FOUR years ago, Dane Rampe was just another teenage AFL hopeful heading to the MCG to watch the start of the 2009 finals series.

"I remember driving in from Williamstown over the West Gate and seeing the stadium and the lights," he recalls.

"It was almost teasing you."

This Friday night he will cap a remarkable, unconventional journey to the big time when he lines up in the Sydney Swans backline in the first qualifying final against Hawthorn at the MCG.

Invited to train with the Western Bulldogs in 2009, Rampe then spent two years with Williamstown in the VFL without getting an opportunity.

But he never lost his inner belief, dominating in the Sydney AFL competition in 2012 to earn himself a shot with the Swans via the Rookie Draft.

An injury to Alex Johnson during the NAB Cup then gave him an opening and the 23-year-old has played 20 of a possible 22 games for the reigning premiers, including 19 straight.

That led to him recently signing a new two-year contract, giving him the security he has been craving ever since those tough days back in Melbourne.

"At the start of the year I was just focused on getting a game," he said.

"I remember telling my family if I get one or two games I'll be rapt.

"Then my short-term goals and long-term goals began to change.

"Once I hit the middle of the year and I was getting some consistency in my footy, I thought 'I can really do this and can be there come finals'.

"That's what's happened."

Rampe has faced some intimidating battles in his first year of senior football.

Last week against the Hawks, the 189cm, 89kg defender found himself at times matched up with much bigger Hawthorn spearhead Jarryd Roughead.

"'Roughie' actually took me to the goal square and gave me a little wink and I was like 'Here we go'," Rampe said with a big grin.

But big challenges don't faze the confident Sydneysider, who has been able to keep living in the family home in Clovelly while he chased his dream.

"It is a daunting (Hawthorn) forward line, but early on in the year when we played them I was really excited for it," he said.

"If I want to be around for a long time, I have to start doing the jobs on those guys and I actually enjoy the challenge while I'm younger.

"I feel like I've got less pressure on because I'm new and I'm giving away 10 or 15 centimetres to some of the bigger guys.

"It's almost like no one really expects anything, so I feel like that takes a load off my shoulders.

"That's the way I'm looking at it anyway."

Just last year, Rampe was coming to Swans games as an SCG member.

Twelve months on he wants to show his teammates he can be counted on in the biggest games.

"I remember going to my first finals game down in Melbourne and thinking 'Far out, this is essentially what I'm here for', but it felt so far away," he said.

"That's what played on my mind the most, I was doing everything I could but it just wasn’t happening.

"I just count myself so lucky and I'm so proud of what's happening.

"The good thing about our club is we're thereabouts every year up in the finals.

"I really want the boys and the coaches to know they can rely on me at the pointy end of the season."

Twitter: @AFL_JD