OF THE four players Collingwood recruited last October – Tom Mitchell, Dan McStay, Bobby Hill and Billy Frampton – the latter appeared the least likely to have an impact in 2023, but now the journeyman is set to play a crucial role in Saturday's Grand Final.
Just over 12 months ago, Frampton walked off the Adelaide Oval after the Crows' SANFL side lost a preliminary final to Norwood. It was the last of 15 reserves appearances for Adelaide in 2022, proving to be his final game for the club.
The 26-year-old has played just as many for the Magpies since moving to Victoria in exchange for a future third-round pick, after managing 24 appearances across eight seasons at Adelaide and Port Adelaide.
Collingwood coach Craig McRae has predominantly used the West Australian as a key defender and as a back-up ruckman when Darcy Cameron was sidelined.
But now Frampton is set to play as a key forward to replace McStay after the former Lion suffered a high-grade medial collateral ligament strain in last Friday night's preliminary final win over Greater Western Sydney.
"'Fly' told me to reflect. It has been an interesting journey. Reckon there's probably been a fair bit more downs than ups in my career so far, but to have the opportunity to run out tomorrow makes it all worth it," Frampton said at the Grand Final parade on Friday.
"He told me on Tuesday. He got me in the afternoon, which was a nice surprise. Selection is usually Thursday or Friday. He got to me early and settled my mind. It was a really good feeling. Pretty indescribable.
"I had a bit of an inkling I'd be close. Fly said I would be around the mark. I trained in the ones that day, so I thought I might be a chance, but definitely not a certainty. To get officially told was a really good feeling."
Collingwood GM Graham Wright and veteran recruiting boss Derek Hine identified some holes on the list after last year's preliminary final exit. McStay helped provide another marking target in attack. Mitchell was recruited to help at the coal face. Hill to add more firepower at ground level. The Magpies saw something in Frampton that hadn't worked at West Lakes, where he managed only six games in 2022 and 21 across three seasons under Matthew Nicks.
"It has been an interesting journey. There's plenty of things that go on, but staying the course and persisting has always been how I've tried to conduct myself. To get a little bit of reward – and hopefully a lot more by the end of tomorrow," Frampton said.
"I obviously decided this was what I wanted to do with myself and just given it my all. I think if I bundled out at the end of my career and it didn't work out, at least I could look back and say I had a crack and took opportunities when they came. I don't want to die wondering."
Frampton confirmed he will start forward as a direct replacement for McStay and is set to play an important role on Brisbane co-captain Harris Andrews. The dual All-Australian was one of the most influential players on the Gabba last Saturday, helping claw back a five-goal deficit to seal progression to the club's first Grand Final since 2004.
"I'll be starting forward, but there's plenty of scope for me to go into the ruck and into the backline as well, so plenty of flexibility. I'm just going to try and compete and bring the ball to ground," he said.
"I think Coxy and Darce [Cameron] will come down there at times and they'll give us a big target. Any way we can test them out, I'm sure we'll try to expose it."
Frampton's phone has been blowing up since McRae announced the selection on SEN on Tuesday afternoon during his regular appearance on Andrew Gaze and Andy Maher's drive show. Collingwood has been open all week. They ruled out Taylor Adams on the same day. Then they announced that Patrick Lipinski would be the sub on Thursday.
McRae's decision to make the call early has allowed the 200cm, 90kg utility to digest the news. He has heard from former Adelaide teammates who played in the 2017 Grand Final and let the occasion get the better of them. He will have dinner with his family on Friday and then hope for a decent night's sleep.
"I slept alright last night, thankfully. We'll see how we go tonight. Hopefully the brain doesn't churn too many thoughts out. We'll see how we go," he said.
Frampton has also heard from McStay regularly across the past 48 hours with the heartbroken recruit helping his replacement prepare for the biggest game of his life.
"It was obviously shattering news for him," he said. "I don't really know how he'd be feeling but I've had a few texts with him. He has been in the club straight in the gym. It is a credit to him how he's gone about it. He's got around me fully and wants us to get it done, wants me to play well, it is pretty incredibly how he's gone about it."