THEY shared a bedroom, went to school together and played football together – separated only because they were drafted to different AFL clubs.
Now reunited where it all started, at Port Adelaide, after eight years apart, Sam Gray and Scott Lycett have rekindled their bro-mance.
Both country boys – Gray from Port Lincoln and Lycett from further west at Ceduna and Thevenard – they met playing in an under 15s Port Adelaide academy on the Eyre Peninsula.
“I remember Sam dominating in the midfield as a junior,” Lycett recalls.
“He was probably the best up and coming midfielder they’d seen in that area for a while and obviously then we went to Adelaide and tried to take our games to the next level and get drafted.
“He then had to try and play forward when he was more of a midfielder and he worked very hard at it, and now he’s obviously playing as a forward-mid so he’s done pretty well to change his game in that way.”
Gray is almost bashful in his response.
“The reason I could get the ball as a midfielder was Scott putting it down my throat most of the time,” he says.
The pair moved to Adelaide around the same time to complete their schooling at Henley High School and improve their chances of being drafted by an AFL club.
Initially it was tough, being away from family and not knowing many people beyond those they played football with.
“Coming from a town of about 800 people was tough, especially not knowing many people in Adelaide,” Gray says.
“Coming from a school with 200 people to one with over 1000 was pretty nerve wracking but we got used to it and moving over together obviously helped a lot.”
Gray says he was not “fond” of school with both admitting to being “jocks” at school because of their football focus.
They even boarded at the same house, sharing a room.
“We had two single beds probably about a metre and a half away from each other and a little TV out the front and just had to manage where we fit our clothes,” Lycett remembers.
“People would come and see where we were staying and think two guys, small room, how’s this going to work but we found a way and I think, looking back on it I don’t know how we didn’t get sick of each other.
“We literally did everything together, going to school and then we went to training together, and then went out to dinner together, and then went to sleep together and then wake up together.
“Looking back on it, I wouldn’t change it.”
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But it seems some things never change.
Sitting together, the pair fondly remembers bickering about petrol money.
“He used to ask for petrol money driving to school all the time those early days. I couldn’t believe it,” Lycett recalls.
“It was only fair to go half and half. I was broke,” Gray fires back.
Lycett returns serve: “Yeah and I wasn’t? I still didn’t have my licence, and you had a licence.”
“You could have caught the bus,” Gray helpfully suggests.
“I could have but no chance.”
Their relationship peaked in 2010 when they were members of the Port Adelaide SANFL Reserves side which won the premiership – the club’s most recent senior flag.
But Gray reveals, it almost didn’t happen because they had each also been playing league football that year.
“At the start of 2010 I was playing mostly league footy,” he says.
“I was on my way to the country probably three weeks before the Grand Final and I got a call telling me we were both allowed to play in that Reserves finals series.
“So we played that and we ended up winning it, which was pretty amazing. We were both just 18 at the time.”
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Lycett was then a highly touted big man, expected to be picked early in the draft.
He had played six senior games for Port Adelaide’s league side.
Now a 75 game AFL premiership player, he admits the 2010 premiership celebrations may have impacted his performance in front of recruiters.
“I had draft camp the week before the grand final so didn’t have to do all the testing,” he remembers.
“I still went over to Canberra and talked to all the recruiters but just didn’t do all the physical side of it and then played in the Grand Final and we won it, so obviously celebrated it for a few days.
“The following Wednesday I had the state testing where I had to do the beep test and that sort of thing so I didn’t test very well in all of those things after winning the Grand Final but it was great.
“Although it wasn’t the league side, it was still a senior premiership and they’re pretty special in themselves so it was good to be a part of it.”
Lycett was then taken by West Coast with the 29th pick of the 2010 AFL National Draft.
The pair had been split.
Gray missed out, admitting to feeling proud for his mate but a bit down about not hearing his name called on the night.
“We stayed in touch by playing PlayStation over the microphones, but we would see each other all the time, whether he came over here or I went over there so we stayed in touch a fair bit,” Gray remembers.
It wasn’t until the 2014 rookie draft that Gray got his chance, with the Power selecting him from its SANFL side.
Because of Lycett’s injuries and development, Gray is now one game ahead of him in the AFL, having developed as a sneaky small forward who can also play through the midfield.
Perhaps Gray’s proudest moment as a friend came in 2018, seeing Lycett collect his premiership medal with West Coast after the Grand Final, although he had to do it on replay.
“I was on the plane on the way to Europe for one of our good mates’ wedding at the time, which Scott was going to attend but obviously he had other commitments on,” Gray now jokes.
“When I got off the plane, I watched all the highlights, and I had all these text messages saying he was five goals down, they’re back and they’ve won, so it was pretty exciting and I was happy for him.
“To see how happy he was when he got that medallion is something I strive for in AFL footy.”
Little did people realise that Lycett had played his last game for the Eagles.
The big man had been subjected to repeated suggestions by Gray that he needed to come home to Alberton but only really considered it towards the end of the 2018 season.
“I think just about every time I came over to Adelaide, Sam would say the club’s keen to have me back,” Lycett reveals.
“It was all a bit tongue in cheek with them but I think when it came down to the serious stuff, after that game where Jeremy McGovern kicked the goal after the siren, I stayed a few extra days and we had a chat and really that was when things started to heat up and I began to consider coming home.
“It was a tough decision but I’m pretty content with it and happy to be a Port Adelaide player now and I’m hoping to do what I did last year with this group.”
Gray too is content to have his mate back in town and now on his team.
“Ken’s been in my ear since probably day one that I was drafted, asking when’s your big mate coming over,” he says.
“I was pretty happy at the time (I found out he was returning) to have one of my best mates growing up coming back and hopefully we can get that connection that we had in the junior days and relive that reserves premiership in the AFL.”
While they are no longer sharing a bedroom or a car to training, Lycett says the relationship is just as strong.
He just hopes it shows on the footy field.
“Every time we saw each other in Adelaide… it was just seamless like we hadn’t been away,” he says.
“I’m sure it’ll be the same when we get out there and play.
“I’m really looking forward to playing at the elite level with Sam. I’ve played against him but to play with him is something that’s going to be pretty special for both of our families.”