AFL grand final 2016: Shane Biggs and Sam Naismith go from housemates to MCG

by admin on July 14th, 2018

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Shane Biggs used to have to clean up after Sam Naismith. The pair were both Swans rookies, living in Rosebery near Sydney airport. It wasn’t exactly glamorous.
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“He was a messy unit. Really messy around the house,” Biggs said this week.

Naismith, an old-fashioned ruckman from the town of Gunnedah in north-eastern NSW, said Biggs had his faults too. “If he finds a weakness he picks on you a bit,” Naismith said.

“He used to pick on me for being from the country. He’s a funny bloke.”

Biggs, not all that long ago a plumber in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, doesn’t contest his former housemate’s claim, even sneaking in a jibe about Naismith’s fashion sense. “He’s a big country boy. Shocking kits. I tried to get into him about it but he stood his ground,” Biggs said.

The pair only lived together for a year. “It felt like forever though, with him,” Biggs said in jest.

On Saturday, Biggs and Naismith will be reunited. But the venue will be a far cry from the property they once shared, as the pair take to the MCG in an AFL grand final – on opposite sides.

In a premiership decider full of against-the-odds stories, their respective journeys are among the most compelling. Naismith, a NSW zone selection four years ago, had played just one senior game with the Swans until round 16, but injuries late in the year to Kurt Tippett and Callum Sinclair opened the door for the man mountain, who hasn’t looked back.

Then there’s Biggs. He arrived at the Western Bulldogs less than two years ago, when the club didn’t have a coach, their captain had recently walked out, they hadn’t made the finals in four years and the general perception was they were in disarray. Still, Biggs didn’t expect to get a game at his new club. “Na, not particularly. I was just happy that I was given another chance, and that I was back home. I definitely wasn’t expecting anything. The group I came into was so talented and so young, and going in the right direction, I didn’t think it was going to come easy,” he said.

Biggs was right on both counts. No one could have seen the impending rise of his new club, but the late bloomer – who just five years ago was playing in the Eastern Football League for Mulgrave with fellow Bulldog Lin Jong – could see the latent talent and depth on the Dogs’ list.

It was that quality already present at the Whitten Oval that consigned Biggs to just two games in the first 16 rounds of last season. But he broke into the Dogs’ side the following week, and hasn’t missed a game since.

Xavier Richards, another Swan who has endured a long road before establishing himself as a senior footballer, was one of Biggs’ good friends at the Swans.

“He’s a bit of a larrikin,” Richards said of his fellow former fringe-dweller.

But to suggest Biggs is just a joker would be to undersell the resolve that has helped establish him as a first-choice member of Luke Beveridge’s groundbreaking unit. Richards described the blond Bulldog as incredibly intense, both at training and on match day. “He’s a bit of a turbo personality. There’s no real off button with him,” Richards said.

“He’s very competitive. Hates losing. That’s probably my main memory of Shane.”

Biggs said there has been little communication this week with his former teammates. Naismith sent his one-time housemate a text message after last weekend’s preliminary finals, but from there it’s been all business, at least until the dust has settled on Saturday. It’s understandable given the stakes.

Biggs has seen the seriousness of grand final day from a close vantage point. While he appeared at senior level just six times in three years at Sydney, he watched from the sidelines at the 2012 and 2014 deciders against Hawthorn. On those occasions he was in the Swans’ corner. But this time he will be striving to ensure they lose another grand final. Come 5.30pm on Saturday, he will happily see the MCG covered in red, white and blue confetti. And unlike back in his former life, there willl be no rush to pick up the mess.

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