GEELONG debutant Sam De Koning says Harry Taylor played a crucial role in settling his nerves ahead of his first match of AFL football.
De Koning describes his first-game nerves as unlike anything he had ever experienced before.
“Junior footy was nothing compared to that, I’ve never felt that nervous sickness, I was a nervous wreck until gameday,” De Koning says.
“You could ask my girlfriend and my family how I was – I was pretty bad going through with a lot of nerves leading up to the game.
“It was good once I got out there but I’ve never felt that before.”
The versatile ruck and key position prospect forged a close relationship with Harry Taylor in his first year at the club and was thrilled the club stalwart was on hand for game one.
“I worked a lot with him last year,” De Koning says.
“I sat down with him the afternoon before the game and he gave me some really good tips on my mentality and the way I should focus on it as just another game and focus on my objectives so I don’t overthink it.”
The 2019 pick 19 says Harry’s message was reinforced by his teammates once he arrived at the ground.
“Tommy Stewart got to me which I thought was really good,” De Koning says.
“He highlighted the things that he thought I did well in my game and really gave me confidence going into the game which was really nice.
“At the ground it was good, all the boys got around me and I just felt like it was another game and just got to work and focused on the things I can do.”
The moment he first stepped foot onto GMHBA Stadium as the team ran out will stick in the young Cat’s memory for a lifetime.
All the pre-match nervousness was instantly worth it as De Koning heard the roar of the crowd.
“It was unreal, it was nothing like I’ve ever felt before,” he says.
“The Geelong faithful are a really loud mob and it was amazing to see them all out in force and it was good to have that behind me in my first game which was really nice.”
Contributing to the roar was the De Koning family, some 20 persons strong and leaving the players enclosure full to the brim.
His brother Tom De Koning, also a promising ruck who has played nine games for the Blues, was a part of the large show of support.
“I think I ended up with 30 (ticket requests), 20 in the enclosure and 10 mates outside,” De Koning says.
“I had eight out of nine of my siblings there and then all the add-ons. I had my grandma there, my girlfriend was there and all my siblings’ girlfriends and partners, my nephews and uncle and cousins.
“It was really nice, it was good to see all their faces in the rooms after the game and knowing that they were there watching me in my first game was a really special feeling.
“I could just look up and see them there always cheering me on and having a bit to say so it was nice to see them up there and having that support during the game.”
De Koning needed that support as he lined up in the ruck and spied a 256-game AFL veteran across the circle.
At 20 years old and 200cm tall, De Koning is rapidly filling out his developing frame.
“I think it was Goldy, Todd Goldstein across from me at the centre bounce,” he says.
“I could see him looking at me like I was just a young punk in the middle so I had a bit to prove and just tried to jump early and see if I could get the ball and follow up which is my game.
“It was a good experience to be in the middle with everyone’s eyes on me.”
De Koning’s night on GMHBA Stadium has only whet his appetite for more chances at AFL level.
“I think it’s onwards and upwards from here and I’ll just grow in confidence and the pressure will subside and I’ll start performing the way I’d hope to,” he says.
“A bit of the loss of sleep that night and last night as well was because I just want to be out there again I want to keep trying to show what I can do and prove myself against the best competition and the best players in the league.”