Dane Rampe – Taking the LeadWhere are you originally from?
I grew up in Clovelly. I’ve been there my whole life until about 18 months ago when I moved to Bondi. Mum and Dad have still got their home on Burnie Street in Clovelly and it’s what I’ve always grown up with.
I believe you went to St. Anthony’s Primary School: would you like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to any of your old teachers?
Yeah, I will give one shout out to Wilma Humphries. She’s a big Swans fan and she comes up and gives me a hug every game. She was my year two teacher and it’s always good to see her every now and then.
What do you love about the Eastern Suburbs?
I think just the environment. It’s pretty relaxing. I spent a couple years in Melbourne after school and I missed little things like being able to walk around with no shoes on. I bodyboarded growing up too, so I missed the surf in Melbourne. When I was a kid I was on one of those little grommets down at the Cubes in Bronte. I wish I’d been a little bit better at surfing, but it is what it is. There are a few pretty keen surfers at the Swans, like Zak Jones and Luke Parker. I tried to get Dan Hannebery out, but he’s not good in the water.
What are some of your favourite Eastern Suburbs haunts?
In Clovelly, my go-to is Out of the Blue. Any time a mate who is not from the area comes over to visit me, that’s the first place I take them. I do like to mix it up with my ordering. Generally the merguez and the chicken burger are my two favourites. I think the best thing about the place, though, is that the small serve of chips is actually pretty large. That’s a hot tip for you.
What gets your goat about the Eastern Suburbs?
I think the crowds on the weekends, but I’m lucky that generally I’m away playing for the Swans or I’m preparing for a game. I get to enjoy being home and down at Bondi during the week when it’s much less crowded and just a little more of an easy pace.
Are you living with other Swans boys in Bondi?
No, I’m living with my mate who I used to play footy with. He’s from Perth and we’re just good mates. I think it was important for me to have a housemate who is not footy related so I can just switch off when I get home and not have to think about work.
When did you start playing AFL?
I started when I was in year 7. It was just more of a way of keeping up to date with a friend from primary school. With school commitments at Newington College, I had to stop for a couple years, and then I took it up again seriously when I was 17 and decided that I wanted to have a real crack at getting drafted. That’s why I went to Melbourne after school finished, to get that development there.
How was your Melbourne experience?
I went down to there to play in the VFL with Williamstown and hopefully get scouted, which was the only way to do it back then. I did two pre-seasons with the Western Bulldogs and in 2009 I was told that I was going to be picked up. It wasn’t until I was looking through the draft on Twitter, as you did back then, that I saw that my name hadn’t popped up, so it was quite a big kick in the guts.
I did play in a grand final with Williamstown in 2011, but we played against an undefeated Port Melbourne team and they flogged us. I felt like I was just making up the numbers in that team and I wasn’t really setting the world on fire in any way, especially when it came to getting drafted or even noticed. I felt like my time had passed after that 2009 draft. It was a bittersweet thing for me because I was only down there for one thing, and that was to get drafted. Being a role player in a VFL team wasn’t really what I was hoping for.
After you returned home you played a season at the UNSW/Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs, won a flag, then got picked up in the draft by the Swans; you must be glad you bided your time and kept having a crack?
Yeah, definitely. One of the bigger lessons I’ve learned in life is that timing is everything. In Melbourne, I felt so far away from where I wanted to be. I think it’s what set me up for a good career now. When the Swans came knocking, offering me a pre-season, I wasn’t sure whether I could go through it mentally again. I didn’t want to be teased again into thinking I might have another shot. I guess the support of my parents was the big difference. I had my support networks here. Things like my mum’s cooking and just that little bit of TLC when you get home and walk in the door.
You got picked up in the draft by the Swans at the start of the 2013 season; what’s it like sitting through the draft process?
It was stressful. I didn’t want to be in front of the boys when the draft was announced. I just wanted to be by myself, because it would have been pretty embarrassing if my name didn’t pop up again, like it didn’t down in Melbourne. I just walked over to Fox Studios and I kept refreshing my Twitter feed. The Swans had used up four of their five picks I think and my name still hadn’t popped up. Finally, at pick 37, I saw my name and it was more a sense relief than anything. It was liberation, I guess. I just felt like finally, I’d done it, because I knew that once I got on to the list I would have a fair shot. I always believed that I could play, but even today I feel like the hardest thing is actually getting drafted.
Were you a Swans supporter growing up?
Yeah, massive. When I first got here I was pretty excited because I felt like I knew the boys because I’d been watching them for so many years. It was pretty surreal. The good thing about the boys is they just welcome you with open arms as soon as you get on the track and they embrace you like you’re one of them and you just go from there.
Did you have any other sports that you dominated at as a young lad?
I played soccer at a state level throughout school, but I just lost the enjoyment for it. It just became way too serious. I’d been playing from when I was six years old up until fourteen or fifteen. Juggling that with footy and everything else on the side was too much, but it did bring me to the AFL.
If you weren’t a professional athlete, what would you be doing?
I’m not too sure. Before I was drafted I was planning on taking a lot of time off to go travelling, which I kind of missed out on. I can’t imagine myself in a suit and tie going into work. I like to think I’d be working for myself, running my own show. That’s how I tend to do things.
Are you studying at the moment?
Yeah, I’m doing Anthropology at Sydney Uni, which is the study of humans and cultures. I’d like to think that if I could travel around and spend little bits of time in different places, learning about cultures and people, that’d be pretty cool.
In 2013 you were awarded the AFL’s Rising Star Award and you’ve continued to improve as a player; what part of your game do you think you still need to work on?
I like to think I’m working on every part of my game. I guess for me, all I want to do is maximise my potential on and off the field. I think a club like this one really gives me a good platform to do that. This year I’ve been elected to the Swans leadership team, and I’d like to think I’ve stepped up in that area. I think the most important thing is just to share my experience with some of the younger guys at the club, because we do have a lot of really good young players coming through and they could be frustrated at not getting any games because we are at such a bloody good club. I’ve been through that and know what it’s like. You need to be resilient, and it’s that resilience that’s going to help you out on the ground.
What does being on the leadership team involve?
There are eight of us, and I think it’s just about being a voice for the players, and being that connection between the coaches and the players. I like to think I lead by example first and foremost.
You’ve been quite outspoken about the need for racial equality and respect in the game and you’ve become a strong advocate for the Swans’ Reconciliation Action Plan; can you tell us a bit about the plan and what it involves?
The RAP, as we call it, is a program implemented by the Swans to help raise awareness and give education on racial issues, especially after what happened to Adam Goodes last year and seeing how Goodesy and Lewis Jetta and Buddy Franklin were affected by all the booing and stuff. As much debate as there was about it, if those guys identified it as being racist, I think it’s fair to say that that’s what it was. To see the way it affected them was really heartbreaking, because these are my mates. To see them being treated that way was utterly disgusting.
I think part of me joining the RAP was just to get a non-Indigenous member of the playing group on the panel, for that little bit of diversity, but it’s also my way of saying that I support the boys and I’m committed to making a stand against the inequities towards the Indigenous that are still rife in Australia.
What do you think of the state of racism in Australian sport? What needs to change?
I think we’re making headway, which is important. We’re talking about it and that’s a good start, but I still feel like there is a long way to go. You hear of incidences across grassroots level footy which are really disappointing. I think it needs to start with the language we use, and acknowledging that racist jokes and casual racism can’t be tolerated. We just need to take a stand on that, and nip it in the bud right there, because language is where it starts and that filters through to children in the next generation.
Who are your closest mates at the Swans?
I like to think I get on with all the boys, but I guess my closest mates are those with geographical convenience [laughs], so some of the Bondi boys like Tommy Derickx, Dan Hennebery, Josh Kennedy and Buddy Franklin. I spend a lot of time with the defenders throughout the week in training and in the games too, and I’ve formed a really good bond with them over the years.
Who’s the biggest pest on the team?
Probably Gary Rohan. Actually, definitely Gary Rohan, but if he keeps playing the way he has been, he can be as big a pest as he wants because he annoys the opposition defenders.
In your opinion, who is the best player in the AFL?
Hands down, Buddy Franklin. I know he’s my teammate, but I actually had the unfortunate pleasure of playing against him in my first year. He tore me up; he gave me a bath. He’s got that rare combination of brute strength and size, and then obviously agility and speed as well, so he’s a bloody tough match-up.
Is it great having Buddy back in form?
I think just seeing him happy is the main thing. That said, I’m not the best of kicks, but as long as I put the ball in Bud’s direction he generally does the rest. It’s good having him as a target out there.
Has the AFL got a good system in place to look after you guys if and when you go through a rough patch?
Yeah, I like to think so. You can never have enough support. The world is ruthless in terms of the AFL media, and the landscape, and even the social scene here. It really hurts you to see your mates going through what they’re going through, and having to do it in the public eye. To see Buddy back playing footy, which is what he loves doing, and doing well, it’s really good. It makes playing footy that extra little bit more enjoyable.
Who’s the toughest opposition player to come up against in the AFL?
I think Jack Riewoldt at the Richmond Tigers, just because he’s that hybrid type of forward. He’s got good size, but he’s also got good speed. He’s really athletic, and he’s a competitor. He just never lets up. There’s just something about the Tigers, too. I think we’ve lost four of the last five against them. We can’t work them out.
Who are the up-and-comers at the Swans that we should we be looking out for?
I’m going to throw one from left field and say the Irishman, Colin O’Riordan. He’s played seven or eight games and he is an absolute animal. He is a competitive beast and he hates being beaten. I remember someone on the opposition asking him what he’s doing here and he genuinely looked like he was going to explode.
Do you have any advice for young players who want to crack a career in the AFL?
Just make sure you just keep enjoying what you’re doing. You can never underestimate how effective you can be when you’re actually genuinely enjoying something. Down in Melbourne, during my time down there, I was really upset with how I was going. It was translating on to the field. There has to be more to life than a professional sport.
Do you have any role models in or out of the game?
Adam Goodes. I think he’s a genuinely inspiring person. Obviously I got to experience what he did football-wise, and how he went about his craft and his professionalism. The person he is off the field – to be able to juggle all those things, all those commitments, all those struggles – is pretty incredible. If you can look up to blokes like that I think that sets you in a good place to try to build your career, and to build yourself as a person off the field.
Is the moustache here to stay? How long have you had it for now?
I’ve had it for probably a couple years. I’m juggling the pros and cons of that. I’m not sure if I love it, but I don’t want to get rid of it now because I don’t want to field the questions that are going to come after I shave it off.
Do the chicks dig it?
Do you support any charities?
I’ve just become an ambassador for Beyond Blue. It’s going to involve doing talks on my experience, and raising awareness and providing education about depression. Everyone has had someone close to them experience mental health issues. I think it’s easy to sweep under the carpet, but it can be just as bad as a physical injury. It can be just as debilitating. I think we need to break that stigma, especially amongst young men. It is okay to seek help, and to have a chat about it.
Can the Swans bring the flag home again this year?
I do like to think so, and it’s definitely something that we can look forward to if we keep putting together the performances we have. I think we’ve started well and we’ve brought in a bunch of new, young, exciting players, so I think that the future is exciting. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, though.
In a perfect world, what does the future hold for Dane Rampe?
Hopefully a couple of premierships with the Swans. After that, just being in a position where I’m doing what it is that makes me happy, and putting whatever little profile I do have to good use. Fingers crossed I can do that.