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Ex-Adelaide champ still has a soft spot for Freo
Tony Modra flies for a mark during his playing days at Adelaide.

Tony Modra made his mark as an Adelaide Crow, climbing on the shoulders of opposition defenders to take some of the most spectacular grabs in AFL history.

The former high-flying full- forward is a life member of the club and still holds a host of Crows records - most career goals (440), most goals in a season (129) and most goals in a game (13, twice).

Modra, 43, who is married to Erica and is a father of two - daughter Hayley, 4, and son Luke, seven months - also has a soft spot for Fremantle, the Crows' opponents in tomorrow night's elimination final in Adelaide.

He headed west to join the Dockers in 1999 after a falling-out with then Crows coach Malcolm Blight, kicking 148 goals in 47 games, including a then club record 71 in his first year.

One of his teammates was fellow South Australian Matthew Pavlich, who arrived at Fremantle via the No. 4 pick in the 1999 national draft.

Modra isn't surprised that Pavlich has developed into Fremantle's greatest player and looms as the biggest threat to the Crows.

"I remember Pav's first training session at the club," Modra recalled from country South Australia yesterday. "He ran himself into the ground and ended up in hospital. It showed how much he wanted to be an AFL player."

Modra was full of praise for Pavlich's poise in a tense final quarter last Saturday night when Geelong, who trailed by 47 points 17 minutes into the second quarter, mounted one last challenge.

The Cats were purring, cutting the deficit to 17 points with four minutes and 30 seconds left before Pavlich struck one final, fatal blow.

He picked up a ground ball, baulked past defender Tom Lonergan and coolly slotted his sixth goal to seal Fremantle's first finals victory at the MCG.

"It shows the composure of the bloke," Modra said. "Geelong were coming back but he kept his head. He was the one who got them over the line. He kicked goals at crucial times."

Modra relished his time at Fremantle, silencing the critics who thought he was past his prime after a knee reconstruction that cost him a spot in Adelaide's 1997 premiership side, the club's first. His haul of 71 goals in 1999 was highlighted by 10 against Melbourne in round 10 in the Dockers' first win at the MCG.

He is still the only Fremantle player to have reached double figures in a game.

And only Pavlich, with 72 in 2007, has kicked more goals in a season.

"I really enjoyed my time over there. Freo gave me the opportunity to continue my AFL career. It was just a shame we didn't have more team success," Modra recalled of his three seasons, in which the Dockers finished 15th, 12th and wooden spooners.

"But there were still some special moments. Being a part of the club's first derby win over the Eagles was one of the highlights of my whole career."

Modra, a country boy at heart, is back in South Australia and is content with life as a beef cattle farmer on the Fleurieu Peninsula, 1½ hours south of Adelaide.

Weekends are spent at home with his young family. Modra doesn't care if his son never follows in his football footsteps. He just knows how lucky he is to still have him after a scare earlier in the year.

Luke was born 12 weeks premature, weighing just 1.29kg (2.8 pounds) after Erica fell ill. He was fine at birth but caught an infection at six weeks and had a three-month fight for his life.

"He went from being one of the healthiest premature babies to being one of the worst. They were worrying times," Modra said.

Modra has returned to the Crows, doing promotional work at the club for the past six years.

He will be in the change rooms before tomorrow night's game.

"Being a life member of the Crows, obviously I'd like to see them win," he said. "But I've still got a soft spot for Fremantle and will never forget the second chance they gave me. I loved my time over in Western Australia."