TRAVIS BOAK is dedicating his 300th AFL game to those who cannot be at the locked-out Marvel Stadium in Melbourne on Friday night - the Port Adelaide fans.
"That is who I will be playing for Friday night - the ones who have supported me all the way and been there when it has been tough," said Boak on Wednesday, a day after the much-anticipated match against Collingwood was moved from Adelaide Oval.
Despite being denied the applause of his appreciative Port Adelaide fans, Boak will be mindful of the supporters while he reaches the 300-game milestone.
"I certainly would not be here today without the support of so many people and I am so grateful for that," Boak said from the team base in Melbourne.
"Our fans have been with me right through the whole way and, hopefully, we can get a win to show how much they have meant to me along this journey."
Port Adelaide's home clash at Adelaide Oval on Friday night is - by the COVID lockdown in South Australia - to be played at the Melbourne Docklands, a decision made amid much confusion on Tuesday afternoon.
"I'm laughing under this mask because that is all you can do," Boak said of Tuesday's events while he and his team-mates waited at a Melbourne hotel for negative COVID tests before being allowed training at Marvel Stadium.
"It was some sort of roller-coaster day (on Tuesday) when we found out we were going to Melbourne, then told to cancel plans and stay put because we were not going and then it was on again.
"So it was a pretty emotional day," added Boak who had dinner with his mother, aunty and elder sister in Adelaide on Tuesday night before they all took different paths to Melbourne.
"It was a challenging day - no doubt about that. But we are in Melbourne now, we can settle and we are playing Friday night. Not ideal circumstances to not be playing in front of our adoring Port Adelaide fans; that would have been lovely and my family, of course, as well. It is what it is ...
"We will celebrate a good night on Friday night.
"I was able to spend a few days with family this week. They were planning to come to the game (at Adelaide Oval) and support me and yesterday was a whirlwind for them. At this stage they won't be able to be there which is sad, but we had a good chat (on Tuesday night) at dinner. We celebrated in some way and I know they will be there in spirit and I know they have given me so much over the journey and there is no doubt I will be running out with them and for them on Friday night."
Boak, 33 next month, faced a life-changing - and potentially club-changing - decision in 2012 to ignore the overtures of Geelong to return to Victoria. His decision to stay at Port Adelaide is considered one of the critical moments in the revival launched with Boak as captain and Ken Hinkley as coach in 2013.
"No regrets at all," Boak said. "I never had a regret since that decision. It was a decision I wanted to make to help move this club forward with a group of other guys. We have certainly been able to do that.
"We have not achieved the success we wanted to yet, and hopefully that is not too far away. It certainly was a decision to take this club back to where it belongs. There is no regret. I have enjoyed every moment at this footy club, even the downs. Those are the moments that have made us so much stronger; we have learnt so much from those challenges. I would not change it for the world. Hopefully, there is a little bit more success ahead."
Boak is the second Port Adelaide player to reach the 300-game milestone (along with Kane Cornes) in the AFL and sixth overall to play 300 senior matches with the Port Adelaide Football Club (following Russell Ebert, Greg Phillips, Darren Smith and Tim Ginever).
Of the 299 played so far, Boak's strongest memory is from the first on June 17, 2007.
"For any AFL player, the first game you ever play at AFL level is a dream come true," Boak said. "It is something you aspire to for so long, so that is one I will remember forever. Having my family and friends all come over from Torquay and we got the win (against Essendon). It was Warren Tredrea's 200th game and I will remember that moment forever.
"The finals as well. The big games we played in, the Showdowns. Those games certainly stick in my mind. The semi-final in Perth (in 2014) when we were down by five goals to Fremantle at half-time and came back to win is something that was pretty special. Those finals really stick in my mind."
Boak has spread his milestone games across four major AFL locales - 50th at Football Park against North Melbourne in 2010, 100th at Football Park against Carlton in 2012, 150th on the Gold Coast against Gold Coast in 2014, 200th in Sydney at the SCG against Sydney in 2017 and 250th at the Docklands in Melbourne against Collingwood in 2019.
The notable missing venue is Adelaide Oval where in 2011 Boak played in the first AFL game on the venue before the redevelopment.
"I'm just so grateful to be able to play for this footy club for one game let alone 300," Boak said. "To still run out there with my best mates and my family is what I am most grateful for.
"I would have loved to have played in front of our fans and in front of my family, but the circumstances are we can't. But I am still very grateful to be running out there on Friday night and playing 300 games."
While the confusion in the build-up to Port Adelaide's 9pm exit from Adelaide on Tuesday was a whirlwind event, Boak has had his own head-spinning recollections from sifting through the memories of 299 AFL games.
"The past couple of days definitely ... and the one thing that comes to mind is how lucky, how fortunate I have been to have had so much great support with the Port Adelaide Football Club, with my family, my friends, our supporters, the ones who have been there the whole journey to support me," Boak said.
"(Port Adelaide has meant) everything. They are the club that gave me the opportunity, they have stuck by me through this whole journey. There has been a lot of ups and downs and challenges we have faced together along the way. But there is no doubt that without the support of the whole football community inside the club - coaches, support staff, everyone within the footy club and then everyone outside with fans, members, sponsors - that I would not be here today.
"They have meant so much to me along the journey and I am so grateful to be able to be here for 15 years and play 300 games for this great club. I am so thankful for the support they have given me and there is no doubt Friday night is going to be about the footy club and the people who have supported me rather than more about me. I would not be here without them.
"I love the club so much and am forever in debt for what they have given me."
Midfielder Boak paid tribute to senior coach Ken Hinkley saying: "Kenny gets criticised way too much which hurts at times because what he has meant to me and so many of the players is huge. From the first call we had, while I was in Noosa when I found out that he was going to coach the club, I was over the moon about it.
"I did not know a heap about Kenny, but we had met once before (in 2006) when I was getting drafted (and Hinkley was at Geelong) and had been over to my house. We have known each other from the past and from that moment (in October 2012).
"As captain, that relationship grew not only professionally but also as friends. He has helped me become the person I want to be - more than football itself. So I am forever grateful for what he has been able to do for this footy club and me. He certainly has had his office open a lot along the journey and I have had a lot of good, deep chats with Kenny along the way. He has helped me through a lot of tough times, on and off the field.
"We still have a lot of banter about his putting me in the forward line for a couple of years ... he thinks he has helped me get to 300 games through doing that. All he wants is what is best for every player in this club as a person and as a footballer. He will do anything for this footy club and I can’t thank him enough."
Boak's resume since leaving Torquay in Victoria to join the Port Adelaide Football Club for Season 2007 reads with notable honours and achievements in football and life.
The fifth call in the 2006 AFL national draft, Boak played his first national league game in round 12, 2007 - a 31-point win against Essendon - and earned a Rising Star nomination seven weeks later. At Game 300, Boak has three All-Australian honours, two club champion John Cahill Medals, three Showdown Medals and the record for most games as Port Adelaide AFL captain (139 from 2012 to 2018).
The question of a player being left unfulfilled without a premiership is answered by Boak saying: "if we talk success, then the premiership is the one. I would love to win one. No doubt that is my dream. But success for me is about becoming the best athlete and person I can.
"Whatever that may be, with a premiership or without, I can leave the game knowing I gave everything I could and helped others along the way. That is the success I want. I would love to have that premiership medallion, but a lot of that is out of my control. I just want to go about my career finishing off as the best athlete I can possibly be. And that is about helping our footy club and our younger players become great athletes as well as great people. That is the ultimate success for me.
"At this stage I have no limit to where I want to get to. My body and my mind - I love the game as much as I ever have - feel really good. I am really energised to keep learning, to keep growing, to keep getting better, to keep helping our younger guys come through. I don't have a number (of games) in mind. It is just continue to play footy and continue to enjoy footy and the moment I don't enjoy getting the most out of myself and wanting to train and get better is probably the time I will be ready to hang it up. But at this stage I still enjoy it as much as ever, so I have no end in mind. And hopefully there are still plenty of years left."