A Decade On: Ali Pickett
- Wednesday, 20 August 2014
When the final siren rang at Subiaco Oval on Grand Final day in 2004 Allistair Pickett could finally exhale.
He and his family had been endured a tense fortnight.
The elation that accompanied the birth of his youngest son Brodie was quickly followed by the devastation of losing a close family member.
There was also a second Sandover medal in there somewhere.
But with the game over and his black armband still in place, Pickett was quick to find his numerous family members for a series of long and emotional embraces.
Pickett’s first premiership medallion was the jewel in the crown of a decorated WAFL career that incredibly almost never happened.
When Pickett first arrived on the WAFL scene he was wearing red and blue.
In 1996 he made three senior appearances for West Perth and showed glimpses of his match winning potential.
That was until the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee snapped for the second time in three seasons.
“I did my knee back in 95 and then again in 97 when I was 19 and 21 and back then two knee recons wasn’t a common thing.” Pickett remembers.
It brought his budding WAFL career to a grinding halt.
“At the time I was just happy to accept that it wasn’t meant to be and I thought oh well it just didn’t work out so I walked away from the game.” Said Pickett
One of the greatest players of the modern game turned his back on football.
After almost three years on the sidelines and with his WAFL dream over, Pickett decided he’d again lace up the boots, this time just for fun, with some friends in the Upper Great Southern Football League.
Playing for Narrogin, Pickett’s speed, awareness and silky skills didn’t go unnoticed for long and he was named the league’s best player in 2000.
By 2001, word of Pickett’s dazzling bush footy exploits had travelled far and wide and Peel Thunder’s scouts decided they had better have a closer look at the player nicknamed ‘The Wizz’.
“Some one had told Peel Thunder that I was playing decent footy down there and they asked me to go over and have a couple of games.”
“I was asked to play the last five games in 2001 for Peel and then they must have liked what they saw and they wanted me to hang around and do a pre-season the next year.”
Pickett took a liking to Rushton Park and decided to take them up on the offer.
It was during pre-season training where Pickett first met incoming Peel player coach Peter German.
“I was overwhelmed, I was a North Melbourne supporter and I heard a rumour that Peter German was going down to Peel so I couldn’t believe my luck.”
“During training I was looking over my shoulder to see where he was rather than concentrating on my pre-season.” Pickett recalls with a laugh.
In the season that followed a fitter, stronger and according to himself, taller Pickett tore the competition to shreds.
He turned out to be a revelation for the Thunder and under the guidance of German, he took home the 2002 Sandover Medal.
He’d played just 25 WAFL games.
At the end of the season both he and German decided their time was up at Peel and the pair were greeted with open arms at Subiaco.
Pickett arrived at the Lions as the league’s best individual player but football is a team sport and the midfield marvel was chasing its ultimate prize.
He contributed 35 goals in 22 games in 2003 but the Lions stumbled in the Grand Final going down to West Perth.
Had Pickett stayed a Falcon he may have become a WAFL premiership player a season earlier than he did.
The Lions took their game to the next level in 2004 and come Grand final week the league’s most dominant side were raging favourites to beat Claremont and claim their first flag in 16 years.
If any one had the right to be feeling tense that week it was Pickett.
“The Grand Final week was a mixed preparation for me, I had just had a new born, Brodie, my youngest boy and with a new baby it was little bit harder to prepare and some other things happened out side of football that week.., we lost a family member so it was a little bit hard personally.”
On top of that Pickett negotiated the attention that came with winning his second Sandover medal just 6 days before the big game.
“It was hard, a part of me wanted to celebrate what I had achieved but I knew it wasn’t the end of the season so I still had to prepare for the Grand Final, that was something the club hadn’t achieved for a while, and for us to be successful we had to be on our game.”
Pickett remembers receiving his medal:
“That night Germo was telling everyone to keep a lid on it; he was one of those blokes who, come Sunday his focus was on the next game so that Monday night that was no different. I trained before I went to the medal count.”
“It was pretty special, you sort of miss out on celebrating it on the night because you’re so focused on the game. I enjoy it more looking back on it now that I’ve retired.”
If Pickett was carrying any external pressure into the Grand final he disguised it well.
The ‘Wizz’ went to town on Claremont’s midfielders and defenders.
“Germo really asked me personally to keep putting that pressure on, to keep tackling and chasing and to make it hard for them to get it outside of our forward fifty and the same in the midfield.”
“He said if we can get our numbers up in the tackling then we would win. I would have rather him say to me ‘go out and kick five goals’ but that wasn’t the case.” said Pickett with a laugh.
Pickett went on to claim another three premierships including one more under Peter German in 2006.
Pickett credits much of his success to his old coach and while the two shared a close bond Pickett is adamant he wasn’t the coach’s pet.
“Hell no, I wasn’t one of his favourites.“
“That year I copped the biggest spray in Round One, I was a minute late to the team meeting. He slammed the door and the hinges fell off.”
“He looked me in the eye and gave it to me, he basically said he had planned to start me on the ground but now I was starting on the bench but he said it in a slightly more aggressive way than that.”
“I learnt my lesson from that one I think.”
Pickett and German along with the rest of the 2004 team will all catch up at the ten-year premiership reunion, which will be held following the Lions last home a game of the season on the 31st of August.
Click here for details or phone Brooke on 92089999