NICK Holman will be thinking of just one person when he runs out for his 100th game on Saturday night.
Having been delisted by Carlton in 2015, worked his way back into the AFL via a stint in the SANFL and overcome a career-threatening injury two years ago, Gold Coast's rugged pressure forward has conquered more obstacles than most to reach the milestone.
But nothing has been harder than dealing with the sudden death of his mother, Kylie, almost 18 months ago.
It was late 2021, two days after Christmas, and Holman was playing golf with his father and brothers in his hometown of Kyabram when they received the life-altering phone call.
Kylie, who had been in perfect health when they left home, had suffered a heart attack. In the six minutes it took them to rush home, she was almost gone.
The ensuing fog of grief has taught Holman more about himself than he ever knew. About making mistakes and learning from them, about anxiety and opening up to people about his struggles, and hopefully now starting to come through the other side.
"I definitely got it wrong on occasions and did stuff I shouldn't have been doing," he tells AFL.com.au of how he's processed his mother's passing.
"I couldn't sleep, I had a lot of anxiety, which I'd never had in my life.
"There was all this stuff going on that doesn't usually happen to me."
After staying home for a couple of weeks as he and his family began the grieving process, Holman returned to the Suns for pre-season training and helped them secure a famous round one victory over West Coast in Perth, with the outpouring of emotion that followed a welcome release after months of build-up.
But as the weeks passed, his grief began to manifest into something more and he suffered crippling anxiety at night that left him unable to sleep.
"Mum died of a heart attack, so I felt that could happen to me," he said.
"I felt more inclined to have a heart attack. I felt this extra feeling, I could sense every feeling happening.
"I was scared something was going to happen to me.
"I got heart tests and all sorts of stuff for peace of mind.
"There's a part of me that knew nothing was going to happen and that my heart was really good ... (but) Mum's came out of the blue and I thought there was potential it could happen to me.
"It built on itself. I wasn't getting much sleep ... sometimes I was getting to sleep at two or three in the morning and up at six or seven.
"It ended up being a vicious circle."
That Holman managed to play 20 games during that 2022 season and finish ninth in the club's best and fairest is a testament to his mental fortitude as well as the work he's since done with two psychologists, who have helped him nail down a new sleep routine.
"For me to play out the season and actually play my role in 75 per cent of games, I think that was something I've taken into this pre-season as a mental strength," he says.
"Now that I've done that, I can conquer anything.
"I'm more mentally strong now than I've ever been.
"I miss Mum like crazy and every single day I think about her. She's still here with me and I know that.
"I know she'd be super proud."
On Saturday night, Holman will celebrate his 100-game milestone against the Western Bulldogs, the same opponent when he suffered a devastating internal injury in 2021 that left him nine kilograms lighter and fearing his career could be over.
That game was the last time Kylie, who helped nurse her son back to full health, saw her son play.
"I'll be thinking about Mum," he says of the milestone.
"It'll be a little bit sad at some point this weekend … it's definitely going to be emotional."
For the full interview, listen to AFL Daily on Saturday.