Former Fremantle midfielder Brett Peake says he never imagined he would be playing in the grand final at the MCG today when he asked to be traded at the end of last season.
The Saints speedster broke a long silence on the eve of the clash with premiership favourites Collingwood to discuss his rollercoaster ride.
The 27-year-old was dropped by Fremantle in round 21 last year and later joined St Kilda in exchange for draft pick 48.
Peake and Essendon's Andrew Lovett were recruited to add extra run to Ross Lyon's team.
The former Docker became even more important after the club sacked Lovett before the season began when he was accused of sexual assault.
Even though he was joining a club which played in the grand final last year, Peake said a premiership was not on his radar when the trade happened.
"Not really," he said. "It's something that was so far ahead, I was just really keen on getting over here and giving it my best shot.
"I look back 12 months now and I've got the chance to do something special. I'm focused on the ultimate goal because the job's not done until the final siren.
"I've been here for the whole year now so I feel like I'm slowly fitting in and understanding what the team wants from me. I think I understand the game more and what's needed out of the individual."
Peake's father, Brian, won three premierships for East Fremantle during 305 games for the WAFL club. But Brian never played in a VFL grand final after joining Geelong in 1981. The Cats lost the 1981 preliminary final to Collingwood and did not play in September again until years after Peake had returned to WA.
"It would be nice to get one up on him in terms of an AFL grand final," Brett Peake said.
Peake will be one of two former Fremantle players on the field.
Collingwood big man Leigh Brown played 63 games for the Dockers before moving to North Melbourne and then later getting drafted by the Magpies. Brown and Peake have received phone calls and messages of support from their ex-teammates.
Brown has had to endure plenty of setbacks to get to his first grand final. It took him 129 games to play in a final and the Kangaroos lost that by 87 points. He lost his second final by a whopping 106 points and it took him more than 200 games to finally experience winning a final.
"I'm excited," Brown said. "It's been a long journey. It's been 11 years to get this opportunity. Playing two years in a row in the finals has been fantastic and now the big prize is there to grab. I've been a bit more settled this year playing in the ruck and going forward. I haven't had to go to the back line as much. That's helped my game."
While Peake and Brown will be playing in their first grand final today, former Peel midfielder Farren Ray is hoping it will be second time lucky.
Ray played for St Kilda in last year's grand final after switching from the Western Bulldogs.
He said losing last season to Geelong had given him extra motivation this year and also taught him valuable lessons about how to prepare for a grand final.
"You can't afford to change too much because what has got us here has worked," Ray said. "I think you have to enjoy it and think 'what will be, will be'. I've enjoyed this week more than last year. I've had less nerves … I've got that bit more experience and that's a lot better.
"It's (last year's loss) been on my mind all year, whenever we had a bad quarter or whenever we were down.
"I remember we had an important win in Perth. We were down at half-time and thought we're not going to not make it this year. That sort of thing really helped us.
"It'll be more rewarding if the result goes our way. It'll be crushing if it doesn't. It's been a good effort by us. We've had a lot of things go against us. But we don't want to stop here."
Eight West Australians will play, four for each club. Besides Peake and Ray, they are Collingwood's Sharrod Wellingham, Leon Davis, Alan Toovey and Harry O'Brien, and Saints Clint Jones and Michael Gardiner.
The game will include 12 players who were previously drafted as rookies. One of those, Wellingham, almost had his grand final dream ended by an ankle injury in the qualifying final, but played last week.
Wellingham said the number of rookies playing showed how important it was for people to stay positive.
"It's awesome," he said. "I lived with (Pies skipper) Nick Maxwell when I first moved over. He was a rookie, too. It just shows that hard work is what will get you somewhere."
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