AFL grand final 2016: Dog fight turns to puppy love for Luke Dahlhaus and Tom Liberatore

by admin on July 15th, 2018

filed under 南京夜网

Luke Dahlhaus hated Tom Liberatore. He was mouthy, arrogant, so in your face you wanted to hit him. Couldn’t stand Mitch Wallis either.
Nanjing Night Net

Liberatore thought the same of Dahlhaus: stupid hair, cocky, surfer boy. He was too quick to catch to hit him, which made him want to hit him even more.

“I hated him. He had his dreadlocks and … he was like that little quick bloke you just hate playing footy against, the one that always gets away. Obviously I have got elite speed but he would get away,” Liberatore said.

They were in under-18s and the two sons of Footscray stars were playing for Calder Cannons. Dahlhaus was playing for Geelong Falcons.

“I hated him [Liberatore]. I know hate is a very harsh word but him and Mitch Wallis I hated. I was a Falcons boy and he [Liberatore] was Calder so we had a grudge every time we played,” Dahlhaus said.

“You know what Libba [Liberatore] is like. You see it every week, sledging and into blokes, and for Calder they would be telling you how good they were and it just really annoyed me.

“We didn’t get in too many fights but we always had great battles and we would beat them in the season and they would win the grand final. It was so annoying.”

When he was then rookie-listed to the Bulldogs, Dahlhaus knew that meant he would be playing with Liberatore and Wallis, who had already been drafted there. He was overwhelmed with dread and loathing.

“Libba was the first bloke to come up to me on day one when I walked in the door and said ‘if you need anything, let me show you around’ because he got drafted and I got rookied a couple of weeks later. Ever since, we’ve got on like a house on fire and best mates ever since. He is a legend.

“It was a bit weird becoming friends with him after that, but footy clubs are like that.”

Liberatore laughs and mocks surprise.

“He said that? He has given me ‘best mates’?” he asked. “Dal has been playing with me probably my whole career. We have been through every change in the club, which is really significant when you get to a point like this to share it with someone.”

Dahlhaus, Liberatore and Wallis were the young Dogs the club worked to build a team around, Jason Johannisen arrived the same year as Dahlhaus, also through the rookie draft, but took longer to make his move into the senior team. Marcus Bontempelli, Jake Stringer, Jack Macrae, Lachie Hunter all came later.

Suddenly, at the age of 22, Dahlhaus became a mentor to others. He was asked to take Toby McLean under his wing. He found it amusing to be considered a mentor so soon into a career that began as a rookie.

“He is one of the best blokes at the club, along with Will Minson,” McLean said. “He is really easy to get along with and he has definitely looked after me.”

Dahlhaus recalled: “It feels like yesterday it was my first year. I had dreadlocks, was running around in the forward line. Obviously I still play a fair bit forward, but to be a senior player now – I don’t feel like an older player at all – but it’s good.

“I was still pretty young myself when they said to mentor Toby, but that shows the confidence some of the people in the club have in me and my leadership skills.

“In my second year, I got a lot of media with the dreadlocks and at the time I was probably the only real young bloke besides Libba and Mitch [Wallis] who were coming through and playing games. I look at Bont and Caleb [Daniel] this year and they have got the attention and handled it really well. I like to think I handled it well when it was me.”

Chris Grant likens Dahlhaus to the baby in The Incredibles movie. He’s placid and small and cute, until something happens and he erupts in a ball of flames.

He plays the game as his alter-ego, for away from the field he is quiet and genial with a sharp, wry line that he drops at the right moment in meetings.

“I don’t know any different than to jump in head-first,” Dahlhaus said. “I am not one of those outside players. I have never, ever played on a wing or anything. I have always been an inside player, always tackling, always jumping around, making it look like I am working hard.”

When he was recruited as a rookie, clubs had doubts about Dahlhaus for his size, fitness and skills. He quickly answered each query. When other clubs overlooked Caleb Daniel it was similarly for doubts about his size and impact. His first year has challenged those concerns.

The Bulldogs have illustrated a recruiting policy more prepared to consider what players can do than what they can’t, to look at what they are, not what they are not.

Bontempelli, the player who more than any accepted the baton of young Dog pin-up boy from Dahlhaus, is struck by the boundless enthusiasm of the small midfielder.

“He’s a ball of energy, he’s incredibly well liked across the whole playing group. He has a really good bond with probably every single player and we ride the energy wave that Luke is. He’s an incredible player but the type of bloke he is, he’ll help you get up when you’re a tiny bit down,” Bontempelli said.

Dahlhaus emerged at the club as a buzzing, fast, hard defensive forward and that might have remained his role but for Luke Beveridge’s arrival as coach.

“In my first four years I don’t think I started in at the centre bounce once but in the first practice games when Bevo got here he put me in there. He likes that versatility in a player and he really tried to drill into me that first pre-season that I would be playing a lot in the midfield.”

His relatively smaller size might have helped create differences in his game and the way he played it.

Easton Wood said Dahlhaus had rare talents.

“I don’t know if there is a world record for the ability to hit the deck and get back on your feet but if there is, he holds the record,” Wood said.

“It’s almost like I have seen him in games hit the ground and gain speed bouncing up. It is a unique ability. He’s a unique player.”

And a popular one, even with Libba, well now anyway.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Comments are closed.