WHAT happens when you put four key forwards in a taxi?
"Richo, Buddy, Pav and myself … clearly I was fourth in line by a long way," former Geelong spearhead Cameron Mooney recalled this week.
"We were just all telling stories on the way to a press conference, Buddy was in the front seat and the rest of us in the back just in tears of laughter.
"I remember just pinching myself thinking 'How good is this, sitting in a car with these superstars'."
It was May 2008.
Matthew Richardson, Lance Franklin, Matthew Pavlich and Mooney were billed as the lead act operating as a four-pronged tall forward line for the Dream Team against Victoria at the MCG.
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"We ended up playing the game and it was a disaster for us, the four talls didn't work out," Mooney said.
"By the third quarter I think three of us were sitting on the bench."
Led by Port Adelaide premiership coach Mark Williams, 25 players came together to tackle the Vics in a one-off Hall of Fame Tribute Match to celebrate the 150th year of Australian Football.
Franklin booted four goals, but it wasn't enough as a Brendan Fevola-led Victorian line-up won by 17 points.
A handful of participants from the Dream Team outfit recounted their memories from the last representative game of its kind ahead of this week's State of Origin for Bushfire Relief match.
Galvanising against the Vics
Williams wasn't going to let Victoria's EJ Whitten spirit dominate his side.
Despite a 2008 premiership season to deal with either side of the Tribute match, the Power boss had his club's video editors compile a pre-match package of stirring memories from a collection of heroes from state matches.
"There was a lot of talk about the Victorians playing for their home state and being able to draw on that," former Fremantle superstar Pavlich said.
"But I remember Choco drawing on the state v state hatred and being able to use that collectively and trying to go out there and smash the Vics.
"Having grown up being a South Australian aspiring to play State of Origin one day, I never had that chance. Then all of a sudden, you've got Richo, Buddy, Brett Kirk, the Burgoyne brothers. It was just a really cool week to be a part of it all."
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Williams kept team officials on their toes by ordering a team photo in the week of the game with his Dream Team participants donning their respective state jumpers.
But there was one player he felt should've been there.
"I always found it a little controversial that Goodesy (Adam Goodes), who was born in South Australia, played for Victoria. I was looking for Goodesy to play for us," Williams recalled.
Team manager Shane McCurry was ordered to provide pinball machines and table tennis tables at the team's Crowne Plaza HQ to build chemistry.
"The Vics had a team dinner at Breezes at Crown and we were down the road at Don Camillo's Italian pasta restaurant on Victoria Street," McCurry said.
"I think our budget didn't quite go as far as the Vics did at the end of the night."
The Buddy lure
Enjoying a career-best season (he would go on to win a flag and kick 113 goals), Franklin almost never played.
"Buddy Franklin (shoulder injury) was a real chance not to play, Hawthorn were trying to look after him, not exactly sure whether he was right to play," Williams said.
"Once he got there and saw what it was all about, he was adamant he wanted to play."
Williams is most proud of the eight Indigenous players who took part – Franklin, Peter and Shaun Burgoyne, Daniel Motlop, Mathew Stokes, Graham Johncock, Leon Davis and captain Andrew McLeod.
"We played eight Aboriginal players who all started together on the ground at the same time," he said.
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"I've had them come up to me and tell me they appreciated it and valued it as a huge mark of respect."
Along with Franklin, several other players were under fitness clouds, including 2008 Brownlow medallist Adam Cooney with an ankle complaint.
"Guys like Matty Richardson played a real leadership role in convincing some of those younger guys who were involved that they should play for the sake of the memories," said McCurry, who now plays a pivotal role in leadership at Richmond.
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"Seeing Richo go about that gave me a different perspective of him as a person and as a leader. He didn't need to do that, he was playing for a representative side and not his club side."
West Coast captain Darren Glass was forced to withdraw with a hip injury that required surgery at season's end, while Sydney's Tadhg Kennelly and Fremantle's Luke McPharlin also sat out.
Putting rivalries aside
In the mid-2000s, there was Port Adelaide v Adelaide. And then there was Kane Cornes v Andrew McLeod.
"McLeod was the one I had the biggest on-field rivalry with, I used to play on him in every Showdown and it was a match-up I was nervous about," Cornes said.
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"To be on his team, not only a relief, but it was amazing to be able to chat to him in the locker room, at training.
"Just a stupid thing I remember asking him about were the latest Adidas boots he had on. He was a bit guarded at first but then by the end of the week he opened up."
Mooney had the pleasure of leading to Gary Ablett, Paul Chapman, Steve Johnson and Jimmy Bartel for much of his career at Geelong. But the Dream Team was a level up.
"Training on the MCG, I had McLeod hitting me where I wanted it, the Burgoynes kicking it to me," he said.
"The ball just never hit the ground, was never a mistake.
"I remember training on the MCG the day before the 2007 Grand Final and it was even better than that."
Mooney had to deal with Daniel Kerr when he first arrived at the hotel.
"A couple of years earlier I'd whacked him in the middle of Subi Oval, no cameras saw it. I can't believe it, I would've got five weeks," he said.
"We just shook hands and had a laugh about it."
Despite the Vics prevailing in front of 69,294 people, the two teams came together later in the night to celebrate.
"The greatest moment from the whole experience was going for a drink at the Waterside Hotel," Mooney said.
"We're up on the rooftop, 3am in the morning and the lights are on, they're trying to kick us all out.
"There was a ring of players, about 20 across Victoria and the Dream Team, (Jonathan) Browny, (Dean) Coxy, Stevie (Johnson), Fev (Brendan Fevola) and all arm-in-arm singing a Cold Chisel song.
"I remember thinking if someone took a photo of this, it could be one of the great photos or it could be a disaster."
2008 DREAM TEAM LINE-UP
B: Graham Johncock (Adelaide), Ben Rutten (Adelaide), Craig Bolton (Sydney)
HB: Andrew McLeod – captain (Adelaide), Matthew Pavlich (Fremantle), Adam Cooney (Western Bulldogs)
C: Matthew Richardson (Richmond), Daniel Kerr (West Coast), Shaun Burgoyne (Port Adelaide)
HF: Simon Goodwin (Melbourne), Cameron Mooney (Geelong), Daniel Motlop (Port Adelaide)
F: Brett Burton (Adelaide), Lance Franklin (Hawthorn), Leon Davis (Collingwood)
R: Dean Cox (West Coast), Peter Burgoyne (Port Adelaide), Kane Cornes (Port Adelaide)
I: Nathan Bock (Adelaide), Jamie Charman (Brisbane), Joel Corey (Geelong), Mathew Stokes (Geelong), Brett Kirk (Sydney), Corey Enright (Geelong), Ryan Griffen (Western Bulldogs)
Coach: Mark Williams (Port Adelaide)
Assistants: Neale Daniher (West Coast), Guy McKenna (Collingwood), Tony Micale (West Coast), Danny Daly (North Melbourne), Marcus Ashcroft (Brisbane)
Squad: Tadhg Kennelly (injury), Luke McPharlin (injury), Darren Glass (injury), Daniel Cross (emergency), Nathan Bassett (emergency)
GOALS: Franklin 4, Davis 3, Burton 2, Goodwin 2, Motlop 2, Kirk, Stokes, S.Burgoyne, Richardson, Mooney
DISPOSALS: P.Burgoyne 36, McLeod 29, Cornes 26, Johncock 25, Corey 23