CHARLIE Spargo expects there to be a little bit of division within his family this week. The Melbourne small forward, who has proven to be a crucial under-the-radar cog in the Demons' rise this season, is a fourth-generation footballer at the top level.
His great grandfather Bob Spargo snr played two games with Melbourne after 65 matches with Footscray. His grandfather Bob jnr and great uncle Ricky both played for the Bulldogs, too, before Charlie's father Paul played 81 games with North Melbourne and nine with Brisbane.
Saturday night's Grand Final between the Demons and Bulldogs could make for some split loyalties within the Spargo football family tree.
"They're semi-torn I think," Charlie told AFL.com.au. "I haven't spoken to my uncle who's a diehard Bulldogs fan or my grandpa yet. I'm honestly not sure what they'll do, I think my grandpa Bob will be on my side because he went to the 2016 Bulldogs flag so he's seen one.
"My uncle's probably a bit more passionate about the Dogs so he'll probably be on their side and I know my whole family is all for me. It's a weird situation."
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Spargo often reflects on his family's football links, with every game he plays for Melbourne adding to the story.
"My dad always filled me in on what those before me had done with my grandpa and great grandpa and they've always been a source of information for me to pick their brains, particularly my dad, he's been paramount in helping me build a career in the AFL," he said.
"He never pressured me to play footy or anything like that, but was always there whenever I needed a hand, particularly in adversities. There's a lot of those in football and dad's helped me through those."
Spargo is aiming to be the first VFL/AFL premiership player in his family, though, when he runs out for the Demons against the Dogs at Optus Stadium. After playing in the Demons' three finals in his debut 2018 season, Spargo managed eight games in each of the next two years before winning back a permanent place in Melbourne's attack.
As the Demons count down the days while based in Joondalup in Western Australia, Spargo has been occupying himself with university work, PlayStation battles and Marvel movies, but he admits it is impossible to get the possibility of winning a flag off his mind.
"To be honest it's hard not to think about it. I'm trying to think of other things to keep me distracted but when I lay in bed at night they're the things I'm thinking about," he said.
"I'm a nervous type so I can't really get my mind off it at the moment. I'm trying to do uni and get out of the hotel as much as I can to stop thinking about it. But although I'm nervous I'm extremely excited."
Spargo's influence on the Demons can be overlooked from the outside, but his pressure, hard-running and tenacity make him much-loved internally. Though he entered the AFL as a ball-getting midfielder, the 21-year-old has found his niche through his work rate in attack.
"I think every small forward in the League knows it's a position that can get frustrating at times. One day you might have six possessions but run 12km and you're doing really important running for the team, whether that's to open up space for others or pressuring people," he said.
"But other days the ball's going to fall in your lap and you'll have 12 to 15 and kick a couple of goals and have some nice tackles. It's about doing the fundamental things of your role really well which is pressuring the opposition, competing really hard and running really hard. I know that when I do those things well I put myself in positions to get the ball and kick goals."
Spargo has booted 17 of them this season, having not missed a game, including two goals from 18 disposals in last week's preliminary final belting of Geelong. But his numbers have more beef to them than that. He recorded 28 score assists this home and away season – ranked equal first with Christian Petracca at Melbourne. The Demons also retained the ball from 69.8 per cent of his kicks into the forward 50, which was ranked No.1 at the club.
There's been adjustments made along the way: in his professionalism, in his training, in his diet, in his proactive injury prevention and even in his mindset, knowing that a good game doesn't need to look like it did as a junior when he would tally big numbers of disposals in the midfield.
It makes Spargo an unheralded yet important member of Simon Goodwin's forward line as the Dees shoot to make history.
"I actually remember Max Rooke, who was my forward line coach that year in 2018, telling me to make the most of it as you never know if you're going to get back to a prelim again," he said.
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"It sort of slipped my mind because I thought it was easy and you're probably going to get back there every year so it was a real wake up call in 2019 when we finished near the bottom. I think I've gained a greater appreciation and understanding for how hard it is to go well as a team."