His story is different to most, but it’s certainly an interesting one for SUNS vice-captain Pearce Hanley.
This weekend Hanley will play his 150th AFL game. It’s his 12th season in the league.
Fellow vice-captain Touk Miller caught up with Hanley on the first episode of Touk’s Talk Season 2 to learn more about Hanley’s journey from amateur Gaelic footballer to AFL veteran.
“Same as anyone growing up I wanted to be a professional footballer,” Hanley said.
“But Gaelic football doesn’t pay you so it’s completely amateur and the only thing you get for free is the meals after training.
“Then obviously Tadgh Kennelly and Martin Clarke were doing well at the time so I knew it was an avenue I could take to potentially make a career in the AFL.”
Despite growing up with a preference to soccer, there was no denying Hanley had a gift for Gaelic football.
He represented the Irish U17 international rules team in 2005 and won the Ron Barassi Medal for player of the series against Australia.
That was the first time he was scouted by AFL recruiters and the Irishman eventually signed to the Brisbane Lions as a rookie in 2007.
“I wanted to be the quickest Irishman to debut and I did come close but I injured my hamstring in my first year and was out for 10 weeks,” Hanley laughed.
“But I was doing ok so I possibly could’ve debuted sooner.
“I was nearly put in Round 5 but they wanted to give me one or two more weeks and then in that game I did a 10-week hammy.”
He went on to play 129 games for the Brisbane Lions from 2008-2016 and was awarded the Marcus Ashcroft Medal in the 2014 QClash against the SUNS.
Hanley was traded to the SUNS in 2016 but has had an unlucky run with injuries since then.
“The hardest thing probably coming to the Gold Coast was being injured,” Hanley said.
“You want to prove yourself at your new club but I couldn’t do that because I was injured so much.
“I was kind of like ‘I’m out of luck here’.
“That’s why it’s nice to be playing good footy to start the year and being fit and fresh.”
Now in 2019, Hanley has had an uninterrupted start to the season and is finally getting some consistency in his football.
With the milestone coming up this weekend in Adelaide, Hanley will be excited to share it with his family.
His mum and dad are flying into Australia to watch him play in his milestone match and will be his biggest supporters for the next few weeks before they fly back home after Round 7 against West Coast.
Hanley said it’s been hard living away from home for so long, but it allows him to cherish any time they do have together.
“I’ve got the majority of my family back home, a brother in the States and a sister in England,” he said.
“Cian (Pearce’s brother) was here but he had a lot of injuries as well and then homesickness came on top of that so he went home.
“People move away from home all the time, but it is the other side of the world, it’s not as easy to get a short flight.
“But mum and dad have come out a few times and I get home most years so you just look forward to that.”
When reflecting on his career so far, Hanley says he’s drawn inspiration from another professional Irish athlete.
He used to be a big Connor McGregor fan and can see parallels to his own journey making it to the top of his field.
“He’s come from this tiny little country and he’s one of the biggest stars on the planet,” Hanley said of McGregor.
“I wouldn’t say his most recent stuff is the stuff I idolise.
“I think his story from when he first started to when he won the UFC title is amazing and there’s so many videos that I look back on – I just find it inspirational, his drive and work ethic, just everything.
“His early stuff definitely did inspire me and just the fact that he’s Irish is a bonus.”
Hanley will be sharing his milestone match with a pair of Crows in Eddie Betts (300 games) and Brodie Smith (150).
The SUNS have never beaten the Crows.
After starting the season 3-1 the team are as motivated as ever, and it would be a fitting way to send their vice-captain home a winner if they can extend that to 4-1.