmure side and could have played in the under 17½ grade if he wanted to.
But his speed and much-improved kicking means he has become a vital cog for the seniors, playing 19 games and kicking 14 goals.
He will be among the Bulldogs who will take on Dennington in the 2013 grand final at Reid Oval on Saturday.
“Seeing them stick together after the game (last year), it was good to see,” he said.
“It made me want to be a part of it this year.
“I’ve played almost every game. It’ll be good to be a part of that if we win. The boys have made me feel pretty welcome, taken me under their wings.”
Jones, a year 11 student at Emmanuel College, shifted from Bacchus Marsh to Panmure six years ago.
He spent a season at Warrnambool before joining the Bulldogs.
O’Keefe, assistant coach Shaun Griffin and teammate and former junior coach Tim Condon are among his biggest mentors.
Shamus O’Beirne has also been central to his improvement.
“He’s a real joy to watch because he breaks those lines really good, breaks tackles and kicks goals,” Jones said.
Should he cap off his development with a premiership medal on Saturday, Jones said he would be just as excited as he was 12 months ago.
“We’re playing for the team and the town,” he said.