WHEN Sam Powell-Pepper took to Adelaide Oval on Friday night, it marked the 100th time he had done so for Port Adelaide at AFL level.
In preparing for that moment, so many things were familiar; he arrived early, got that left shoulder strapped, boots, shorts and training top on, stretching and mobility, team meeting, on ground warm up, in with TJ, guernseys on, final run throughs, Rudimental, INXS, fireworks.
Business as usual.
However, when the 24-year-old crossed that white line at the end of the Geof Motley race, he did something he’d never done in the 99 games before. He stopped.
And while every teammate ran past him, he turned to his right, carefully collected new-born daughter Frankie from partner Brya and gently walked towards his teammates waiting to burst through the banner adorned with his photos and congratulations on his 100-game milestone.
It was a beautiful scene, with a man known for his crash-and-bash, brutal approach to the game of football showcasing the caring soul his teammates have grown to love in a moment Powell-Pepper says he won’t forget anytime soon.
“Amazing,” he told portadelaidefc.com.au in the rooms post-match. “It’s pretty cool to reach 100 games in the AFL.
“Going out with my little girl there, I’ll cherish that moment forever.
“It was a wave of emotions, obviously I had to get prepared for the game, walk out with Frankie and then switch back to game mode.”
Few can argue Powell-Peppers ability to flick that switch in 2022. His journey to 100 games has been a well-documented one of ups and downs, but his start to this season has arguably been his best.
He remains a physical threat on the field with his relentless pressure and ability to inflict damage at the contest and bob up for a goal in his new-found home in attack.
More importantly, according to his teammates, is no matter what he has confronted on or off the field, the man known as ‘SPP’ remains a beloved figure at Alberton who shows genuine care for those around him.
“He’s probably the most loved person in this whole (playing) group,” said Connor Rozee post-match. “And he cares for everyone else exactly the same.
“He’s an absolutely amazing human being. He’s developed a lot since he came to the football club. He’s a father now and he’s maturing as well so we all love him and that showed tonight.
“We really wanted to get the win for him.”
Port has now claimed three consecutive wins as it looks to right the ship after an unexpected 0-5 start to the season.
Rozee believes his teammates are getting back to their best footy, including Powell-Pepper, who chipped in with two important goals against the Dogs.
“He was superb again tonight,” said Rozee of his fellow midfielder/forward.
“He brings everything that Port Adelaide people love. He’s strong at the contest and cracks in hard.”
Fortunately for the Port faithful, that love is mutual.
“I’ve been at the club six years now and I love this place,” said Powell-Pepper.
“Hopefully I’ll stay here for a long time.”
Perhaps next time it will be Frankie leading the charge towards the banner.