Sam Jacobs was 22 when he decided to leave Carlton for Adelaide, nine years ago. There was no need to think too much further than himself. He was young, he had no commitments, he was desperate to play more AFL games and the Blues had four ruckmen on their list. For his own good, it was time to go and see what a second club had to offer.
“My family was a factor, definitely. They were pretty big factor, because I’d moved from a little town of 1000 people to Melbourne when I was 18 and I’d been away four years. The lure was there to come back home and spend more time back around my family and friends. Footy is something I love to share with the people close to me and that was part of the decision for sure. So they were always in my mind, but at that age all you’re thinking about is playing as much footy as you can,” Jacobs said.
“The biggest thing for me was being somewhere where I got to play more games and got to work out whether I was up to AFL footy, which I felt like I was. I loved my time at Carlton but I really wanted to play, and there was obviously going to be more opportunity to play at the Crows. I guess when you’re young, there’s nothing wrong with wanting the best thing for you and your career. I was young and really just looking for that chance to find out what I could do.”
Last year, Jacobs had a different decision to make. First, he had to work out whether he was ready to leave an Adelaide side that had dipped down the ladder and was looking to start playing its younger players more regularly; while he had missed much of the season with a knee injury, then sat behind Reilly O’Brien for a few weeks, he had been able to push his way back in by the end of the year. Then he had to think about which of the clubs that were keen on him would let him make the most of the time he had left in the game.
The GIANTS appealed, even before Phil Davis got on the phone to sell the club to his old Adelaide teammate. Jacobs wanted to play in the finals again, and liked the idea of working alongside Stephen Coniglio, Josh Kelly, Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper, Callan Ward and the rest of the club’s midfielders.
“It was different to leaving Carlton because when I went through it this time it was more, which team can I help the most and where would I be of most use? I have a bit of time left, but I don’t have ages,” he said. “The way the club sold it to me, I knew it was the best place to go. As sad as I was to leave Adelaide, it just seemed like the right time for me, and for them.”
There was another layer to the decision, though. Jacobs had enjoyed being back in his home state. He had met his wife Isabelle there. They had had a little girl, Imogen, and had recently built a house. Jacobs is grateful that he and his family were close by each other when his brother Aaron died two years ago; he is not sure how he or they would have coped had they not had that time together. This time, switching teams meant leaving them all behind again.
“That was the toughest part, but Issy was up for something new just like I was, and our families are really supportive,” Jacobs said. “I felt a bit bad packing up and taking their grand child away, but they just said ‘off you go, just go and do it,’ and they’ve been loving it as well.
“They were actually keen to visit a new city and meet some new people, maybe even more than I was. My mum still catches up with friends she made while I was at Carlton, so she loves it. I had about eight people up for round one, sitting at my place watching at TV and they all would have been at the ground if they were allowed. Their support hasn’t dropped off one little bit which has been good. It’s a bit of an adventure for all of us, really, not just for me.”
It’s been an interesting one, so far. First, there were the bushfires. Now, it’s the coronavirus break. There has hardly been enough time to get settled. But Jacobs made an early start to pre-season training, which helped him get to know his new teammates quickly. He has enjoyed working with Kieren Briggs on the training track, and knows a big part of his job at the club will be helping Briggs and Matthew Flynn get ready to take his spot.
“I actually like it, when they start to use some of your tricks back on you,” he said. “It keeps you on your toes. And I’m big on that; I can’t be here forever so I want to help make sure those young guys come on and improve. I’ve done heaps of work in the gratitude space and I think if you judge your happiness by whether you’re winning the race by holding other people back, then you’ll have a pretty miserable life.”
Similarly, he has liked working out how to fit in with how Coniglio, Kelly, Taranto and co. go about things, while picking up some new ideas from Shane Mumford. “We play the same position but we play it in such a completely different way,” he said. “It just shows that you can never run out of things to learn. It’s already been good, to pick up some things from him.”
This pause is not ideal. But Jacobs prefers to look on the bright side. “There’s been a lot going on but really, it’s been a dream start. The way we’ve been welcomed into the club, the little bit of Sydney that we’ve been able to see, the way I’ve fitted in the group,” he said.
“Moving clubs when you’re 30 is very different to when you’re 22 and there were times I definitely asked myself, ‘can I go through it again, can I get re-engaged?’ but I don’t like being stuck in a routine. I like to try new things and meet new people and until you come to the GIANTS you don’t realise the bonds that are here because everyone has moved from somewhere else. There’s a family environment and that’s something Issy and I have really noticed.
“It’s a different dynamic, but I knew it would be a good fit and that’s the way it’s felt so far. Now’s probably a good time for some reflection about the way things are going and to think about where you’re at in life, and with the situation I’m in now, I couldn’t be happier. I’ve started to build those relationships, I had a good pre-season, I played my role in that round one game and we had a win. If there was a way I wanted to start the season, then that was it. It’s been everything I could have hoped and the goal now is to just keep that rolling.”