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The Fish That Won’t Stop Swimming: A Q&A with Former Sydney Swans Rookie Sam Fisher

In 2016, Sam Fisher fulfilled his childhood dream when he was selected in AFL’s Rookie Draft by the Sydney Swans. After a year of playing alongside the likes of Lance Franklin, Kieran Jack and Isaac Heeney, the 19-year-old was given the heartbreaking news that he wouldn’t be re-signed. Two years later and Fisher refuses to give up on his AFL dream. Fisher signed with Carlton’s affiliate side, the Northern Blues in VFL, as he looks to fight his way back into AFL.

This Q&A will cover the rapid rise and fall of the Canberra born star and gain an insight into why he simply refuses to give up his AFL dream.

Fisher training for the Northern Blues earlier this month. Photo: Cristian Filippo (Carlton Media)

How did you feel when you got the call from the Sydney Swans and were told that you were going to be drafted?

It’s hard to describe the emotions I felt, it almost didn’t feel real. It didn’t really sink in until about a month after I’d started pre-season training at the club. I looked into the mirror and realised that I was living in Sydney as a full-time footballer. It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember.

You experienced the highs and lows of what the AFL system can bring. When and how were you told that you weren’t going to be re-signed?

On the day of the rookie draft, I trained with the squad that morning and they told me to hang around at the club and watch the rookie draft. So I stayed and watched the draft on TV with a few other boys and I didn’t see my name come across the screen. John Longmire, Sydney’s Coach, came in and said to me, “sorry we’ve had to make the call. It could be a big mistake but we ended up choosing AJ.” It was brutal. I never really had any warning or indication of what direction the club was going in.

What did you feel at that time?

I was shattered. It was honestly so hard to believe because I’d had such a great year in NEAFL. I thought I’d done everything to deserve another year on the list. It felt almost similar to being drafted, it just didn’t sink in.

It could have been very easy for you to walk away and move on with your life. What was the reason behind you joining the VFL and the Northern Blues?

After I didn’t get re-signed at Sydney, I sat down with my manager to discuss my next move. I spoke with VFL and SANFL clubs. I knew that I still wanted to pursue a career in AFL and I had what it takes to play at the highest level and match the calibre of talent in AFL. Still being so young I knew there was still time to make an impact in AFL. So when my manager recommended VFL, Victorian Football League, as the best possible destination, I didn’t hesitate.

You were invited to train with Carlton ahead of the draft after a brilliant debut season in VFL. How did the training standards of Carlton differ to those of the Sydney Swans?

Arriving at Carlton, I had a brief understanding of what pre-season was going to be like, as most AFL clubs are pretty similar. The intensity and difficulty were similar to what I had endured in Sydney. I guess the main difference at Carlton was they’re a club still in the rebuilding phase. Sydney’s training standards are second to none. That winning mentality is why they are one of the most successful clubs in AFL.

Although you trained with Carlton, you missed out again on draft selection. Did that impact your desire to continue pushing for an AFL recall? 

Going into training with Carlton I went in with an open mind. I wasn’t focused on getting drafted, but instead putting my best foot forward for 2019. Even though I didn’t get picked up, I still managed to put myself in a better position to prove myself in VFL this year. I’d got my fitness to that of an AFL standard and added some valuable experience to my game. There’s no doubt I have the desire to play at AFL level. I will continue to work on my game, but for me, there is no limit on what I’m capable of achieving moving forward.

What is the key motivation behind the continued pursuit of your AFL dream?

Obviously having a taste of the lifestyle at the Swans, I know how good it is. The main reason now is that I have dedicated so much of my life to this career. I’ve sacrificed so much and put in so much hard work that getting a second opportunity would be the ultimate reward.

Have you thought about what life outside of football holds for you if you don’t get drafted?

Yes, I know that at the end of the day, AFL is just a game. I’m studying engineering, which gives me a good balance and takes my mind away from football. If it doesn’t work out in AFL, I’ve still got other passions outside of football that I’m excited to pursue.

Fisher’s talent is undeniable, but it is his passion and desire to return to AFL that could inspire one of the greatest redemption stories. I wish Fisher all the best in his career. 

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