There’s a massive sense of relief for Paul Tsapatolis after signing with Geelong as a B-category rookie.
For most of his life Tsapatolis has been focused on his basketball career, with college or playing overseas beckoning.
But in recent years he realised that wasn’t the dream and for the past eight months has been talking to AFL clubs about making the transition to football.
He spent time in both Adelaide and Sydney this year training with clubs, but it was Geelong – just a 30-35 minute drive from home at Point Cook – that won his signature.
“It was just pretty much everything,” he said of picking Geelong.
“The connection I had with the club, and how they displayed their trust in one another. Not even to do with me. Stephen Wells, their recruiting manager, trusted Troy Selwood [talent ID manager] to deal with me for eight-odd months.
“They were smooth with the process and didn’t force me to do anything. It just felt right in the heart and it’s the best feeling ever.”
Tsapatolis admits there were a few tears when he received his heads of agreement, with the contract for two years.
After receiving his deal, Tsapatolis has been busy working at the club ahead of the pre-season starting this week.
Having not played football since under-13s at Yarraville-Seddon, Tsapatolis knows that he has a lot of work ahead of him.
“I’ve been training for two-odd weeks now, doing my own thing and getting a feel of it,” he said.
“I’ve been training with [assistant coach] Shaun Grigg a bit and Cam Taheny, it has been good to get some sessions.
“It’s about just getting better every day and there’s amazing resources at the club, so there’s no excuse not to get better.”
He said while some players were still interstate after the AFL season, he had spoken to most of the playing group.
Skipper Joel Selwood is among those who have given him some advice.
“He has been good and gave me a call the day it happened,” he said. “He still comes up to me at the gym and asks if i’m enjoying it.
“A few of the rookies have sent me messages as they know what it is like being a first year player, have been given a lot of advice and obstacles to overcome in the first year.
“Tom Hawkins came up to me today and said you will love it. He said just do all the little things, same as Joel Selwood. They said do all the little things, work hard and have fun and the results will take care of itself.”
Tsapatolis said in his early days he thinks he will be played in a combination of ruck and forward and has his eyes on a full-time ruck spot in the next few years.
For now, his focus is on improving.
“Obviously I want to play senior games, but that’s out of my control and more up to the coaches. I’ll do everything I can to get into a position for a senior spot.”