Alex Fasolo celebrates kicking one of his two goals against West Coast at the MCG in round 13 last year.
In this week’s edition of the Sunday Q&A, we hear from the affable Alex Fasolo. The 20-year-old tables his thoughts on his first two years at the highest level and looks ahead to what 2013 might have in store.
Luke Mason: The calendar’s just flipped over to February – the tail end of your third pre-season. Does it really feel like you’ve been around this long already?
Alex Fasolo: It feels really good. You take a lot more confidence into your third year. Having a couple of pre-seasons behind you, you know what to expect a bit more and it just makes it a lot easier. You also know your body a lot more and you know what you’ve got to get done to get through another year. You definitely take confidence having a couple of years behind you.
LM: Let’s go back to the start. You were pick No. 45 in the 2010 Draft yet you are 10th on the list of games played from your intake. Were you surprised that you were drafted in the 40s at the time?
AF: In my head I probably had a feeling that I’d go anywhere between, I don’t know, 30 and 50. I probably slipped down a little bit more than I thought, but to be honest I couldn’t really care less. As long as I was getting picked up, and to be picked up by such a good club, I was stoked.
LM: You’ve got that loveable personality that everyone warms to, but was it easy to slip into a senior group featuring several superstars and iig personalities?
AF: Obviously it was a little bit overwhelming, coming to a club that had just won a premiership and had a lot of superstars running around. They’re all a really great bunch of blokes and they were very welcoming. I found it quite easy to get along with them, which was great.
LM: In 2011, you made some steady progress in the VFL before bursting onto the scene in round 12 and missing only two more games for the season. What were your expectations as you began the year, considering the side was coming off the back of the 2010 flag?
AF: After coming off winning the flag, I knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy team to break into. So really, I probably came to the club just wanting to play a game or two. But you know how it is, once you get a taste for it you just want more and more, so once I broke into the team I really didn’t want to play any more VFL. I was lucky enough to hold my spot for the rest of the year and ending up playing a few games. It was very exciting.
LM: What were the differences between the 2011 team and the one that finished in the top four but didn’t quite fire on all cylinders last year?
AF: In terms of the teams, I reckon if anything the 2012 team was as good if not better. I think a few things didn’t go our way off the field, in terms of injuries and obviously there was a lot of stuff going on last year, you know, drama in terms of the passing of John McCarthy. Those kinds of things probably ended up playing their role in the end. But I reckon our team last year was just as good. Just probably a few things that didn’t go our way but I think we’ll come good this year.
LM: In your debut season, one game stands out – the round 19 match against Essendon when you kicked five goals from six kicks. That Sunday afternoon must have felt like a dream.
AF: Yeah, to date that’s probably one of my better games. It was a lot of fun. A few things probably fell my way – right spot at the right time – but it was a lot of fun. Probably a game I won’t forget.
LM: At one stage you had five goals from as many kicks. Did it ever slip into your mind that you had to keep the streak intact?
AF: I actually did not realise that until after the game. I think someone told me afterwards, but I was obviously kicking them all right.
LM: Your finals experience was intriguing, spending time as the substitute and swaying in and out of the team at the pointy end of the year. Describe what you went through in September 2011.
AS: That whole month there was very surreal. Before you knew it, I’d just broken into the team, then I was picked for the Qualifying Final.
I came on late. There probably wouldn’t have been any more than six or eight minutes left and I got my hands on the ball and gave it to Bally, and he probably kicked the sealer. Then I kicked a goal after the siren and I probably played the best five minutes of my life but I then got dropped for the next week.
I was picked for the Grand Final the week after and it was all over very quick, but looking back, it was a very enjoyable few weeks.
LM: When did you find out that you were actually going to get picked for the Grand Final?
AF: It’s a while back now, but I found out because I was following Mick (Malthouse) around like a bad smell all week. I was in his office, it must have been the Tuesday or something, and he pulled me into his office and told me I was going to play. I was very, very excited.
LM: What about being picked as the substitute? When did you find out and what did you go through while sitting on the bench before coming on as the game was slipping away?
AS: I honestly can’t remember. I was pretty sure I knew I was probably going to be the sub from the get-go because Beamsy (Dayne Beams) pulled out pretty early and I knew there wasn’t going to be too many changes. I had a feeling I was going to be the sub, but I couldn’t have cared less.
I can’t remember the score at three-quarter time but I remember we were definitely playing good footy and I thought we can definitely win this. And then it all kind of went downhill and they put me on! It was probably my fault! I went on and Geelong kicked about three straight in about three minutes and the ball didn’t even come down into the forward line. The game was almost over before I got anywhere near it. It all happened very quick, but it’s a memory none the less.
LM: It must have been a strange experience. You only played one quarter despite having gone through the build up, but you still ended up on the losing side despite only being on the field when the game had slipped away. How would you describe the experience?
AF: Even as a junior you might bump into a few AFL players who had lost or won a Grand Final and you hear them say ‘there’s no better feeling (to win) and there’s no worse feeling than losing one’. You hear them but you don’t really…I suppose you believe it but until you cop it first hand, and even being in my first year, there’s really no worse feeling than losing a Grand Final. Any of the boys who were a part of that know that it’s very much a driving factor. It’s not a great place to be.
LM: Moving onto last year, it felt as if you were far further advanced than the average second year player. Did it feel to you like you were well and truly established as a senior player?
AF: I think the beauty of the team was that I never got too comfortable. There was always players pushing for spots and there were definitely at least a handful of blokes playing in the VFL every week that were up to the AFL standard. I never got too comfortable and that’s probably what made us quite successful. Even this year, we’ve got a couple of great recruits and blokes will definitely be looking for a run. I’ve got to be on my toes.
LM: Did the number of difference faces appearing around half forward prove a little unsettling in terms of getting continuity in that part of the ground?
AF: There were quite a number of changes each week and, look, people say it’s a bit unsettling, but I think that’s what you need to be a successful team and especially a successful forward line with pressure on spots. Last year, we probably did struggle for numbers up forward. We played six forwards every week and there were probably only seven that could play. This year I think it’s going to be a fair bit different, so we’re looking to improve as a forward line group.
LM: In the long term, do you see yourself as strictly a forward, a forward who can play in the midfield, or a midfielder?
AF: I definitely want to push into the midfield and I think this year is hopefully going to be the year where I get more a run in the middle. I’ll always have that forward string to my bow, but I’d love to be seen as more of a midfielder down the track. At the moment we’ve probably got a few too many guns and superstars floating around the middle for me to squeeze in there. Hopefully one day.
LM: What sort of midfielder do you see yourself as? The in-and-under type like Luke Ball, or a Rolls-Royce like Scott Pendlebury?
AF: Probably a bit more of a combination of both. I wouldn’t see myself as a Luke Ball, but I wouldn’t see myself as a real hard running, outside midfielder like Steele Sidebottom. Probably a little bit of a combination of both, playing a bit in, a bit out, and hopefully go forward and kick a snagger or two.
LM: How did the end of the 2012 season leave you feeling? It was a draining month for the club in several ways, and coupled with the Grand Final loss in 2011 it means you’ve seen a fair bit of what footy can serve up already.
AF: I’ve learnt a fair bit in two years, particularly towards the end of last year when there was a fair bit going on. It chops and changes, but I’ve bern lucky enough to play a bit of finals footy now. I think the fact that the list is a little bit older now and the boys are a little bit more mature, I think we’ll take confidence in what we dealt with last year especially and the year before that in losing a premiership. I think we can handle most things now so we’ll take a lot of confidence in 2013.
LM: What’s the challenge for you as an individual this year? What should Pies fans be hoping to see?
AF: I just want to keep contributing week in, week out, to be honest. I’d love to push into the midfield a bit more this year and find a bit more of the ball and not just see myself as a forward. At the same time, if I’m playing that forward role well, I just need to make sure I keep contributing and getting a game each week. That’d be nice.
LM: Away from footy, you’ve spent some time with Daniel Harford on radio SEN1116. Explain how that came about.
AF: Ahh, the Fas Files! That was a bit of a work placement last year. I went to the AFL Players Association and I’m sort of interested in the media side of things and to see how it all works, so I got some work experience at SEN.
I thought it was going to be very behind the scenes in more of an observing role but before you knew it, ‘Harf’ wanted to have me on in a five-minute stint called the Fas Files where I got to talk absolute rubbish for a few minutes and have a laugh. It was lots of fun and it was a good opportunity to see how it all works. So maybe this year I might do a little bit more work with them if I get the opportunity, but nothing’s in cement just yet. It was very enjoyable.
I have also had the fortune of dressing up as a girl on The Footy Show in front of a fair few viewers. We won’t make a habit of that! I’m not too sure who roped me into it. Bally stole the show with his terrific performance as Bruce Springsteen and somehow I was playing the Courteney Cox role as the beautiful lady he pulls up on stage to dance with him. It was good fun.
LM: A few players you are quite close to such as Luke Rounds and Tom Young have both moved on and guys such as yourself, Josh Thomas, Paul Seedsman and Ben Sinclair have now been on the scene for a few years. Does it leave you with a greater idea of the context of your careers, in terms of how quickly it can all pass by?
AF: It was amazing in that I got drafted with about 13 other blokes and from that year, it’s only been two years, but it’s onl y me and Paul Seedsman left.
I have a couple of good mates in Tom Young and Luke Rounds who live very close to me so I still see a lot of them which is great. They’ve all moved on, but it’s a very cutthroat industry. I guess that’s the nature of it as boys move on, but I still keep in touch with them. It’s a good way to make friends.