TALK about taking the long way home.
After being overlooked as a rookie by the Western Bulldogs two years in a row, it was ironic Dane Rampe would eventually find a spot on an AFL list at the Sydney Swans. The defender, after all, grew up just a hop, skip and a jump from the Swans' headquarters at the SCG.
"I'm only five minutes down the road ... have been my whole life," the 24-year-old told APN. "I'm rapt its worked out this way, it's much better than anything I could've asked for. I pinch myself every morning walking into the club that I used to pass every day."
Rampe (pictured) had been a promising junior in Sydney grade footy but journeyed south to play with the Bulldogs' then-VFL affiliate, Williamstown, in 2009.
He arrived with fellow UNSW-Eastern Suburbs player Chris Ogle, the son of golfer Brett Ogle, who'd been awarded a contract with the Bulldogs as a NSW scholarship holder.
"I think we were a bit naive, being from New South Wales, to how it all worked," he recalled. "I thought if he can get a rookie spot I can get a rookie spot, so I'll just go down and do it ... it was a lot harder than that I can tell you."
Rampe was impressive, holding his own in the best competition outside the AFL for three seasons, while Ogle struggled and was cut by the Bulldogs after a season. But it still wasn't enough for the footy department at Whitten Oval to take a punt on Rampe, a solidly built backman.
"I did two pre-seasons with the Western Bulldogs and literally just missed out," Rampe said.
After heading back to Sydney, fate would step in when Paul Roos, the Swans Academy boss at the time, turned up to one of UNSW-Eastern Suburbs' games.
"Luckily enough Roosy's son (Dylan) was playing in our team and he (Paul) spotted me and said come down and have a run in the (Sydney) twos ... it went from there," he explained.
Taken with pick 37 in the 2013 Rookie Draft, Rampe has since played 46 of a possible 48 games for the Swans in the past two seasons.
While becoming a cult favourite due to his moustache, the player whose dad hails from Estonia has also become an integral part of what is an eclectic mix of Swans backmen that have combined to become the league's most miserly defence.
Two of them arrived after being offloaded by Melbourne clubs (Ted Richards, Essendon, and Rhyce Shaw, Collingwood), three worked their way off the rookie list (Heath Grundy, Nick Smith and Rampe), and the other battled back from three knee reconstructions (Nick Malceski).
They've got the perfect blend of both lock-down and offensive defenders, with Malceski first for total rebounds and Rampe sixth. On average they've conceded just nine goals a game this season.
While accustomed to playing on "smalls", such as Michael Walters in the Swans' qualifying final win over Fremantle, Rampe may get the job on "tall" Aaron Black in the preliminary final against North Melbourne tonight.
"I think the biggest strength is we've been able to play a lot of footy together, especially this year. We've had a really settled backline," Rampe said.
While the forwards such as Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett get the spotlight - and the big contracts - Rampe says "we enjoy going about our business quietly".
"We get a pat on the back sometimes from Buddy and Tippo ... but we're happy for them to cop all the scrutiny."
Least points conceded in a season since 1990 by average
1. ST KILDA 64 (2009)
2. SYDNEY 68 (2014)
3. ADELAIDE 69 (2005)
4. FREMANTLE 70 (2013)
5. WEST COAST 71 (1994)
6. COLLINGWOOD 72 (2011)
7. ST KILDA 73 (2010)
GEELONG 73 (2011)
SYDNEY 73 (2012)
FREMANTLE 73 (2014)