THE best day of Gary Rohan’s life will become the biggest motivating influence of his emerging football career.
The sidelined Sydney dasher was yesterday involved in celebrations after the Swans defeated Hawthorn in one of the best AFL grand finals in history.
Sydney won 14.7 (91) to 11.15 (81) in front of 99,683 fans at the MCG on Saturday to clinch its first flag since 2005, and the fifth in club history.
Swans onballer Ryan O’Keefe won the Norm Smith Medal for his 28-disposal, 15-tackle performance.
Rohan, a former Cobden footballer, watched the final from behind the city-end goals with his brother Ash, along with extended family and friends.
He described the premiership as “overwhelming, very exciting”. “It’s still sinking in we won the grand final. All the boys are excited and partying hard,” he said.
But amid the bliss of being part of a premiership was a tinge of disappointment that he wasn’t a part of the grand final.
A broken leg suffered in round four meant Rohan, along with Ben McGlynn who failed to overcome a hamstring injury, became the season’s hard-luck stories.
“I was shattered I wasn’t going out there with the boys, but I got over that. I was very excited for the boys,” he said.
“This is going to drive me to get here next year, me and Ben McGlynn.
“It hit him more than me. I played the first four but he played the whole year and got injured in the first final. I felt for him.”
The grand final was as much a rollercoaster for Rohan as it was for his 22 teammates making history on the hallowed MCG turf.
Hawthorn dominated the first quarter but failed to capitalise on the scoreboard until late in the term.
Sydney was reeling, but hit back. Eight consecutive goals, including two from Mitch Morton — the unlikeliest of grand final heroes — handed them a 16-point lead at half-time, which became 28 soon after.
Then the sleeping giant awoke.
David Hale converted a testing shot and Lance Franklin followed up with two memorable kicks from outside 50.
Isaac Smith and Jack Gunston followed suit and suddenly Hawthorn had the lead.
The Hawks were 19 points up. Then 28 down, then five up. Early in the last quarter their lead was a seemingly match-winning two goals.
“When they were coming back and hit the front I got really nervous, started biting my nails — I’ve got no nails left,” Rohan said.
But the Swans, conjuring the never-say-die spirit they have become renowned for, had the final say.
Champion Adam Goodes put them in front for the last time with a dribbled kick before Nick Malceski entered football folklore with a flag-sealing snap.
“It was one of the best feelings ever. As soon as it went through we knew we had it,” Rohan said.
“I had sent my mum a message saying ‘how long is left?’. “As soon as he kicked that it was all right.
“I think we’ll start seeing that more than Leo Barry’s mark.”