Port Adelaide’s Cam Sutcliffe has had a unique journey in the AFL, moving from Fremantle to Alberton at the end of 2018.
He discusses learning from Ross Lyon, the wait to get drafted and what it was like living with Matthew Pavlich among other things.
Jack Hudson: Tell us about your junior days and your local club.
Cam Sutcliffe: My footy got serious when I was at Kadina, I moved there when I was seven.
I had a couple of good mates there, Jake von Bertouch and Angus Paul, we bounced off each other, which made our footy a lot easier.
They were good players, it drove you to continue to be good through those ranks.
I started playing with the (Woodville West-Torrens) Eagles in the under 15s, we were all chosen to go up there and start the development academy and work through the ranks there.
That led to under 17s footy, state under 16s footy, and then under 18s footy into getting drafted in 2011.
JH: What were the junior days like at the Eagles?
CS: It was exciting, as we had a really good team at that point in time.
I remember in the last year of the under 17s, we were looking strong and going towards the grand final.
A few of us went up and played reserves footy, and then we couldn’t come back down and play again.
We ended up losing the preliminary final, and I couldn’t play in that.
That was disappointing, but it drove us next year in the under 18s, we had a strong year, but missed out again later in that year.
I think playing footy with Woodville-West Torrens, it was a tight group, and the country boys we had there, there was a few from the Yorke Peninsula, so that helped that process of playing.
JH: When did you first think footy was going to be a career for you?
CS: I don’t really know, I never really expected to be drafted, even in my draft year because I didn’t play that well.
When I was drafted to Fremantle, I think it came down to them interviewing me, and I think they were impressed with that.
I said I could only do it (the interview) in my lunch hour, and I think they liked that.
Ultimately, that might have got me drafted.
JH: You were pick 71 in the 2011 national draft. Was it a nervous wait?
CS: I was in Moonta at the time with all my family, we didn’t expect much anyway, but we thought we’d get together just in case.
You know how the draft goes these days, it takes forever, we were sitting there not expecting much, but I knew Fremantle had two picks late, and pick 71 popped up and it was me, and from then on it was a whirlwind, and four days later I was in Perth.
JH: Did any other clubs talk to you?
CS: Only briefly.
I sat down with Gold Coast and Essendon, but nothing eventuated out of that, I didn’t hear back from them at all throughout the draft process.
I think the only one I knew was keen was Fremantle, and that’s ultimately where I ended up.
JH: Those first four days you said were full on. What happened during those days?
CS: I got a call on draft night from Brad Lloyd, who was the list manager at the time.
He said ‘pack your bags, the Melbourne boys who were drafted will meet you in Adelaide on the Sunday arvo, you’ll be living with Matthew Pavlich when you get there’, which blew me away.
I got a call from him as well, he said where he lives and what it’s all about, but at that time I had no idea about Perth as I’d never been there.
I got into the airport at Perth, straight to Pav’s mansion on the beach, overlooking all the water in Scarborough, that was so different for me coming from the country.
JH: What was it like living with Pav?
CS: It was good, you think he’s an intimidating figure, but he really isn’t.
He’s a great man, I’m still friends with him till this day, we hang out and play golf when we get the opportunity when he’s around.
We built a strong relationship in that short time we lived together, both being Woodville boys and both from South Australia helped as well.
You have that bit of connection, and it was good.
He picked on me a little bit, I had a girlfriend at the time, and as soon as the dishes were ready to be done, she’d give me a buzz and I’d piss off to my room – he didn’t like that too much.
JH: Your debut – tell us about that.
CS: That was interesting, two weeks before I had played in the WAFL reserves.
We weren’t allowed to play on an oval in Western Australia for a country game, because it wasn’t up to AFL standard apparently.
I played in the reserves, I played alright as you’d expect, and played league the next week, and I think having that good form from the reserves game, ultimately, I had about 34 touches and kicked two goals.
The week after that I was playing AFL.
It was a strange three-week period, but I thought that was cool.
The whole experience of the debut was quick, I don’t remember much of it, I don’t think I played that well.
I still had a bit of the ball, but you’re harsh on yourself, especially from the week before.
I couldn’t remember playing the game, because I was so nervous throughout.
I remember walking off, and I was walking next to Pav, and he pushed me in front of him and a thousand camera flashes in my face, it was so different walking down the race and we’d had a good win.
It was a good experience.
JH: What were some of your hardest challenges?
CS: It probably came in the last couple of years, as soon as you’re on the outer a little bit in terms of selection it makes it a lot harder to keep yourself motivated to keep going.
I think after last year, round one, I was dropped, and I had a concussion in the pre-season.
I was lucky to play round one I thought, then I was dropped, then had a concussion the next game in the WAFL.
I had to sit out a week, a couple of injuries here and there, and I missed a fair chunk of footy and didn’t play an AFL game for 16 weeks.
By then, it’s pretty much game over because they’ve gone with a lot of young guys, and at that point we weren’t going to make finals.
I saw the writing on the wall a little bit, but it’s still a shock when you get delisted.
JH: At Freo you played under Ross Lyon. What was it like having him as coach?
CS: I liked it, I thought he was a good coach…I never had an issue with him.
I think the only time he had an issue with people is if they weren’t up to the standards, or if they didn’t do the right thing.
That’s probably what you need in a coach, someone to drive high expectations.
I see a lot of similarities with Ken (Hinkley) over here, the way that he goes about it.
To have someone like Ross is a good thing to me, it drives me to be the best I can be.
Ross is a supportive person, he was always in my corner regardless, always gave it to me straight, I think that’s what you want in a coach, someone who’s honest with you.
He was good for my development and footy.
JH: You played in a few finals as well. What was the atmosphere like?
CS: It is crazy.
The first final I played was Geelong, in Geelong.
It was the best final I’ve ever played in, it was an unreal game.
It was good to win, everyone wrote us off, I remember reading the paper in Geelong the morning of the game, and they’d summed up Geelong were going to kill us.
To go out there and be down at quarter-time and half-time and win the game was something special and I’ll always remember that.
JH: Now you’re here at Port Adelaide. How did that come about?
CS: Shane Grimm who is the NPA Talent Manager, he sent my manager an email saying Port were chasing a player and they also had a good job opportunity over here.
I thought about the lure of coming back home regardless, I think that was always in my mindset.
I didn’t decide until December last year that I’d come and play.
I came to the club and met with Chris Davies, met with Shane Grimm, and went through what my role would be, where they see me playing in the Magpies.
I think the big pull was being under the nose of another AFL club.
JH: You’re not a bad cricketer either, I’ve heard. How has that been going?
CS: My cricket is not great, I’d say I’m a better basketballer.
I even had the opportunity after I was delisted, because clearly in your contract you can’t play too many other competitive sports.
I headed back to Kadina and played a couple of basketball games with one of my best mates, at the Bears Basketball Club, which was fun.
You don’t have that contract hanging over you if you get injured, no-one’s going to be too angry at you if you get injured.
JH: Was it always football when you were younger, or was basketball an option?
CS: I did try out for a state basketball side once, I remember going down to West Adelaide and giving it a go, but it didn’t really work out.
I think my defensive stuff was good, but I couldn’t shoot the ball to save myself.
It was basketball when I was younger, but when I started to grow and become a better athlete and runner, the football stuff prevailed.