Only days before he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame, ex-Collingwood premiership player Dane Swan was a long way from the hallowed turf of the MCG. 

Instead, he was in far west New South Wales for a two-hour venture with the South Broken Hill Kangaroos, the latest in a series of marquee games he plays each year at local AFL clubs across the country.

Scheduled to appear at 12 games this year, the 40-year-old said, beyond the fee arranged between his management and the clubs, he enjoys giving back to regional fans.

He said they could find it harder to travel to high-level games in metropolitan areas.

“The further you go away from Melbourne you realise [how] appreciative some people can be,” Swan said.

A group of men in red and white guernseys with a couple of children posing on an afl oval in front of some stands.

Swan, who has been out of professional football for close to a decade, saw himself as just another South player during his time in Broken Hill.(Supplied: Michael Purcell)

“It’s a pleasure for me.

“I’ve been out of the game eight years, so to still have an impact [and] people still wanting me to come around and do these things is nice.”

Marquee games an ongoing tradition

The Silver City is no stranger to bringing in marquee players.

Fellow ex-elites like Carlton’s Anthony Koutoufides and Brendan Fevola, and Jason Akermanis of the Brisbane Lions, have also laced up their boots for the league’s North, West, and Central clubs in recent years.

South Broken Hill Football Club President Michael Purcell said having former AFL professionals playing for country sides is fantastic for local morale.

“There was nothing [Dane] wouldn’t do, he wore jumpers, he met with the kids,” Mr Purcell said.

“He went and visited a lady in a home [who’s] a Collingwood supporter that’s not doing too well at the moment.

A man in a hoodie and shorts standing with his arm around an older woman standing next to a framed guernsey and plaque

Broken Hill oncology patient and huge Dane Swan fan Helen Zammit had the surprise of her life when the man himself walked through her front door.(Supplied: Michael Purcell)

“There wasn’t a time where you felt ‘I’ve got to save him’, because he actually wanted to be there.”

The 2011 Brownlow medallist’s presence was also felt on the field, playing all four quarters, each in a different position, and kicking six goals in the club’s 116-point win over the Central Magpies.

“I still love getting out there [and] five minutes into the game, I’ve forgotten that I’m in Broken Hill, Swan Hill [or] Adelaide,” he said.

Roosters expect ‘grand final’ worthy crowds

Robinson celebrates during Carlton win

Former Carlton and Brisbane player Mitch Robinson will line up for the Elliston Roosters this weekend under a similar agreement.(AAP: Joe Castro)

Meanwhile on the Eyre Peninsula, the remote coastal community of Elliston – 170 kilometres north-west of Port Lincoln – will get to watch St Kilda alumni Steven Milne and former Brisbane Lions and Carlton player Mitch Robinson play for their local team this weekend.

Milne and Robinson are the latest ex-AFL players to get a run for the Elliston Districts Roosters, with Swan also donning the club’s red, white and gold guernsey last year at Poochera Oval near Streaky Bay.

Club President Zack Wilson said last year’s fixture with Swan “dragged in another two to three hundred people” to the tiny town of Poochera, which has a resting population of 67 according to the 2021 census.

“It was more like hosting a grand final than a regular season game,” he said.

A group of kids dressed in red footy uniforms huddles around a man in the same uniform.

Swan with some junior players when he played for Elliston Roosters last year.(Supplied: Elliston Districts Football Club)

“The crowd they draw in and then the exposure to the club and the league they bring is beneficial.”

Mr Wilson said his club had a connection to a player agent who managed all three players, which made the arrangement possible.

He said the players’ fees were funded by the club’s sports centre, which was also used by other local sports clubs.

“It means we don’t have to fundraise for the players, which other clubs probably do,” he said.

A man in a red and white and yellow guernsey smiling with a thumb up in front of a group of other men wearing the same outfit.

Elliston Districts players took what opportunities they could to commemorate their time on the field with Swan.(Supplied: Elliston Districts Football Club)

A worthwhile investment

These types of games do not come cheap, with Mr Purcell estimating the weekend’s expenses, including Swan’s fee, to be more than $10,000.

However, he said several local businesses came on board as sponsors to help offset some of these costs.

A man wearing a red jumper and a woman wearing sunglasses smiling in a selfie in front of a canteen

Swan, pictured with local fan Hollie Day, says he enjoyed his time in the far west.(Supplied: Hollie Day)

He also said the day’s various fundraisers, which included raffle tickets for Swan’s playing guernseys and auctioning his signed club gear, would generate a larger income than they could have raised on a single weekend event.

“It’s an unbelievable investment … the support that we got and just going through the figures … it’s going to be very hard to top,” Mr Purcell said.

“And the money gets to go back straight into our juniors, [and making] any changes to the club for our members.

“It costs a lot of money to run clubs … so it’s come at a great time for us.”

As for Swan, he said while the glory days are behind him, he loves playing the game while he still can.

“I don’t care if I have one [kick] or I have 100 … as long as the footy club that I go to have a great day, make some money and have a couple of decent memories of me, that’s all that matters,” he said.

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