Adrenalin pulls Brendan Fevola through for third premiership

Deer Park full-forward Brendan Fevola shows his desperation in a hard tackle on Hoppers Crossing defender Jackson Viola. Picture Shawn Smits

Not even a broken sternum was going to stop Brendan Fevola from taking to the field on Sunday.

Fevola kicked four goals in Deer Park’s record-setting WRFL division 1 four-peat premiership win over Hoppers Crossing at the Whitten Oval.

And yet he was lauded by player-coach Marc Bullen for his defensive pressure and physicality around the contest, which was even more courageous once his condition was revealed in the post-game.

“I had a scan yesterday and it’s still broken,” Fevola said of the sternum injury, sustained against Altona in July.

“It’s actually really sore, but adrenalin got me through. Sometimes when you put your arm up, it doesn’t go up as high as it should.”

Fevola was thrilled to be able to “hang on the coat-tails” of Deer Park during its premiership run. The 35-year-old former AFL star linked up with the Lions to play alongside long-time mate Ryan Houlihan.

“The main reason I came over was to play with Hoops [Ryan Houlihan], and I got to play in a grand final with him,” Fevola said.

“He was a groomsman at my wedding.”

Fevola was thrilled that it happened at Deer Park. He felt right at home in the Lions’ den from the moment he set foot into the club.

“It’s just a ripping footy club – a real family club,” he said. “It’s special, especially coming from where they’ve come from – Goldy [president Mark McGoldrick] got the club from division 2, when they were a laughing stock, to four [flags] in a row [in division 1], which has never happened. It’s good to be a part of it.”

The big question over Fevola’s arrival at Deer Park centred on his impact on the forwards around him. It was already a potent attacking force, which had registered more than 150 points in the previous two grand finals, so it was a danger to mess with that chemistry.

“Early on, we struggled a bit, and we didn’t have much synergy,” he said. “Once we all got it together, we did really work well together.”

After initial teething pains, Fevola proved a welcome addition to the forward line structure, and the club as a whole. He managed 50 goals in 11 games, but also offered leadership to other players and put the club on the map with his media commitments outside.

Even though he has only spent one season with Deer Park, Fevola has built up an affinity with other players. He could feel the pain of teammate Jack Purton-Smith, who pulled out of the grand final with a hamstring injury in the warm-up.

“I grabbed a medal off the bloke and put it around his neck, so he’s got a medal as well,” Fevola said. “It’s great for [Purton-Smith’s replacement] Jayke [Ewer], I don’t think there’s been too many blokes who have lost one in one day and played one the same day.”

It was Fevola’s third premiership, but he still had butterflies in his stomach pre-game.

“They’re all pretty special, whether you’re playing for Nar Nar Goon seconds, Deer Park or in the AFL,” he said. “I was that nervous this morning; my wife said: ‘What are you shaking for? You’re 35, you’ve done all this before’.

“But it doesn’t matter, it’s irrelevant. I spoke to Byrnesy [Shannon Byrnes] – he was nervous, everyone was nervous.

“We’re just glad we got out there and played some good footy.”

As for Fevola’s playing future, he will decide in the summer whether to go on. Meantime, he will just lap up the premiership celebrations.

“I don’t know, I’m getting old,” he said.

“I’ll have a think about it over the summer.

“It would be a good way to bow out.”