Sport

Former Shepparton star Nik Rokahr makes SANFL debut

By Alex Mitchell

Nik Rokahr wrote another chapter of his football story on Sunday, taking to a South Australian National Football League field for the first time.

The Shepparton premiership player and Morrison medallist made his debut for Norwood as the SANFL season belatedly kicked off, part of a Redlegs’ outfit that fell to Glenelg by three points in a thrilling encounter.

The 24-year-old had 16 disposals, seven marks and two clearances in the loss, already showing his ability to make an impact in a side featuring plenty of former AFL talent.

Rokahr said particularly after the long wait, getting his chance to show what he was capable of in a big game had been huge.

“It was really hot early, very contested. It doesn't really mean anything, but a lot of people have tipped those two teams to maybe play off in the grand final,” he said.

“So it was a really good spectacle, the ball was really hot and for a limited preparation game, the standard was very good.

“It's all new for me over here; pre-season was great, everyone was loving it, we've got a good side on paper and were looking really good. So COVID-19 really couldn't have struck us any worse.

“From there, it was a challenge all training by ourselves and finding that self-motivation. But yesterday was just unreal, walking out onto Adelaide Oval which might be the best stadium I've ever played at. The MCG was pretty cool, but there's just something about Adelaide Oval.”

After his sensational 2018 campaign with the Bears — winning the Morrison Medal and best finals player in their breakthrough premiership campaign — Rokahr spent last season with Geelong's VFL affiliate, but spent plenty of the year with home club Bell Park, where he continued strong form.

Frustration caused by that lack of opportunity had Rokahr opt for a sea-change and head to Adelaide to further his football career.

“It was probably just a pretty limited opportunity with all the AFL-listed guys coming into the side, and that was pretty frustrating for me,” he said.

“Rob McCartney had encouraged me to go to the SANFL after the premiership, but I didn't want to leave Victoria just yet. But I had a good chat with him and a couple of other guys about the SANFL, a few clubs got in touch, but I just really liked Norwood.

“It's more of a mature group than I've been part of in the past, Shepparton was really young and so was Geelong. So that's been a breathe of fresh air for me, usually I've been young, but still treated as one of the older and more senior players.

“And it's great to be playing with guys you are basically socialising with every day, with the VFL you'd be playing with AFL guys you hadn't seen at all.”

And Rokahr, who is originally from Congupna, said he was adjusting well to life as a South Australian.

“I really like (Adelaide), it's similar to Geelong in a way, it's a big city and spread out and it does feel like a big town in a way,” he said.

“I'm really enjoying that aspect of it, and there's some really under-appreciated things about Adelaide like the beaches, that's been pretty nice.”