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Our Comeback Hero: Dustin Fletcher

Simon Conway  August 4, 2017 7:00 AM

BTV: Comeback Hero; Dustin Fletcher Our Comeback Hero for Round 20 is Dustin Fletcher.

At each home game this season, Essendon will celebrate a Comeback Hero – a former champion who overcame adversity to deliver many happy moments for the Essendon faithful. For the match against Carlton, Our Comeback Hero is Dustin Fletcher.

There can be few tougher initiations in the game.

Dustin Fletcher’s opponents throughout his first season in the AFL included some of the greatest full forwards the game has seen.

The then 17 year old lined up on Tony Lockett, Jason Dunstall, Gary Ablett, Tony Modra, Stephen Kernahan and Peter Sumich among others.

“My first game was in the ruck and then I didn’t play there too much,” Fletcher said.

“After that I went down to full back and played the traditional full back role for some time.

“I’d never played full back either at school footy or local footy as a young kid. I was always centre half forward or full forward so I had to learn on the job.

“I was lucky enough to have a pretty good backline behind me.”

There were a number of Bombers thrown in the deep end in 1993.

The Grand Final winning side contained eight players aged 21 or younger, including Fletcher.

“The confidence ‘Sheeds’ gave to the young guys was a big part of it,” Fletcher said.

“He said to me when I got my first game ‘congratulations on your first game, but you’re here not just here to play one game, you’re here to play many games and to play finals and Grand Finals’.

“As a 17 year old kid, all I was thinking about was 'I’m happy to get a game and get my thousand bucks for a game'.

“Sheeds was always a very positive person.

“Between him and my Dad they were the two people I really looked up to and took a lot of advice from as a 17 and 18 year old.”

If Fletcher’s first premiership in 1993 was unexpected, his second in 2000 seemed a fait accompli.

The Bombers lost only one match on their way to a ten-goal win in the Grand Final.

In Essendon’s most dominant season, Fletcher won the best and fairest.

“The 2000 one was one of the best years in Essendon’s history,” Fletcher said.

“Just driving to games being confident you were going to win and having that presence about that side that they were unbeatable … it was a special year and no doubt my best year of footy.”

Fletcher said it was his ability to ‘switch off’ that helped his longevity. He didn’t dwell on defeat.

He retired after 400 games and two premierships.

The transition into life away from the game wasn’t easy but he takes pride in watching the development of players like Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker who entered the game with Fletcher by their side.

They are now both All Australians.

Having spent so much time playing in front of large crowds, Fletcher is now himself consigned to the stands.

Time hasn’t diminished his love of the game, nor his love for his teammates.

“It’s just good to see those guys going really well now and it would be good for them to finish well,” Fletcher said.

“I still barrack hard now as a supporter. 

“The next four weeks, we’ll see where we go.”