Williamstown lad Jack Madgen will remember his AFL debut for many reasons.
Last Saturday night the 25-year-old basketball convert took his first steps at the very top level, playing for Collingwood in what proved to be a thrilling encounter at the famous Sydney Cricket Ground against the Sydney Swans.
In his first senior AFL game for the Magpies, the 192cm, defender finished with 13 possessions, including 11 in the first half.
He had the onerous task of standing on the competitions most dynamic footballer Lance “Buddy” Franklin for a couple of quarters and endured a heartbreaking two-point loss.
As dramatic as the game was, Madgen’s journey to AFL football was equally spectacular.
He was collected last year by Collingwood as a Category B rookie from a basketball heritage, having been out of the code for at least three years.
“Basketball has always been my first passion,” Madgen told the Barossa Herald.
“I wouldn’t have changed the journey. The opportunity to play four years of college basketball in America meant I met my partner Heidi Nichols, gained a degree in marketing and had many wonderful experiences and made a lot of friends.
“Yes, Saturday night was a bit of a baptism of fire, but I enjoyed it.
“Nathan Buckley (coach) brought the group in on Thursday and told us, I was making my debut.
“I had been an emergency for the previous game so I knew I was a chance, but I just wanted to go through the processes and do my usual training.
“It was a devastating way to lose the game with (Tom) McCartin kicking that snap goal, but we still had two chances after that with forward 50 entries.
“Both Nick Maxwell and our backline coach Justin Longmuir gave me some advice about my performance post game.
“It was a good learning experience playing on a current legend of the game (Franklin) and it taught me a few things in that time I had on him.
“One thing you note at AFL level is when you turn the ball over you punish straight away. Madgen becomes the first senior Barossa District footballer to enter AFL ranks.
Back in 2010 Madgen was coached by SA Football Hall of Fame legend Roger James, a premiership player at the Power, Norwood, Barossa District and Kersbrook.
“Jack was dominating at Colts level, so he also pushed up and he also played A grade for me that year,” James said.
“He was wonderfully versatile being after play in attack, down back and even in ruck.
“Athletic and with good skills for his size, Jack was already performing well against men.
“You always knew he’d do the work and he comes from a cracking family.
“I remember one specific Saturday where he was best in our Colts, played a significant game for us at A grade level and then went out and scored 40-odd points for the Mavericks that night.”
At Madgen’s first AFL game on Saturday night were Jack’s parents, Gene and Deborah, siblings Tess and Carly, a couple of mates from his days at Barossa, Damian Rowley and Mark Van Dommelle, aunty Mandy Madgen and her partner Dion Otto and a mate from Mount Gambier, Kingsley Clark.
Madgen also confirmed he had a lot of friends and extended family that have been in contact with him and sent well-wishers.
It is also now football folklore that 900-goal indigenous AFL champion Lance Franklin said to Jack in some pre-game banter that Jack ‘should have stayed with basketball, as it would prove to be a long night playing against him’.