In his own words, Robbie Nahas ‘wasn’t good enough’ when his first opportunity to play AFL came about.
Almost 10 years later he has been through not one, but two delistings, and many more ups and downs. So the 100-game milestone is a particularly sweet one for the 27-year-old.
“I got to 80 pretty quickly and then the last couple of years it stalled,” Nahas told NMFC.com.au.
“There were reservations that I’d get there but I’m pretty proud of the effort.”
RELATED: Nahas player profile
Nahas' journey started in 2005, when he finished his junior football career playing for the Oakleigh Chargers and a Vic Metro side which was victorious in the Under 18 National Championships.
In the first of many setbacks, the youngster was overlooked in the year-end National Draft.
“I probably wasn’t good enough (to get drafted) to be honest,” Nahas admitted.
“I’d had an alright top age year (in 2005), but I just didn’t have the capabilities to play at the top level.”
In an era where teenagers were often cast aside after missing their first draft opportunity, the prospect of Nahas making it to the AFL seemed low.
There was an initial lifeline, as the link between the Chargers and VFL side Port Melbourne allowed Nahas to play in the top state competition.
But it took two seasons into his Borough career for a reality check to be delivered - in the form of new coach Gary Ayres.
“He (Ayres) played a massive role in me being drafted,” Nahas revealed.
“He changed my role and explained where footy was heading with the defensive forwards.
“He said if I ever wanted to play at the top level, playing there was how I would make it.
“Before then I was playing as a midfielder and he explained how the defensive side of my game would have to be the best in the competition, and also I’d have to be very good in front of goals.”
Ayres made his way to Port Melbourne after losing his position as assistant coach of Essendon at the end of 2007.
As he started familiarising himself with the list he had been given, Nahas’ talent stood out.
“Sitting back and watching a lot of footage during the pre-season of 2007/2008, there was a lot of talent running around for Port Melbourne and Robbie was one of those,” Ayres explained.
“He had started to establish himself and we sat down and thought, ‘if he was to work on some things that would potentially get him drafted, what would they be?’
“It was fitness, defensive work and then stringing games together in relation to having a good consistent season. After that the goals would come providing he was putting all that into place.”
Nahas came into his own during the 2008 season, eventually winning the VFL’s Fothergill-Round Medal, awarded to the most promising young talent in the league.
“We knew that Robbie had the talent, the pace, the ability to find the ball and do some special things; but it was going to be learning things throughout the course of the year that proved important," Ayres said.
“Rob was able to put everything into place unbelievably well over the course of the year and iron out the things that made him a well-rounded player.
“I was happy to see Robbie doing all those things, and then of course it culminated in him being drafted.”
In part due to the struggles Nahas has had over the years, he has learned the value of keeping a level head; balanced when things are going well and the same when the script begins to flip.
It’s a variable that has held him in good stead during the week, as North recovers from its second-half fadeout against Collingwood.
“We obviously hurt from the loss but we have to bounce back quickly and focus on the next week.
“You realise pretty quickly there are probably more downs than ups in football and as soon as you can focus on the next game, the better you’re going to play and the better the football club is going to be.”
The next game to focus on is West Coast on Sunday. With a 7-2 record and second position on the ladder, the Eagles present a tough challenge.
Even though North was victorious the last time the sides met, Nahas said there isn’t much to take out of prior history.
“It’s a completely different situation to last year’s match.
“We’re not playing at our best at the moment and we know that. West Coast have started fantastically well but we’re up for the challenge and we know our best is more than good enough.”
Five questions from Footy Prophet
You have the number one pick in a fantasy draft – who do you select?
What has been the favourite game of your career so far?
Definitely beating Richmond last year.
Do you play fantasy footy, and who are the experts at the club?
I don’t play, but Spud (Michael Firrito) thinks he is and Grima thinks he’s an expert.
Are there any statistical areas you try to focus your game around?
For me it’s pressure acts and everything surrounding that.
Which unsung players can have an impact for the club in years to come?
Trent Dumont and Kayne Turner are the two that come to mind.