NOBLE Park's export Shane Savage arrived at Hawthorn just after the club's 2008 AFL premiership.
On Saturday night he hopes to be in the middle of another Hawks premiership, this time with a premiership medal around his neck.
"All the hard work paid off," he said. "Just to be a part of what's going on; it's surreal.
"I remember watching the grand final in 2008 and imagining I was out there."
Savage's story is the sort which makes kids dream; he played at TAC Cup level with Dandenong Stingrays but was never considered among the stars of his year as others played at national championships and other pre-AFL events.
But his individual talents were noticed by the Hawks who drafted him in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, eventually making his senior debut in 2009. This season, Savage has played 20 games and all the finals, kicking crucial goals against Collingwood in the qualifying final and coming on as the substitute for the final quarter of the Hawks nail-biting 10-point win over Adelaide in the preliminary final on Saturday.
Savage was substituted into the game with the Hawks just ahead of
"It was pretty intense, the crowd picked up in terms of sound, and it was important to hold our nerves and keep our structures," he said.
"We knew if we did that then things would go our way.
"Cyril [Rioli] and Shaun [Burgoyne] stepped up. They were outstanding as was Ben Stratton's tackle on [Patrick] Dangerfield."
Savage was also close by Lance Franklin when he kicked the match-sealing goal.
"It was just a great relief to see the goal go through. I was the first person over to him and I let him know about it," he said. After playing in grand finals at junior and TAC Cup level, Savage said he couldn't wait to experience AFL grand final week.
Although he will be anxiously waiting for selection night as veteran Brent Guerra is attempting to return from injury and, if fit, will take someone's spot, possibly even Savage's.
"I'd love to know right no [if I'm in the side]," he said.
"But you won't know until mid-week, the coaches will decide it.
"They are giving Guerra every chance up get up for it and it would be great to have him in the side."
Savage said he was expecting to hear from friends and family about tickets this week but hoped he could keep his focus on his preparation.
"We all just have to keep our emotions together and steady; just take the week in our stride," he said. "There is no need to play the game in your head now, you just need to get yourself right and try to chill out a little before getting down to business this week."