EFL: From ‘burbs to Borough

Moving up: Dean Grice has found a place in Port Melbourne’s senior VFL side. Picture: Cyan Sporting ImagesYOU could count on one finger how many Eastern Football League division 3 players could go straight to the Victorian Football League seniors.

That player is Dean Grice. The former Boronia midfielder left his beloved Hawks late last year after VFL premier Port Melbourne offered him a chance to do the preseason.

He has played the first two games of the VFL season in the Borough’s senior side, playing on the wing and in midfield as the club extended its league record-winning streak to 23 wins.

Initially the move cut Grice deeply as the Boronia resident was desperate to help his emerging side to a senior EFL premiership. Grice had played at the Hawks since he was nine years old.

Instead, the offer to try big league football was too good to refuse.

“I got a phone call in mid-November from the general manager asking me to come and train,” Grice said. “I’ve had offers in the past but just blown it off because I want to win a flag at Boronia.

“But this time I thought I would do it. Worse comes to worse I would come back a lot fitter. Then after a few sessions they wanted to sign me up, so I thought, why not? I didn’t want to die wondering.”

Grice played three preseason games in the Borough’s development side and was shocked to receive a late senior call-up in round 1.

“It was a bit of a surprise,” he said. “I was put on the ball straight up so I couldn’t get any nerves on the bench. I was straight in there.

“I’ve got to play my role more than chasing the footy. I let older guys get under the ball and play a more defensive role.”

Despite being just 24 years old, Grice won his third division 3 league best and fairest award last season and was still content to remain at his home club after the Hawks fell short in last year’s division 3 finals. Grice wanted nothing more than to help the Hawks to the premiership.

Grice is still based in Boronia and works full time as a tradesman while training three times at week in Port Melbourne and playing matches. “It’s been pretty hectic. I certainly don’t get to head out with my mates any more, but it’s been worth it,” he said.

Hawks president Tim Currie said Grice had left with the club’s blessings, although he had started drawing supporters away.

“We played a practice match last weekend and there were more people in the clubrooms watching Dean on ABC than watching the match,” Currie joked.

Grice said he was awed by the support of his home club. “In my first match about 30 people from the club came and watched. A few Port Melbourne people labelled it Grice’s pocket,” he said.

While Grice does miss his home club, the chance to play elite football is a huge step in his career. “We have a really good chance of going back to back, so to be part of that would be outrageously good.”