The West

Jetta longing for the moment on biggest stage
Lewis Jetta on his way to his breakaway goal against Collingwood. Pic: Getty Images

For Lewis Jetta, dreamtime at the MCG will come on Saturday if enough space opens up for him to deliver his Bunbury family the "Michael Long moment" it craves at football's famous home.

On the back of his hot heels which scorched the ANZ Stadium turf for one of the running goals of the season last Friday night, Jetta said Long's three-bounce goal for Essendon in the 1993 grand final had already been the talk of his family this week.

The Jettas, including Lewis' parents Peter and Francis and five siblings, will travel en masse to the MCG for the grand final against Hawthorn. The Swans speedster said he planned to turn on his afterburners against the Hawks as payback for the family support which had fuelled his journey.

Peter told The West Australian earlier this year that he and his wife had sometimes sacrificed meals during his son's childhood just so he could eat while he was chasing his football dream.

"Never in my wildest dreams would I have been thinking I'd be playing in an AFL grand final," Jetta said.

"I just want to have my family there to witness and experience playing in a grand final.

"Just to have that support there, especially my partner Jess, will be good.

"I want to pay them back by making it to the grand final and hopefully, win. I've started to get a bit nervous already and I can't wait.

"Before I got drafted it was an up-and-down ride and I wasn't too sure whether I was ever going to get drafted or not. But once I got the opportunity, I just grabbed it with both hands and I've never looked back.

"Now on Saturday, big ground, MCG, it couldn't be more perfect. The big ovals, I love them."

Jetta said his naturally laid-back nature meant that it usually took time for "exciting things to sink in" and he would use that as a bonus to stay relaxed in the lead-up to the premiership decider.

He was just four years old when Long tore the heart out of Carlton in the first quarter of the 1993 grand final, but had seen the famous vision many times.

"Yes, I have - that big long run," he said.

"It would be good to get that type of space. Dad asked me if I remembered that game with Michael Long and the way he ran and I said: 'Yeah, yeah'. He said: 'Do that there, just grab it and take off and run'.

"It would be amazing just to have that opportunity and the body is fresh and ready to go, especially after getting some form during the finals. There's open space out there, so I just want to do what I do best and play to my strengths - running and carrying, hitting targets or finishing off with goals."

While the football world has marvelled at Jetta's pace and creativity, his coach John Longmire and teammates such as Jude Bolton have been more embracing of the improved defensive pressure which has made him a more dangerous player.

"It exhilarating seeing him run away and bounce away," Bolton said after Jetta's sizzling run and goal against Collingwood.

"But I've really loved the way he's put a lot of pressure on this year, working both sides of the footy. Certainly, we need to be able to get it out to him in space and let him do his job and as long as he keeps his work rate up, he's going to be a really important player."

Jetta revealed grand final opponent Cyril Rioli's vast weaponry with and without the ball had been an inspiration for his defensive improvement. But even Rioli said he had been "jumping off the couch" while watching the Swan storm to goal against the Magpies.

Asked this week if he could have run Jetta down, Rioli said: "Probably not, but I would have tried to."

Jetta said the "little standing ovation" he received from Sydney fans last Friday night had brought back memories of his first goal, which came, ironically against Hawthorn, in 2010 after he had started his career with 19 consecutive behinds.

But he described the latest addition to his bulging highlight reel as the favourite goal of his career and detailed his mindset as his opportunity unfolded.

"I was wondering where (Alan) Toovey was because he was playing on me," he recalled.

"But he must have been somewhere else and I was sitting by myself just waiting for the ball to pop out to the outskirts. Dan Hannebery jumped up and saw me and when the ball came to me I just looked up and thought, 'Look at that space, I'm gone here'.

"I saw Nathan Brown behind me and got a bit excited . . . the further I ran, the crowd got louder. I kept looking behind just to make sure he wasn't gaining on me, but if he was coming closer I would have had another gear.

"I didn't want to do any muscles so I stayed away from him just enough to give me some time to have a shot if I had to."

Jetta said the tight-knit Swans felt deeply for Ben McGlynn, who yesterday failed in his bid to overcome a hamstring injury suffered in Sydney's first final.

His absence opens the door for former West Coast and Richmond forward Mitch Morton to play in his first grand final.

While he lamented not having won All-Australian selection last week after being named in the final squad of 40, Jetta said he had greater motivation and that had driven him to his compelling performance against Collingwood and now, beyond to the biggest game of his life.

"I was a little bit disappointed, I reckon I had a pretty good season," he said.

"But I was also happy that I made it into the squad and that's the way I looked at it. It was good to be noticed, but I'd prefer a nice, big gold medallion around my neck than an All-Australian (guernsey).

"That's why I played the best I could on the weekend, just to try and make that dream come true. We all know we've got one more week to go and one more job to get done.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it's going to be fun."

The West Australian

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