The number 35 guernsey is synonymous with two legendary names at Collingwood - Peter Daicos and Simon Prestigiacomo.

Presti was drafted at pick #10 in 1995 and in his 14 seasons at the top level he became one of the most respected full backs in the league.

Described by Jonathan Brown as the toughest defender he's ever played on, his legacy is such that the number 35 jumper is now handed to the club's first draft choice every year.

Presti joined Return to the Nest to chat about his time at the club.

The Pain Room at Vic Park

"I was reasonably confident I was going to get picked (in the draft) and spoke to quite a few teams," Presti said.

"I was a Fitzroy supporter growing up so I spoke to them and it seemed like they were keen.

"Sydney and the Eagles came to our house... I didn't know where I was going.

"There was no word from Collingwood until Ricky Barham rang me the night before the draft and said 'don't be surprised if we draft you, good luck.'"

Sure enough, the Pies selected him at pick #10.

"The next day we came into the club and the old Woodsmen social club members had converted a room into 'The Pain Room'," he said.

"It was a circuit with weights, chin ups and one of the stations was everyone telling us how hard pre-season was going to be.

"We were these 17-year-olds sitting in chairs with Tony Shaw and other players standing over us yelling - it was a bit of fun."

Footy was still a part time endeavour in the mid '90s and Shaw was his ride to and from Vic Park in those early days.

Presti has always been a man of few words and conversations in Shaw's car were especially one sided.

"Here was this club legend picking me up and taking me home after training - I was pretty intimidated," he said.

"Shawry likes to joke now that he'd chat to himself the entire time.

"I didn't give him much."

Learning fullback under Frawley

Presti played on the ball and in attack during his junior footy and was drafted as a potential key forward.

"A couple of weeks before I made my debut we were playing Melbourne at Punt Road," Presti recalled.

"The great Danny Frawley was our reserves coach and he approached me during the week and said 'we have a few injuries in the backline at senior level - we're going to play you at fullback.'

"I ended up having a good game and that was my downfall... I often wonder what would have happened with my career if I had 10 kicked on me and Shawry and Spud just went 'nah, he's no good in the backline.'

"Would I have kicked 1000 goals or would I have played two more games and never played again? It was a sliding doors moment."

Frawley helped shape Presti as a defender.

"Spud was a massive competitor but he loved to have fun too," he said.

"He was really important in my development - we would sit down and do video work together."

Weekly battles with the best

Presti lined up against the best key forwards in the competition every week and it was a responsibility he didn't take lightly.

"I used to get really, really anxious and for some reason it seemed to get worse the older I got," he said.

"I didn't enjoy the lead up to games and my wife and kids knew not to talk to me when we were driving in.

"Once you get into the game that feeling disappears, but that fear of failure leading in... 'is this the game they will kick 10 or kick the winning goal on me?'

"A lot of the time I was written off and proving people wrong is what would drive me."

"The more nervous I was the better I played, if I was complacent about a match-up I would often play a crap game.

"When I was playing, key forwards were kicking more goals and you would regularly see them kick 10.

"If I was playing on a Richo or whoever and held him to two or three goals, that was a win.

The biggest bag ever kicked on him? Scott Cummings.

"I don't like to admit this very often but Scott kicked seven on me one day when he was playing for West Coast," he said.

"He used to run our functions here (at Collingwood) and every so often I was interviewed and he would bring it up every time."

So close, yet so far

Presti was the club's equal third best and fairest (behind Nathan Buckley) in 2000 and he was an important cog in the backline structure ahead of back-to-back Grand Finals.

"We played a lot of Friday night games (in those years) because we were doing well," he said.

"You would recover on Saturday morning, have the weekend off and when you came in on Monday everyone was up and about.

"Our confidence grew and getting through to the Grand Final (in '02) was amazing.

"I have never watched the 2002 Grand Final but you often see highlights... if I was watching the footy marathon on Grand Final eve and that game was on I'd turn it off.

"It was good to finally have some success in those years and we were probably laying the building blocks for the young guys coming in who won the flag in 2010."

Simon Prestigiacomo assesses a kick during round 5, 1999.

Corky horror story

In 2010, with two opportunities to play in a Grand Final in the same fortnight, Presti missed both through injury.

"I had a knock on my quad in the last minute or two of the game in round 17 or 18," he explained.

"I thought it was just an annoying corky but the next morning I woke up and it was pretty sore and during recovery it was killing me.

"I rang the physio and went in on the way home and he looked at it and went, 'I'm ringing the doctor.'

"They both looked at it and went, 'we're ringing the hospital.'"

The gruesome fix involved cutting the skin and muscle open - a six inch slice down his thigh to release the pressure.

"To do that would have been season over," Presti said.

"The other option was a tube to flush it out, so we did that and I stayed overnight in hospital.

"We did two ops to drain it and I couldn't bend my leg at all, it was rock hard.

"I have a pretty high pain tolerance and it was bad."

While his goal was to make himself available for the first final, he didn't make it back for the prelim.

"Mick told me I was still in contention for the Grand Final, early in the week he said 'get yourself up and I'll play you.'

"In a training session that week I felt my groin go bang but when Mick called I said 'yep I'm good to go.'

"I knew I could hide it and walk through that training session on the Friday... I couldn't keep up, couldn't turn and I was hobbling but no one noticed."

After a few sleepless nights, he made the selfless decision to put a line through his own name.

"It was tough watching from the stands and when the draw happened I thought, 'this gives me a bit of extra time.'

"I did some more recovery but two or three days into the week I knew I wasn't going to get up.

"It was a surreal feeling, I remember standing on the ground and it felt like I had never stood on the MCG before.

"It felt weird, being in my suit and seeing everyone so happy but deep down I was disappointed for myself."

The perfect place to retire

"I probably thought about retirement a couple of years earlier when I had a foot injury in 2008," he said.

"2009 ended up being probably one of the best years I ever had.

"I was just going to see how it went and in the off season I was chatting to Mick - one day I was retired, the next day I was playing on.

"One day I was sitting in a Bubba Gump restaurant in Bali and I said to my wife, 'I think I'm done.'

"It was early in the morning and I grabbed a cocktail and a peanut butter shake."

After a (well deserved) extended break, his plan was to do some mortgage broking.

"I came into the club to pick up some stuff and had a chat to Walshy and it came up in conversation that I'd started doing sports admin at uni," Presti said.

"He asked if I'd be interested in learning the business side of the footy club.

"There was a role in merchandise and I had no idea about retail or anything like that but it was a foot in the door.

"That was 11 years ago and I'm still in merchandise.

"I love footy and being involved with the club but I don't live and die by the results anymore."

Listen to Simon Prestigiacomo on Return to the Nest here: