The Sydney Swans will go a long way towards winning the 2016 AFL grand final if Gary Rohan has a big day. You won't miss him. He's the one with the red hair. Is it polite to mention that? Oh well, we just did.
Rohan is a unique player by modern standards. These days, the first stat you always hear when they talk about good players is "disposals". Disposals are how often you get the ball. The more disposals you get, the better you are, or so it usually works.
But sports stats can be meaningless sometimes. They don't reveal the subtle touches a player brings to his work. Rohan sits just 27th on the Swans team list in terms of his average disposals in season 2016. He gets just 10 a game, while ball magnets Josh Kennedy and Dan Hannebery get 31 each.
Does that make them three times as valuable as Rohan? Well here's the thing.
"It's a deliberate thing, quality over quantity," Rohan told The Huffington Post Australia at a pre-grand final training session this week. "Yeah I don't get many possessions, so when I do get the footy, I've got to try and make it count as much as I can."
A smart man knows his strengths.
Rohan is the quickest player on the Swans' list. TV commentators and others inevitably refer to him as "The Speedster". When he gets the ball, the whole tempo of the game seems to change. It's like an injection. Suddenly everything moves faster. He can also take an overhead mark. Rohan, 25, is some player.
He's been hampered by all sorts of injuries over the years, but is finally putting great performances together week to week. But then, in the elimination final against Adelaide at the SCG two weeks ago, disaster. Or so it seemed. Rohan had been playing beautifully, but was stretchered off with a knee injury. It looked like his season could be over.
As he came off the ground, the Swans crowd roared its support for one of its most-loved players. Rohan must have heard it. Did he hear it, or was he in a shocked daze?
"Yeah, I heard it."
This reporter sat ten rows back from the sideline as the stretcher came by. Rohan's expression was blank. You thought he might acknowledge the crowd with even the faintest wave or movement of his eyes and mouth. But nothing.
"I thought my season was over," he said. Which explains the empty stare.
But Rohan recovered. Surprisingly, he was back the next week, and starred in the Swans' demolition of the Cats. And now here he is in his second grand final. But how's this one going to be different from his other grand final, the 2014 decider, in which he was one of the Swans players who generally failed to fire?
"It's about controlling my nerves and knowing when to switch off," he said. From the grand final parade on Friday to the game, I'll really switch off. That's what I probably didn't do in 2014."
Rohan comes from a small south west Victorian town called Cobden, population 1500 plus flies.
"It's a great little town, everyone knows everyone, and every time I go home there's great support. It's just a great country town. Everyone's really friendly."
What won't be so friendly this weekend is the rivalry with nearby town Camperdown, population 3,000, which is home to Western Bulldogs star Easton Wood.
"Cobden are arch rivals with Camperdown. Half of the area will be going for Easton and half will be going for me."
What's certain is that if Gary Rohan fires, the Swans will go a long way towards winning their third flag since the breakthrough premiership of 2005. You won't miss him, that's for sure.Suggest a correction