AFL Grand Final 2016: How Dane Rampe almost became a Western Bulldog
Article by Andrew Wu
Sydney's All-Australian defender Dane Rampe came tantalisingly close to becoming a Western Bulldog but says he would have been lost to the game had he worn the red, white and blue.
Number 68 picks in a rookie draft are rarely used let alone go on and have long careers but it's a player the Bulldogs did not call out in 2009 who could have a major part to play in whether this year's premiership cup heads north of the Murray or west of the Yarra.
The Dogs had told Rampe it was down to him and Williamstown teammate Patrick Rose for the final selection. They went with Rose, leaving Rampe thinking his dream of playing AFL football was over.
On the surface, history would show the Bulldogs pulled the wrong rein. Rose did not play an AFL game though has been successful in Melbourne's suburban leagues, while Rampe has become one of the most accomplished defenders in the game. He was influential in the Swans' preliminary final win over Geelong and is likely to feature prominently in Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge's planning for Saturday.
But even if the Bulldogs called him instead of Rose, Rampe does not believe he would be out on the MCG on football's biggest day. It was not until he played with his mates at the UNSW-Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs that he rediscovered his love of the game and caught the eye of Kinnear Beatson's recruiting team that the spark was reignited.
"To be honest, and this is worth noting, I wasn't ready for AFL then. The reason I'm glad I wasn't picked in the end was I wasn't ready for it," Rampe said.
"What I learned was the next three years I developed a whole lot of resilience and an appreciation for the game when I moved back to Sydney.
"Coming back to Sydney was the best thing that happened to me and I was ready for the chance the Swans gave me. I genuinely think had I been picked up in 2009 or 2010 I wouldn't be where I am today. I'd be back here doing something else."
But at the time the 19-year-old Rampe was not as philosophical. Recruiters were not as willing to take risks with older players and Rampe felt that as each year passed his hopes of getting drafted were diminishing.
"I don't know how to describe it, I was shattered. I was sitting on Twitter in my car, pretty much drove back to my place in Melbourne, packed up my bags and drove back to Sydney for the Christmas break," Rampe said.
"I was devastated. That was at a time where the talk of mature-age recruits was maybe one or two a year. It was all under 18, that was all the rage. I felt like I had missed my opportunity so I had to keep going at it.
"I was done for that part of pre-season and it wasn't until a month later after Christmas that I decided I'd give it another crack for however long it would take."
Rampe returned the following year to play in the VFL and though he was playing senior football he believed he was "merely making up the numbers".
"There was that hope of getting there again but it did the opposite. I put way too much pressure on myself, I became adsorbed in it, consumed by it and it wasn't good for my footy. I stopped enjoying it and didn't get near it after that. That was the closest I got in 2009.
"After three years it got to the stage where I reckon I had to move on. While I was hopeful something would happen up here, realistically if I couldn't crack it in Melbourne what chance was I in the Sydney league? As luck or fate had it, it worked out all right."