PAT LIPINSKI knew it was going down when he stepped out of the shower and saw five missed calls from Collingwood recruiting manager Derek Hine last October.
After months of speculation and uncertainty regarding his future, the deal was finally done. Hine and Magpies GM Graham Wright had executed a trade with Western Bulldogs list boss Sam Power. Lipinski was heading to the Magpies in exchange for pick No.43.
Collingwood had looked at Lipinski closely in his draft year in 2016 and then again in 2020, but he still had a year to run on his deal back then. They identified him as a player to pursue at the start of last year and kept a close eye on his performances, especially at VFL level when he was dropped. His effort and attitude didn’t change at Footscray.
The 23-year-old couldn’t force his way into the Western Bulldogs' stacked midfield on a regular basis, only playing once after the mid-season bye – he was the unused medi-sub on another occasion – adding 11 games in 2021 to make it 56 across five seasons at the Whitten Oval.
Lipinski knew he needed to move for the betterment of his career. Seven months on from his decision to explore greater opportunity elsewhere and Lipinski has already been vindicated five games into his time at the AIA Centre.
The Eltham product amassed 30 disposals and nine coaches' votes in his first game in black and white in round one, averaging 24 disposals, 8.8 contested possessions and 4.2 inside 50s across the first five rounds to stamp himself as an important cog in Craig McRae's midfield.
Now Lipinski will get the opportunity to play in the biggest game on the home and away calendar – in front of the biggest crowd since the 2019 Grand Final – when Collingwood faces Essendon in the traditional Anzac Day blockbuster.
"Obviously I wasn’t playing too much last year, so I wanted to make a move and go to a club that was starting something fresh and that was Collingwood," Lipinski told AFL.com.au ahead of Anzac Day.
"Everything was new for everyone with new coaches, new talent and new players. It looked like it would be a good move and it would be easy to transition there. I'm really happy I've come to Collingwood; it has been a really fun six months."
Sydney was the club that showed the most interest early last season when Lipinski was in and out of the team and used as the medi-sub. Other clubs ramped up their interest after the mid-season bye. But Collingwood landed the player who looms as the biggest bargain of last year's Trade Period.
The Magpies wanted to recruit someone in the 23 to 26-year-old bracket after losing a few in recent years. They wanted one with great character. That’s what they have secured in Lipinski, who has endeared himself to everyone from McRae to Wright to those in the marketing and membership departments, to Jeff Browne and Jen Plumb the property steward at the AIA Centre.
"It's an interesting process, but so many people go through it every year. You know when you're out of contract other clubs are going to be interested in what you're thinking of doing," Lipinski said.
"It was a cool process speaking to some clubs and hearing what they have to say. It was a good process. Once I had chosen Collingwood, I was pretty happy to get it done."
Another part of Lipinski's desire to move away from the Whitten Oval was to get away from the wing. He would play inside for Footscray and dominate, then return back to a wing when he was playing for the Western Bulldogs side. He has got what he wished for so far at Collingwood.
"It's more midfield and forward – I haven’t touched the wing yet," he said.
"It is more that mid-forward mix, get up around the stoppages and use my strengths with my run and cover a lot of ground."
Lipinski still lives with former teammate Aaron Naughton, but Tim English has just moved out of their place in Port Melbourne. He just restarted a business course online and will continue to gradually tick that off while he builds his game in the AFL.
Football is his priority right now. When Collingwood was pitching to him for his services, one of the first things they mentioned was the magnitude and prestige of playing in front of 100,000 people on Anzac Day.
"It is something they flagged when they were trying to sell the club they talk about Anzac Day, so you always have that circled on the calendar. It's super exciting and will be by far the biggest crowd I've played in front of," he said.
Lipinski has come as advertised. Those inside Collingwood HQ couldn’t be more impressed by the polite, humble, people person. If he continues along this trajectory, he will be the biggest bargain from last year's Trade Period.