SAM Fisher made the decision to play in the WAFL and join Swan Districts to taste something fresh with his football and try and to get AFL recruiters to step up and take notice, few things will do that as much as producing a Sandover Medal winning season.
The 22-year-old Canberra native arrived at Swan Districts to settle into the midfield on the back of having spent a season in the AFL system with the Sydney Swans and more recently plying his trade in the VFL with the Northern Blues.
He had been playing good football but not necessarily banging down the door for another AFL opportunity, so he made the bold move to head to Western Australia and play in the WAFL.
That was in the hope to see if he could follow recent mature-age pick ups Marlion Pickett, Tim Kelly and Matthew Parker, Jonathan Marsh and Liam Ryan by earning a crack in the AFL, and he couldn’t have done any more to impress.
In the end, Fisher was brilliant in the midfield for Swan Districts averaging 26.5 disposals a game which given the shorter quarters is even more impressive and his consistency saw him have no game below 18 touches.
He was named to the WAFL Team of the Year and now as of Monday is the first winner of the Sandover Medal from Swan Districts since Andrew Krakouer's brilliant 2010 season that saw him subsequently join Collingwood.
In just eight games for the season, Fisher polled a total of 13 votes and his consistency was highlighted with him earning votes in six of those matches.
He was tied with West Perth's Aaron Black entering the last round but received two votes in his team's win over East Fremantle to claim the Sandover Medal, and he is blown away by the historic significance of the award.
"To be honest it hasn’t sunk it at the moment," Fisher said.
"I didn’t come to the event expecting to win, but it's a massive honour and you see at the start of the night the amount of history this competition has, and the following it still has within Perth, it's pretty spectacular. It's a massive honour to win the medal."
Once Fisher made the decision to move west, there would have been no shortage of suitors for his services in terms of WAFL clubs, but it was Swan Districts that was most proactive and he was quick to join up with the black-and-whites.
He was keen to change things up from playing in the VFL and try to impress people along the way enough where he would earn another opportunity in the AFL system having spent 2017 with the Sydney Swans.
It's hard to argue he has now made people sit up and notice but he couldn’t have been happier that it was Swan Districts he chose as his destination.
"Phil Smart got in contact with me at the end of last year but I think the main reason was that it's still a goal of mine to pursue AFL. Obviously I was on Sydney's list for a year but I still think I have the qualities to help an AFL team out," he said.
"I just wanted a change up from the VFL and obviously moving to Perth meant the weather was a massive positive and I've heard great things about the city. That was the main reason just for a fresh start and hopefully try and resurrect my AFL career I suppose."
To make the move across the Nullarbor, go through a whole pre-season and then be ready to start your first WAFL season, but have the carpet pulled from beneath you thanks to COVID-19 with an uncertain future certainly meant it was an interesting year for Fisher to come to Perth.
But even during the months of restrictions where football was taken away from him, he was always glad he made the decision to come to Perth and then with the knowledge there would be a WAFL season and not a VFL one, he would never regret it for a second.
"To be honest probably being in Perth and enjoying what the summer had to offer with the beaches and stuff like that as I settled into a new city, it wasn’t the worst," Fisher said.
"It was definitely a challenge maintaining fitness during that COVID break and after going through a whole pre-season and creating connections with the boys at the footy club, just delaying that process for a few months definitely made it hard.
"But it is what it is and there were people in other parts of the world suffering worse than we were in Perth being so secluded. Having that light at the end of the tunnel that we were going to get on the field was just a massive bonus and gave me something to keep striving for."
The move west can be a daunting one for anyone and for Fisher, quite simply it's not something he would have been willing to do alone.
To have Frank Anderson and Deven Costigan not only join him in coming to Perth and in becoming housemates, but for the trio to become Swan Districts teammates certainly made the move easier even though Fisher had no trouble settling in at Bassendean.
"It was absolutely huge and to be honest I wouldn’t have come over here alone," he said.
"Just having Frank and Dev made the transition so much smoother and moving in with them from the get-go, and having familiar faces around from the very start and mates you already have that connection with made it so much easier.
"But even the first few months at the Swan Districts footy club, they were so welcoming and I made friendships there pretty quickly. The whole process was pretty smooth."
You only need to watch Fisher play for a little while and you can see what a natural ball-winning midfielder with outstanding kicking skills he is.
While he grew up mostly in Canberra, he also spent time in Geelong in his early years.
He'll always credit his grandfather Ken Duff, who played at the Cats before 67 VFL games with Footscray in the 1960s, with helping him developing the skills for the game that are now serving him so well.
"My grandfather used to play with Geelong actually and then coming out of Canberra firstly, the footy wasn’t massive there given rugby is the major focus there," Fisher said.
"But my mum's side of the family is all from Geelong so just having my grandfather pick me up from school every day and take me to have a kick means he was pretty much the reason where my footy has got to.
"I couldn’t thank him enough to be honest and he's the main reason I became a good kick because of getting to kick the footy every day with him. That was massive. He actually passed away at the start of the year which is pretty sad, but I think he'd be pretty proud of where my footy's got to. Ken Duff."
When you consider that had Fisher decided to stay in Melbourne this year not only would he not be a Sandover Medallist and not potentially not get another AFL opportunity, but with the cancellation of the VFL season he wouldn’t have played football at all, it's easy to see why he's so glad he made the decision.
And now if he in fact doesn’t earn another chance in the AFL system in 2021, he would love nothing more than to return to Swan Districts and do all he could to help the club return to finals action for the first time since 2017.
"Looking back at my decision, I 100 per cent made the right call at the time. It was an extremely tough decision to make obviously with Perth so far away and not knowing too many people when on the east coast you have mutual connections," Fisher said.
"Just distance-wise it's a massive move but looking back it couldn’t work out better, and I've definitely enjoyed myself over here for the year thoroughly. Hopefully next year we can do something special as a footy club.
"I've signed there for next year and I think we built something pretty special in the last couple of rounds. Going into the off-season and the next pre-season, if we can just add a few more elements to our game and team, then hopefully next year we could see some more results go our way."