WELCOME to The Standard's new series Now and Then where we'll speak to Hampden league exports about their first senior games and seasons. First up is Koroit's Martin Gleeson who now plays for AFL club Essendon.
MARTY Gleeson remembers the coach driving to his family's farm one Thursday evening and asking to speak to his dad.
"I was walking down to the dairy to get dad to take me to footy training and Chris (McLaren) was driving home from work," he told The Standard on Friday.
"He said 'I'm going to speak to your old man'. I said 'what's that about?'.
"He said 'hopefully you can play this week, I just want to go and check it off with your parents to see if you're allowed to play'.
"He ended up driving me up to training instead of dad."
That was in 2011.
Gleeson, then a skinny 16-year-old who would've struggled to weigh "60 kilos", made his debut in round one and held his spot for the entire season.
"My first game was against Cobden under lights on a Saturday night and I think there was three of us making our Koroit debuts that night," he said.
"It was Jeremy Hausler and Aaron Moyne, so we played our first game together and had a good win."
Gleeson, who now plays half-back for Essendon, played on a wing and held his own.
"I remember I had uncles watching and they thought I might have had about 13 or 14 touches that game," he said.
"They were counting them up for me. I got a goal out the back in the goal square, I remember kicking that."
Gleeson went on to play every senior game in his Hampden league debut season.
Did McLaren know he had a soon-to-be AFL player on his hands?
"He'd probably say 'yes' but I don't think he did," Gleeson joked.
Gleeson said he was surprised to hold his spot in a Koroit team which charged to a preliminary final.
"There were times when I thought I might not play but looking back they put a lot of confidence in me and told me just to go out and play and were happy with how I was going," he said.
The Saints fell short in the penultimate game.
"We finished second or third and played Warrnambool and won that and went through to the second semi-final and played South and lost that," Gleeson recalled.
"Then we played Warrnambool in the prelim and they beat us by one or two points."
Gleeson played two games for Koroit in 2012 in between NAB League commitments with GWV Rebels.
He was drafted to Essendon at the end of that season and has watched with pride as Koroit won six premierships in a row between 2014-19. Playing for his home club again is on his to-do list.
"I'll see what happens after Melbourne and I will see where life takes me after footy but I always want to get back and play," he said.
"I never got to play in a premiership unfortunately. It's great they've had so much success now but it (missing out) is something I have been a little bit flat about.
"In 2011 we had a really good side that year and to lose in prelim by one or two points hurt."