It's well documented that Hawthorn was rapt to have a young Luke McPharlin, did all it could to keep him, but could offer the Fremantle boy nothing to compare with the pull of home. Less storied is how easily McPharlin might never have been a footballer, let alone one in such demand.
In year 12 at Christ Church Grammar, he had everything that makes an AFL star except the desire to be one. Football was something he enjoyed but wasn't defined by; his mind was filled with thoughts of travel followed by university and a career in medicine.
"I was probably a bit ambivalent about a career in the AFL, which is amusing considering I've played for 14 years now," McPharlin says. "I was enjoying playing but wasn't taking football as seriously as some young guys were. I wasn't playing state football or colts, just school football."
With a couple of mates, "Baz" and "Jones", a plan was hatched to spend their first year out of school on the Pacific Ocean island of Kiribati. The night before an East Fremantle colts game at the WACA Ground, he was talked into playing. There was no time to change the names in the footy record, so McPharlin ran out as the unfortunate young man who'd been dropped to squeeze him in. "Clint Hopkins" kicked eight goals that day and McPharlin was no longer bound for the Pacific.
"Everyone was excited about what Clint could do," he laughs, debunking the story that the Hawks were behind his covert colts appearance, that the nom de plume was an elaborate bid to hide him from other potential suitors. "There was none of that – it was my lack of interest or laziness or whatever it was."
He is grateful for the investment Hawthorn made in him, the nurturing of a body and mind that were both raw in footy terms. His draft intake included Tim Hazell, Brett Johnson, Tim Clarke and Chance Bateman, all long gone. With uni on hold, the likes of Shane Crawford, Nick Holland and Paul Salmon became his educators.
"Those figures were really inspiring and interesting for me, I had a really enjoyable time, but at the end of my two-year stint I was keen to come back and play in front of family and friends," McPharlin says. "It's been such a long time since, but I do look back fondly on my time at Hawthorn."
McPharlin duly became the player good judges knew he would, and has managed to satisfy his inquisitive side too. Erudite and rounded, he is almost through a pharmacy degree, and he's a husband and parent.
His workplace doubles as a classroom under Ross Lyon's tutelage. The coach is across every facet of his players and their lives, McPharlin says, marrying a broad understanding of his pupils to a rigid yet simple approach that doesn't change no matter what the outcome. "We come together and decide what we want to be as a football club and how we want to play and then we go about the entire season never forgetting that, and that's the power of Ross. I am sure a lot of teams have these discussions during the year but then it just drifts or falls by the wayside as the pressure comes on and it becomes more outcome-focused, whereas Ross has always been very driven and focused on what we are about."
As time has marched on, his body has provided its own stern examination of McPharlin's mettle. He missed last year's finals after tearing a hamstring, and he missed the two months leading into September this time around with a calf injury. Last Saturday night's game time was down on his usual performance, although he put that down to match-ups rather than a rumoured adductor strain. He admits there have been "a couple of hiccups along the way"; he and Fremantle need for the metaphorical sticky tape to hold him together for only one more week.
Lance Franklin and Jarryd Roughead await: "high-calibre forwards . . . clever . . . strong . . . quick, they work hard". He has stood Franklin several times, won a couple and lost a couple. His assessment of "Buddy" is that of a well-prepared student.
"He's just so dangerous in so many situations . . . one of those forwards you can never have a lapse in concentration on for a second because he will expose you. A tough challenge. No weaknesses."
He doesn't credit the idea that a grand final means more to himself and the likes of Matthew Pavlich and Aaron Sandilands, that they have worked harder for longer so are somehow more deserving than their juniors.
"I don't think it is greater than for any other individual in our side – we deserved the opportunity this year and here we are."
As for Clint Hopkins, McPharlin is unsure where he is. "Probably travelling."