IT STARTED with an anonymous talkback caller on radio and exploded into one of the biggest attempted trade stories of the decade.

Geelong's "brass band" of coach Chris Scott, list boss Stephen Wells, captain Joel Selwood and Brownlow medallist Jimmy Bartel in Adelaide to try and poach Power star Travis Boak in July 2012.

Fast forward eight years, and as Boak enters a top-four clash against Geelong as the hottest player in the competition's hottest side, AFL.com.au looks back on the day the Cats tried to tempt the kid from the surf coast back home. 

Already a best and fairest in a three-win 2011 season, Boak's signature held the keys to Port Adelaide's future.

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With close friend and fellow 2006 draftee Robbie Gray already committed to the club off a knee reconstruction, the Power were desperate to lock away their next captain as they stared down another failed season. 

But Geelong was circling in a big way.

"Travis said to me, probably a few months before, there's a pull at home with his mum and sisters, but there's also a big pull at Port Adelaide and he's very close with a lot of the players," the Power's then head of football Peter Rohde told AFL.com.au this week.

"We had some bad times around then, but he was always part of the solution. He was never a whinger, he was always positive and looking forward to the future."

As he wrestled with the decision, Boak decided to meet with Geelong on Sunday July 15 in a serviced apartment on Glenelg Beach just a day after collecting 29 disposals as the Power fell to 4-11 following a 50-point thumping at the hands of Essendon.

We were coming over to get Port Adelaide's star player

- Jimmy Bartel

The only problem was the media – courtesy of Channel Nine journalist Tom Rehn – had received a tip-off via a talkback caller on local radio station FiveAA.

Scott, Selwood and Bartel had been spotted at Melbourne Airport bound for Adelaide with Wells already in South Australia.

The cat was out of the bag when the trio were doorstopped getting off their flight in Adelaide and with the new wave of social media taking off, the vision went viral instantly.

Chris Scott and Jimmy Bartel were snapped at Adelaide Airport. Picture: Channel Nine screen shot

"People thought we came in as cowboys to steal their star, but I think we were a bit underdressed for that. Joel was in trackies," Bartel told AFL.com.au this week with a laugh.

"Being a Geelong kid, two picks before Joel in his draft, I know Wellsy (was thinking) if they can come back to Geelong and be around their family and such a well-respected family in the Geelong community… plus he was a gun.

"I get it how people in the media and Port Adelaide supporters think it was shocking we went and did it and maybe I didn't comprehend it at that stage.

"I was thinking, 'We're going to have a chat to a guy, we weren't making it out in public'.

"I thought, 'Gee they've taken this a bit far' but I get it, we were coming over to get Port Adelaide's star player.

"He was a Geelong kid, a quality player and I just thought what's the harm in having a conversation? They're (approaches) done over the phone… we just wanted to do it in person."

Cameras followed Chris Scott and Joel Selwood through the airport. Picture: Channel Nine screenshot

Port Adelaide was well aware Geelong had been speaking to its star onballer but had no awareness it was flying into Adelaide to meet him the day after a match.

"We found out through the media," Rohde said.

"It didn't come as a total surprise, but we were a bit scared and surprised they'd gone down that path to bring a bunch of players over.

"I can't remember who I rang first, whether it was (Boak's Victorian-based manager) Tom Petroro or Neil Balme who was footy manager at Geelong at the time.

"He'd coached me at Melbourne so obviously I knew him pretty well. I rang him and said, 'What's going on?' He certainly didn't deny what was going on."

Power chief executive Keith Thomas was scathing of the Cats' move, stating: "Subtle conversations are one thing, but arriving with shiny buttons and a brass band is quite a different matter."

However, Geelong was of the view that if Boak was going to make a call, they wanted to get in front of him and present him all options.

Within the first five minutes you knew we weren't going to get him

- Jimmy Bartel

"There's no doubt that stuff was going on and I'd be lying if I said we hadn't got in front of players from other clubs… but I think everyone did it in a low-key sort of way," Rohde said.

"In reality, it (Geelong's move) was a sign of desperation. We were very confident of keeping Travis all the way through.

"After I'd spoken to Tom (Petroro) and after I'd spoken to Neil and then Boaky… we actually took it as a positive. To do something like that was their last roll of the dice."

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 While Bartel was keen to add to an already star-studded midfield, he could sense where Boak's loyalty sat early on.

"Within the first five minutes you knew we weren't going to get him," Bartel said of the meeting.

"All the qualities and the reasons we wanted to get him were also the reasons I thought we weren't going to get him.

"He was so committed to Port Adelaide and you could tell he was a leader already and that he was driven to lead that footy club."

Boak informed the Power of his desire to stay less than a week after the meeting with Geelong and officially re-signed on a two-year deal in September.

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Coach Matthew Primus had been sacked after round 19, Ken Hinkley appointed coach in October and Boak was announced captain for 2013.

A new dawn for Port Adelaide had arrived.

Boak claimed the first of back-to-back All-Australian blazers in that season as the Power played finals for the first time since their 2007 Grand Final drubbing – his first year at the club.

Captain for six years before handing the baton over at the end of 2018, Boak's rise in form, and a second best and fairest in 2019, has coincided with a permanent a return to the midfield.

Player Ratings by year

 

Time in Midfield %

AFL Player Ratings avg.

2013

65%

15.5

2014

79%

16.0

2015

78%

13.4

2016

72%

13.3

2017

37%

11.3

2018

23%

11.4

2019

77%

14.3

2020

86%

13.5*

 *2020 multiplied by 1.25 to account for shortened game time

He now finds himself third favourite for the Brownlow Medal, and while Brisbane's Lachie Neale is a raging favourite, Boak could become the oldest winner in history at 32 if he was to storm home this year. 

"I'd love to see him land one," Bartel, the 2007 Brownlow medallist said.

"I've always loved watching him play, he's skilfull, he's tough, he can play a number of positions.

"You just hear how (former Geelong assistant) Ken Hinkley speaks about him and clearly (I) value Ken Hinkley's opinion on footy and he can't speak any more highly of him.

"The fact his footy's going still at such a high level proves how much of a champion he is. The difference between his good games and bad games… there's barely any difference." 

Boak in 2020

 

2020 Avg.

Club Rank

Player Ratings

10.8

#3

Disposals

21.4

#1

Contested Possessions

9.5

#3

Uncontested Possessions

12.0

#1

Metres Gained

321

#4

First Possessions

5.8

#1

Clearances

4.7

#2

Score Involvements

6.0

#2

Score Assists

1.4

#4

Pressure Acts

17.4

#3

Tackles

3.8

#5

And when asked about the 'cowboy' move this week ahead of the date with the Power, Scott couldn't help but think what might've been.

"He would've been a pretty good player in the hoops, I reckon," Scott said.

"He's in outstanding form, he's playing in the best term in the comp and he's arguably been their best player for the year playing his preferred position and leading by example on and off the field which speaks to all the reasons we rated him so highly for such a long period of time."

Friday night will mark game 276 for Boak and with a contract until 2022 - a year that will mark his 16th in the AFL - the kid from the surf coast will soon race by Kane Cornes' 300-game club record at Alberton.