MAX GAWN will forever have a place in Melbourne folklore if he lifts the premiership cup this season but victory might also help the big man win over his extended family.
The Demons' skipper arrived at the club when it was three seasons into what turned out to be a barren 12 years without finals, and is now 57 years without a grand old flag.
James Frawley was already an emerging talent at the Dees and remembers the early call was that Gawn might be "a solid player, a good player".
He certainly didn't expect the 208cm ruckman to become one of the stars of the competition – or that they would be each other's sidekick at future family events.
"Max is my brother-in-law now. We tried to keep him away from [his future wife] Jess but he's very determined," Frawley told AFL.com.au with a laugh.
"He's good to have in the family and to have Christmas with now. He's very down to earth, is a good fella to have a beer and a chat with, loves his sport and has always got some funny gags.
"But our wives' old man is a mad Geelong supporter, he's very one-eyed so he hasn't spoken to Max since he dominated the prelim. He might get over it and talk to Max again if Melbourne wins the flag."
The former teammates' lives are intertwined now but Frawley can still recall the first time he crossed paths with Gawn.
Frawley had just cemented his place in the Demons' defence and was set to follow that with a breakout season that earned him a spot in the 2010 Therabody AFL All-Australian team.
Gawn had been drafted with pick No.34 in the 2009 NAB AFL Draft but was a long way from becoming the player that has led the Dees to the brink of a drought-breaking premiership.
"He had an ACL injury when he rocked up so it would've been pretty tough for him early days, getting to know everyone when he was stuck in the rehab group," Frawley said.
"He was a pretty quirky guy but the boys around his own age, like [Jack] Trengove and [Jack] Watts, they all loved him. The rest of us could tell he was a funny character and he still had a bit of a presence even when he was young.
"You just thought 'This could take him a while to play AFL' but he put it together after a few years, started dominating the VFL, eventually translated that to AFL and now he's one of the best players in the comp."
Frawley moved to reigning back-to-back premiers Hawthorn as a free agent at the end of the 2014 season and went on to win a premiership in his first season with his second club.
While most of the players and staff that were at the Demons during Frawley's eight seasons there have since moved on, he is still close to Gawn, Nathan Jones and James Harmes in particular.
The recently retired Frawley hasn't offered his former teammates any advice on how to approach the Toyota AFL Grand Final, instead sticking to lots of congratulations on their inner-circle group chat. But he'll be cheering for the Demons on game day.
"It'll be unreal for the footy club and the mates that I've still got there to play in the biggest game of the year," Frawley said.
"Jonesy and guys like that who have been stalwarts and champions of the club will be so proud. Then Gawny and Harmesy have come in and helped turn it around, now they need to finish it off.
"If they get the job done, they deserve to be heroes of the footy club because it has been a long time coming. It will be amazing to see them win."