It was early September 2011 and a young Mark Blicavs had agreed to meet with the Geelong Football Club.
The Cats were that week set to take on their great rival, Hawthorn, at the MCG in a Qualifying Final, and a 20-year-old Blicavs had been invited to the game to meet with club recruiting manager Stephen Wells and other club representatives.
Blicavs hadn’t picked up a Sherrin since he walked away from the game to pursue a career in athletics when he was 14 years of age, but a serendipitous series of events would place Blicavs at the MCG that day and lay the foundation of one of the more remarkable careers in Cats history.
Wells would later say of the athletic Blicavs, ‘he’s got a long way to go but…we think it’s worth a punt’. And like more than a few of Well’s ‘punts’, the Blicavs experiment continues to pay major dividends for the Geelong Football Club.
But the background as to how the now 31-year-old arrived at that moment is extraordinary as it is unique and deserves a re-telling in the week that will be awarded life membership.
In 2001 Andrew Guthrie, former Essendon and Fitzroy player and father of current Cats Cameron and Zach, was coaching the Sunbury Lion Under 11’s, a club located about 40km northwest of Melbourne.
Blicavs would poll equal second in the League B&F that season behind former AFL player Mitch Banner.
Guthrie told the Herald Sun back in 2013 that Blicavs was ‘a sensational athlete with a big leap, but could seriously play football.’
However like many talented juniors Blicavs was faced with a choice between sports and would eventually choose to pursue a dream of competing at the Olympics, but his junior coach never forgot what he had seen of him on those cold mornings in Melbourne's northwest.
As the story goes, some years later Guthrie senior was at a lunch for parents of new players selected to play in the Cats’ NAB Cup side. His son Cameron had just been drafted, and in conversation with Wells, he told him of the Blicavs boy, at that point apparently lost to athletics.
The conversation would eventually lead to Wells offering Blicavs a rookie contract in November 2011 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Geelong coach Chris Scott once said it might be one of great football stories of all time, and he might he right.
A two-time Carji Greeves Medallist, Blicavs played his 215th game for the club on the weekend, and from the outside it may indeed seem like the most unlikely of stories, and it probably is.
But for those that know him, Blicavs’ supreme work ethic pared with his extraordinary athleticism meant the boy from Sunbury really could be whatever he wanted to be. Blicavs himself however was characteristically humble when reflecting on the honour but he was especially proud to be receiving the nod alongside his great mate Cam Guthrie, also nominated.
“I'm really proud”, he told geelongcats.com.
“I was told that Cam and I were receiving the life membership together around the same time… it's pretty special.”
“It's pretty special for our families too, we obviously grew up together in Sunbury and we have played all different sports together over that time.”
“It's obviously something I'll be able to hold onto for the rest of my life. To be a small part of this club for the remainder of my years, it's very exciting.”
“I'm personally stoked, it's awesome.”