Stewart Devlin was 18, and still at school in the Victorian Wimmera, when Geelong nabbed him at pick five in the 1990 national draft. Three years later he was at Norwood without a real AFL match to his name
While growing up at his family's wheat and sheep farm at Longerenong, Stewart played in back-to-back premierships with Horsham and was close to best on the ground in the big grand final win over Warracknabeal in 1990.
When the Geelong recruiters swooped on him, Stewart said he had no idea of the world he was stepping into, nor did he care. "I just wanted to play footy. Mum and dad thought they were just coming down to talk, and before the night had ended I took a duffel bag with some clothes in it and was in the car and gone."
Stewart did not enjoy his next two years, living in shared accommodation and running 20 x 400-metre sprints with the likes of Paul Couch, Gary Hocking and Gary Ablett. He played in three or four practice matches, then in the night series in Adelaide and Perth. "Then I got the flick, and that was basically the year for me," he told The Age. Having played on a flank, changing on the ball, he found himself shunted to the back pocket in the seconds. His competition for a midfield berth included Couch, Hocking, Mark Bairstow and Andrew Bews. He saw no opening there.
Recruited by Norwood in 1993, Stewart failed to flourish under coach Neil Craig. Midfield spots were still scarce with Michael Aish and Keith Thomas automatic choices in their final year. Stewart kicked 16 goals in 18 games in the reserves but was selected in the league team for just three games mid-season. Norwood finished fourth and Stewart returned to Victoria.
While studying at the Victorian Police Academy in 2005, Stewart came down with pneumonia and it prompted him to do something about a golf ball-sized lump under his right arm. It was Hodgkin's Lymphona. He was 33 and thought his playing days were over. He was lucky. Most of the cancer nodes were cut out and a course of radiotherapy took care of the rest.
Stewart's police training mates persuaded him to join them in a junior outfit, Seddon, which, although "flogged every week by 40 goals", generated good fun and a sense of togetherness until the club was absorbed by Yarraville in 2006. He was still playing with North Footscray in 2008
P Robins Feb 2019