Billy Frampton celebrates Collingwood's win over Brisbane in round three, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

BILLY Frampton is a premiership player now, but he hasn't forgotten what life was like on the fringe.

He spent more time playing at Alberton, Glenelg Oval and The Parade than at the Adelaide Oval during his time at Adelaide and Port Adelaide. It was the making of him.

Collingwood was in the market for another key defender in 2022 when Derek Hine went to watch Frampton play in a SANFL pre-season game. The veteran recruiter found what he was were looking for on a March afternoon at West Lakes.

After quietly tracking his progress that winter, the Magpies recruited Frampton in exchange for a future third-round pick amid a seismic trade period for the club. Collingwood had holes to plug. And they plugged them. They signed in-demand free agent Dan McStay after trading in Bobby Hill when the window opened. Then they landed Tom Mitchell on deadline day. 

The acquisition of Frampton attracted the least attention. And for good reason. The West Australian played only 24 AFL games across eight seasons at the Power and the Crows. In that time, he played 91 SANFL games. First as a forward, then as a ruckman, before moving down back. 

Now more than 18 months on from that trade, Frampton has a premiership medallion at home and his place etched in Collingwood's history forever. After so many disappointing Thursdays spent missing out on selection, the West Australian is proving how important perseverance is in this business. 

Billy Frampton celebrates after the AFL Grand Final between Collingwood and Brisbane at the MCG on September 30, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"That is pretty much the whole reason why I am able to adapt. What I went through in South Australia, although it was a great time in my life, there was a lot of adversity with selection and how I was playing," Frampton told ahead of another clash against one of his former sides on Saturday. 

"It was a really tough time. I didn't really have a lot of answers at the time. I always thought my best was capable. I played a game in my last year at Adelaide and it was a really good game, got in the coaches votes. I knew that was my best and good enough at the level. But I went without answers for a while there and drifted away to the SANFL. 

"I was pretty lucky in the end that Collingwood reached out to me. When you're grinding away in the twos, it is definitely tough when you don't have any answers and you're being left behind. You have to keep turning up with the right attitude and I had some really strong feedback at the end of my time at the Crows, which was something I was really proud of. 

"Without that background, I wouldn't have been able to develop the way I have now and stay in the moment and not let things get me down too much in terms of selection and always staying ready. Things in the past have set me up and last year gave me a bit of substance that everything had happened for a reason."

Billy Frampton looks on during an Adelaide training session at West Lakes on January 7, 2021. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Frampton spent only two weeks in the twos last season – both in July – and ended up playing everywhere for Craig McRae. He replaced Jeremy Howe down back in round two when he broke his arm. He then spent the early part of the season playing in the ruck when Darcy Cameron and Mason Cox were injured, eventually being squeezed out of the side for the qualifying final. But just when his season looked over, Frampton was the one who replaced McStay in the Grand Final after the former Lion injured his knee in the preliminary final. 

Now the South Fremantle export receives regular reminders of what winning a premiership means to the Collingwood faithful. Last week it was via an electrician in his house who didn't resist the opportunity to express his appreciation. Last month it was at a wedding where a guest shared his Grand Final day moment with his grandpa. 

"It was something I never thought was going to be on my radar. Never something I had dreamt about. It had always been about getting in the side, just getting a game, so winning a premiership was never something I was really striving for. It still hasn't really sunk in," Frampton said.

Billy Frampton is seen as a fan holds a sign asking for his boots during the R2 match between Collingwood and St Kilda at the MCG on March 21, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"It was an amazing week and it still happens now where people come up to you and tell you how much it means to them. It happens weekly. People come and tell you how much it means to them and their family. To be part of that and be able to look back on that for the rest of my life will be one of my most cherished memories."

Frampton had one job on Grand Final day: restrict the influence of dual All-Australian key defender Harris Andrews. Brisbane's co-captain had torched Carlton seven days earlier at the Gabba, and loomed as one of the biggest threats on the ground. But on the day that matters most, Andrews was shut out of the game for three quarters before influencing late. 

No one touched the ball less – two disposals, zero marks – than Frampton, but the numbers only tell a fraction of the story. Frampton delivered exactly what McRae asked for. Internally, he received the plaudits the performance deserved. 

"It narrowed my focus and I knew I didn't have to produce something out of the ordinary for us to win. I just had to play my role, negate him and set myself up well," he said. "I thought I did that for most of the day without getting too much personal reward. The role itself I think helped us win the game. It is definitely something that has been valued a lot internally, which is something I'm grateful for."

Billy Frampton and Harris Andrews compete for the ball during the AFL Grand Final between Collingwood and Brisbane at the MCG on September 30, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Frampton was overlooked across the first two rounds of this season. Charlie Dean got the nod against Greater Western Sydney and Sydney. But since returning in round three, the 201cm defender has delivered his three best performances yet at AFL level. Just ask the coach. 

Frampton is ranked No.2 in the AFL behind Darcy Moore for average spoils (nine) in 2024, No.5 for intercept marks (four), No.6 for intercept possessions (nine) and No.7 for key defenders, according to Champion Data's player ratings points. 

"This is 100 per cent my best spot," he said, "I've always felt that. Being settled is a different kettle of fish. I like being versatile and being able to help the team out wherever they need me. I think I'm capable in the ruck and up forward, wherever they need me. that helps me stay in the team and around the coaches' eyes. But I've always wanted to play as a key back so I'm getting that opportunity now. I'm settled in that spot, but definitely don't feel settled in the team. I'm never going to feel like I've got a spot locked in and that's how I'm going to approach every game."

If Frampton wasn't already an important puzzle piece in Collingwood's premiership defence, he has become crucial this week. The Magpies had been bracing for this moment since Nathan Murphy suffered his 10th concussion in last year's Grand Final, but now the decision is final after the premiership defender was medically retired last Saturday. 

"With a player like Murph going out and what he did for us as a back six with how he connected us and what he did so selflessly, he is always going to be hard to replace," he said. "I think I bring what I bring to the table – and it's not exactly how Murph did it – but if I can fill those shoes in some way, it is definitely something I'm aiming to do. It is going to be hard to replace him."


Jordan Roughead has left his mark on Frampton, just like he did with Murphy. And just like Frampton, Roughead arrived at Collingwood for minimal cost (pick No.75 in 2018) and with the Magpies having a clear role in mind (the ruckman became a defender). He proved to be a bargain recruit across three full seasons playing down back for the club. The Magpies' backline coach has worked closely with Frampton since being promoted from development coach and opposition analyst over the pre-season. 

"I'm glad you asked me about him. Roughy is probably the biggest reason why I'm playing some good footy at the moment. He has been unreal for me personally. Just to have a key defender coach me is something I haven't had before," he said. 

Jordan Roughead speaks to Collingwood players during a training session at AIA Centre on February 14, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"He is so knowledgeable and clear with what he wants from me. me and him play an identical role from when he was playing. He has given so much to me with craft and the way to play the position, going above and beyond."

Now Frampton is in, he doesn't want to be back out. He knows better than most that football doesn't last forever. It is why he is gradually ticking off a business and sports management degree at Torrens University, one unit at a time. 

When his time in the AFL is up, it might mean he is back at the SANFL or VFL scouring the state leagues for talent, either as a player agent or a recruiter. But if things continue to go to plan, Frampton won't be heading back to Sturt, Woodville-West Torrens or North Adelaide for years.