Luke Parker already has an AFL premiership among his many honours but the Sydney co-captain has a vested interest in securing a second after starting as the substitute in that triumphant team.
The Swans’ midfielder made an immediate impact at the elite level with 13 games including two finals in his debut season, then playing the first 10 matches of 2012 before breaking a collarbone.
The then 19-year-old found it difficult to break back into the Swans’ onball brigade and was handed the green substitute’s vest in round 23 and for the three finals victories that followed.
Parker had little opportunity to be a super sub in 2012 as he was called into action late in each final, including in the grand final win against Hawthorn when he had only three disposals.
He’s desperate to have more influence on the Swans’ next flag.
“It does drive me, it always has since then,” Parker told AAP about his substitute role in 2012.
“But probably more, I think when you win a flag you almost take it for granted when it happens so early in your career, and you don’t understand the journey that sometimes it takes to get to that point.
“Over the last six or so years I’ve come to understand the ups and downs, and the emotional rollercoaster that football can be.
“We’ll have to see what happens this week but to win a flag again at this stage of my career would be really special.”
Parker appeared in two more grand finals in 2014 and 2016, and has been recognised with an All-Australian blazer in 2016 and club champion awards in 2014, 2017 and 2021.
Much like the now 29-year-old Parker experienced with nine finals wins, a premiership and personal honours in his first six seasons, the current crop of young Bloods are on the brink of tasting early success.
Of the 23 Swans named in the qualifying final against Melbourne, 14 enjoyed their first finals victory when beating the reigning premiers by 22 points, and now face Collingwood at the SCG with a grand final spot up for grabs.
“The last grand final I was in, I was 23, so I was still quite young and early on in my career,” Parker said.
“It’s something that I won’t take for granted if it happens again and I try to get that across to the younger guys.
“The main thing for them is that they go out and enjoy their football and play the best they can. Everyone is on their own individual journey while our group is on a journey together.”
Parker and resurgent forward-ruck Sam Reid are the only Swans from the 2012 premiership side set to line up against the Pies on Saturday, with Josh Kennedy sidelined by a hamstring injury.
The retiring Kennedy is now a mentor to the Swans young guns from the interchange bench, while also providing his more experienced teammates one last boost of inspiration.
“It is a bit of extra motivation,” Parker said about winning a flag for Kennedy.
“He’s been an incredible player for so long at this club and someone I’ve admired my whole career and still do.”