SYDNEY Stack would have been forgiven for pulling out. But, as we have come to learn, Richmond's first-year sensation never seems to pull out.
In the lead-up to the Dreamtime at the 'G clash with Essendon in round 10 – the showpiece of the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round – Stack and his three more senior Aboriginal teammates were asked if they would like to perform the 'war cry' dance before the game.
Stack immediately jumped at the chance, but he couldn't convince Shane Edwards, Daniel Rioli or Shai Bolton to join him. They just didn't feel comfortable about it.
The 19-year-old West Australian held no such reservations before just his eighth AFL game. Just to be sure, he called his grandfather in WA and gained his approval first.
On the big night, Stack led a group of traditionally dressed Aboriginals in an animated dance towards the enemy.
"Culture is everything to me. I'm a Noongar man and I want to be a role model for my people back home," Stack told AFL.com.au on Monday after receiving the round 11 nomination for the NAB AFL Rising Star award.
"Aboriginal boys all have a strength – you either dance, you play didgeridoo or you paint or do some art, and my strength is dancing in my culture.
"I was very proud to dance that night, and it's terrific that the AFL and the clubs allowed it to happen."
Stack had already shown his teammates his deep connection to his culture a fortnight earlier when the Tigers travelled to his home state to take on Fremantle. On game eve, he arranged for one of his cousins to conduct a Noongar Welcome to Country ceremony on Optus Stadium and keep the Tigers "safe". The next day Stack played well, as he has seemed to do in each of his nine AFL games, and the Tigers won well.
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Stack is lightning-quick, boasts great skill, flies high and hits harder than his 179 centimetres and 72 kilograms would suggest – and he's already a cult figure among the Richmond faithful. He doesn't quite know what to make of it.
"I try not to think about that stuff. It's all happened so fast. It's weird. I don't look too far ahead because I still don't think it's hit me that I'm actually an AFL player," he said.
"It's a busy life but nothing's going to change – my personality's going to stay the same, I'll always stay connected with my family and my culture, and I'll always try to stay grounded."
Stack was grounded in various ways before taking flight at Tigerland.
A tough upbringing and a general lack of stability on the home front had made life difficult. The one constant, though, was his passion for football.
"Footy is an escape, and I use it as my ticket, as my way out," he explained.
Due to his off-field circumstances, Stack took longer to find his "way out" than his talent would normally dictate. Despite starring for Western Australia in last year's NAB AFL U18 Championships and earning All Australian selection, the Perth Demons prodigy was overlooked in November's draft.
"I was pretty upset. But I wasn't going to give up – I used it as motivation. I was going to stay at Perth Demons and keep working hard on my craft," he said.
The Tigers' investigations looked deeper into Stack and liked what they saw, inviting him to train with them. He stayed briefly with coach Damien Hardwick and earned a spot on the club's rookie list in the new pre-season supplemental selection period.
He's also grateful for the help of many people, including WA U18 coach Peter Sumich and his manager Paul Peos, but particularly Perth talent manager Peter Brear.
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"Peter's stuck by my side and supported me since I was 11-12. He just saw something in me. He's pretty hard on me but whenever I'm going through some problems he's the go-to man," Stack said.
Stack, who now lives with Tigers assistant coach Xavier Clarke, doesn't need to go far for support at Punt Road.
"Everyone at the club has been so welcoming. Richmond is pretty much family to me now. I just want to repay them for giving me a chance," he said.
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There has still been the need for the odd realignment, though, with Hardwick spraying Stack for arriving late for training recently.
"I'm still working on my professionalism. Communication is important. Time is key," the youngster said.
Like any good, nurturing family, the Tigers are being rewarded for encouraging Stack to express himself.
"The club has made me feel so comfortable to just be myself. I've tried to show everyone at the club who I am, what my character and personality is like. I annoy the boys quite a bit and keep them on their toes, but that's just me," he said.
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Stack exploded into the public consciousness in the Anzac Eve clash against Melbourne when he stormed off half-back and crunched tough Demons co-captain Jack Viney, who consequently missed a game with a shoulder injury.
"It left a bruise on my arm but I guess I got the best of him in the end. I didn't think too much about it – it happens to fast. I just try to bring my physical game and use my speed and agility," Stack said.
Stack, whose manager Peos will enter talks on a contract extension during the Tigers' bye in round 14, is enjoying learning the AFL caper in defence but would eventually love to move into the midfield. His fitness level isn't up to midfield standard yet, as was highlighted during his run-and-vomit-and-repeat pre-season.
"I've still got a lot to learn and lot of improvement to make," he said.
That's some prospect.