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My Road to 150 Games: Stef Martin

Stef Martin reaches 150 Congratulations Stef Martin on reaching 150 AFL games!

Stef Martin rocked up to his first football game with a slurpee and a donut.

12 years later, with his second AFL Club, he will celebrate his 150th AFL game on Sunday against Fremantle in Perth.

“It feels a bit surreal for me, it’s probably something I really didn’t think would happen, especially thinking back to how my career has played out,” Martin said.

“If someone had told me at the time that I’d end up playing AFL I would have just laughed at them. It’s just crazy how it’s all unfolded.”

The 31-year-old came into the football world by chance, playing his first game at 19 years of age for Old Hailbury.

“It’s insane, I started playing footy in that league just to hang out with my mates because I wasn’t seeing them that much,” Martin said.

“I was a pretty happy go lucky guy at the time and not taking it too seriously.

“I probably had come in from a night out …. [and then went] to 7-Eleven on the way to the game and got a donut and a slurpee.”

Not only did he shock friends in the team with his pre-game meal options, but also with his unbelievable talent.

He went on to play just nine games in the ruck that year but was awarded the competition’s best and fairest in 2006. 

Martin started to gain a reputation and heads officially turned when we was featured on the back page of the Herald Sun.

“Things kind of escalated. A few scouts came and watched me play on the weekends,” he said.

“At the end of that year the Melbourne Demons invited me to come down and train with them.”

It was 2007 and after only playing footy for one year, Martin admits his skills left a lot to be desired.

“I was as raw as you could imagine,” he said.

The Dees suggested he go to Sandringham, a club they are affiliated with, for some fine tuning.

After a year there, he was taken with Melbourne’s third pick in the 2008 pre-season draft.

That year, in Round 14, coincidentally against the Lions, he made his debut playing at fullback.

“I played on Daniel Bradshaw and Jonathon Brown,” Martin said.

“My first game was at the MCG. It was like I had been dreaming.”

He admits he was over-awed by the occasion.

“I didn’t know the way the game was played, running patterns and things like that. It was very strange.”

Martin's AFL debut was against the Lions. 

Off-field, he was getting used to how things worked as well.

 “I was just learning as much as I could and trying to fit in.

I remember I would wear longish basketball socks because that was the style I used to do.

At training one of the coaches told me ‘maybe just wear the short ones because you’ll look more like a footy player.’

Martin played 57 games for the Demons between 2008-12. Two of those years he struggled to get on the field with persistent hip injuries.

At the end of 2012, he came to Brisbane in a trade deal.

“It was a bit of a hard time,” he admits.

“I struggled to adjust to life a bit.”

But since his arrival for the 2013 season, Martin has only gone from strength to strength and is now the Lions' premier ruckman and in the leadership group.

In 2015 he was a joint winner of the Club’s Merrett-Murray Medal for best and fairest.

Not only is he dominant on field, but his life off is just as good.

“As each year goes by I become happier and happier here and you literally do fall in love with the people at the Club,” he said.

“It takes some time to realise that. And it’s also a two-way investment. You invest your time and your effort and your care into each other and that just builds the relationship.”

This season, he is arguably in the form of his career, which has been no accident.

“I made a pretty concerted effort in the off-season, as it’s probably a danger period of anyone’s career when they’re on the wrong side of 30, that they could probably start to take some liberties and probably wind down a bit,” he said.

“But I decided I wanted to squeeze every bit of my career out of it as I could.”

Martin's work ethic in the gym is often talked about by his teammates. 

 Martin is known for his discipline in the gym and care of his body.

“It’s a nice little challenge to have your best years at the wrong time or at the time when it might not be expected."

“The more and more as time goes by I think I value how lucky I am to play footy and so the regret of not doing everything I could to get the most out of myself would haunt me. That’s what drives me to do everything I can.

“It doesn’t mean I get everything right. And it doesn’t mean I get my training regime right but at least I’ve got a direction with it and I’m not going to leave any stone unturned.”

Somehow amongst his professional footballing life, Martin also manages to find time to study for his law degree. He is now in his third year.

During his study, he’s had the chance to shadow one of Queensland’s most respected barristers, Declan Kelly QC. Kelly is a Lions supporter and his wife Sarah sits on the Club’s board.

“That’s been just an unreal experience for me,” Martin said.

“The degree is a dimension of my life that adds a lot of joy to me.

“And to have an idea of where I might go in the future is a pretty nice feeling. I started the law degree in Queensland, after having done some in Melbourne, about three years ago and it’s probably been the happiest I’ve been up here in that period.”

On Sunday, in front of his parents travelling over from Melbourne, he’ll reach a moment in his career he could never have dreamed of.

“It’s something that I’ve sort of been inching towards for a number of years and something I’m pretty proud to achieve.”

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs