THE name Damien Lock is synonymous with local football in the region.
He has coached three clubs - Colbinabbin, North Bendigo and Marong - been best-on-ground in a grand final win for Eaglehawk in 2008 and won a 2001 best and fairest with the Bendigo Diggers.
But before doing all that Lock also had an 18-game AFL career with Carlton across a three-year stint at the Blues from 1997 to 1999.
Lock this week spoke with the Addy to reflect on his time at Carlton.
Luke West: Locky, what do you remember of AFL draft day back in 1996?
Damien Lock: "I was hopeful that I'd get drafted. Footy was a massive part of my life growing up and I'd always had the goal of playing league footy.
"Draft day I watched it at home hoping that I'd get picked. I wasn't sure of my chances, but it turned into a special day getting picked by Carlton."
Were you considered a good draft prospect that season or more in the smokey category?
"I had played in all the representative sides and the Teal Cup and what probably ended up getting me drafted was I played as a top-up player for Carlton's reserves during the 1996 season.
"I played about five games as a top-up and there were a couple of good games in there, which probably got me over the line to get selected, which worked out well."
Being drafted to Carlton in 1996, you're coming in to Princes Park just over a year after the Blues had won the 1995 premiership.
"Carlton was very much a strong club when I went down there that had the household names like Stephen Kernahan, Greg Williams, Craig Bradley, Stephen Silvagni, Anthony Koutoufides, Brett Ratten, Fraser Brown... it was a great time to be part of that club."
How big of an eye-opener is it as a young fella coming down from Bendigo to now be rubbing shoulders so to speak every day with those names you mentioned?
"It was quite daunting at first, but then after a couple of weeks you realise it's just like playing football at Eaglehawk or wherever... they are all just normal blokes trying to get a kick, albeit with a bit more pressure that goes with it."
How did you go with David Parkin as your coach?
"To be honest, I didn't really get along too well with David. I found him a bit unapproachable and as a young player you can be intimidated by a guy like that.
"I probably had more to do with Wayne Brittain, who was the assistant coach and later went on to coach the seniors. I found Wayne to be really good for me."
What do you remember of your early training sessions in your first pre-season and making the step-up from Bendigo Pioneers/Eaglehawk to an AFL workload and intensity?
"I had no worries with the running side of things; I was always a good runner as a kid, but I was very small and light and had to do a lot of work on building up my strength.
"I also found there was a lot of pressure at training in that every time you went to kick the ball you wanted to make sure you hit your target because the skill level of the players was just so high.
"But after a few weeks you start to get reasonably comfortable when you realise everyone is out there just trying to do their best."
How did you go making the transition from Bendigo to city life down in the big smoke?
"Initially I lived with a lady called Sally Wilson in North Fitzroy who used to look after me, which I needed a bit of given I was fairly immature and didn't know a great deal about the workings of the world.
"She looked after me for a couple of years and then I lived with a couple of other guys, Simon Fletcher and Tony Bourke, for a while."
Away from football what did you find the biggest adjustments in terms of growing up in the country to living in Melbourne?
"I quite enjoyed living in Melbourne, but it was very easy to get misled and I found all the stuff like girls, partying, drinking... I was quite heavily involved in that when I shouldn't have been.
"I should have been more professional, which as a young bloke you don't realise at the time, but being older now they are things you look back on. I had a great time though never-the-less."
So I take from that you probably don't think you gave yourself the best possible chance of having a red-hot crack at forging a lengthy career while you were down there?
"There's no doubt I didn't give myself the best chance at all.
"I don't think I was good enough to be regular through those years, but I think I could have definitely etched out a few more games with a more disciplined approach.
"I got pretty heavily involved in the partying side of things and it all sort of got to my head once I had started playing a few regular games.
"That had always been my goal as a kid and once that happened I started thinking, 'I've made it, I'll be here for 10 years', and I probably partied too much and didn't train as hard as I should have been.
"I had a few deficiencies in terms of I wasn't fast enough for my size and my kicking probably didn't have enough penetration, so there's a couple of things that held me back a bit."
There's no doubt I didn't give myself the best chance at all. I don't think I was good enough to be a regular through those years, but I think I could have definitely etched out a few more games with a more disciplined approach.- Damien Lock
So can you take us to your debut game in the opening round of the 1998 season against Adelaide at Princes Park.
"Adelaide was the reigning premier, so it was a big game for the club... I think we won by a few points (Carlton won by 10 after trailing by 20 at half-time; the game is on Youtube).
"I started on the bench and came on and played on the wing against Simon Tregenza, who was a premiership player for the Crows.
"One of the first players I ran past when I came onto the ground was Andrew McLeod, who had just won the Norm Smith Medal the year before, so it was a huge buzz to look around and see guys like him, Mark Ricciuto and Darren Jarman out there.
"I was able to get a few possessions that day and held my spot, so that was pleasing."
Records show you had 15 possessions in your debut game. Can you remember your first touch?
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure Peter Dean kicked the ball to me and I took a mark out on the wing and got a kick reasonably early.
"Playing in front of the Carlton crowd at Princes Park was a great buzz; they get behind you and there was always a great atmosphere at the ground."
Of the 18 AFL games you played, does one in particular stand out as your favourite?
"There was a game against North Melbourne at Princes Park (round nine, 1998) when I had mid-20s possessions (24). I remember playing on Adam Simpson, who is now coaching the Eagles, at one stage, so that was probably my standout game as far as making a contribution.
"But probably my favourite game is my first one and getting that win over Adelaide.
"Any time though to be able to play at the MCG against an Essendon or Collingwood in front of big crowds was always a huge buzz and great to be part of."
So in 1999 Carlton makes the grand final and as of round 15 you were in the senior team. But round 15 against the Crows was your last game with the Blues. What happened?
"It was a bit different back then in that they didn't have the rotations like they do now.
"Back then if you started on the bench sometimes you'd be on there for two or three quarters, which makes it fairly hard to be able to contribute.
"So I played that round 18 game and then missed out the week after and probably had a bit of a sulk and a bad attitude. My training dropped off, but then the boys came flying home to make the grand final, which I wasn't part of, but it was good to be around the group that week training in front of massive crowds.
"I think now though I have a much better attitude in terms of resilience compared to what I had back then if things weren't going my way."
As an Essendon supporter, I still have nightmares 21 years on about the 1999 preliminary final and Carlton's one-point win. What was it like to be in the Blues' inner sanctum that day?
"That was a crazy day... for Carlton to get up by one point as a massive underdog was huge for the club, but unfortunately couldn't back it up the following week (lost the grand final to North Melbourne).
"But by then I had probably dropped my bundle and was partying pretty hard and had lost my way a bit, but that's what happens when you're a young bloke."
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.