Sam struts a different sash

Written By Unknown on Jumat, 04 Januari 2013 | 14.43

Changed man: Sam Lonergan wants to repay the faith the Tigers have shown in him. Picture: David Smith Source: Herald Sun

SAM Lonergan had a feeling his papers had been stamped.

But when coach James Hird told him his 79-game Essendon career was over, it hit him like a ton of bricks.

"It was a two-minute meeting with Hirdy and it was pretty much, 'We're not going to go with you going forward'. That was pretty much it," Lonergan said.

"It left me wondering and wanting to know answers. I was very frustrated and there was a sense of being angry towards that decision.

"I was shocked because at the time I believed I still should be in that team, but I'd seen it coming. When I started getting inklings about my future it was frustrating and a bit of a shock to be experiencing that, and at times it was very tough.

"Even now I still probably don't understand why it happened, but that's footy and the way it works. You deal with things to the best of your capabilities and, I guess, do it respectfully rather than losing your cool.

"You've got to move forward and wait for the next door to open up and you attack that with everything you've got."

The door opened to a rookie list spot at Punt Rd.

But the midfielder's path to Richmond was far from cut and dried. He met the Tigers within days of being delisted, but then heard nothing for three weeks.

"I spent a good month doing my own pre-season," Lonergan, 25, said.

"It was different because there are moments when you have flat days, where you're not feeling great, or you're not as enthusiastic to train.

"Of course that happens in the regular AFL environment, but when you're in a large group ... other guys bring you up.

"But in saying that, I was really happy with the month that I had by myself. I felt I'd trained extremely hard and probably did more than I needed to do just to try and ease my mind on if I was falling behind or going along the same as AFL clubs."

Unsure about the future and with no income, Lonergan, along with former Bombers teammate Ricky Dyson, took to construction work.

Then a week before the December pre-season and rookie drafts, the Tigers got back in touch.

"They said they hadn't gone anywhere. They'd just kept it quiet and laid low. Then on the day I got a phone call about 20 minutes before the draft, saying, 'We're going to take you'.

"Richmond has done very well through the trading and drafting period. I've been very impressed with the character that they've brought to the club, along with the character that's already at the club.

"In terms of opportunity, for me it's not my No.1 goal at this stage to be looking at that sort of stuff.

"I really just want to get myself in absolute peak physical shape. Performances will come after that and whatever happens happens."

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