Norwood Premiership player Declan Hamilton will play his 100th SANFL game in Sunday’s Round 11 match against Sturt at Unley Oval.
Hamilton – who has played every match in 2023 through midfield-forward roles – is the second Redleg in the last three matches to bring up the 100-game milestone, with co-captain Matthew Nunn bringing up the century against South Adelaide in Round 9.
A member of the 2023 Leadership Group, Hamilton has averaged 17 disposals and four tackles across his 10 games in 2023, continuing what’s been a consistent and durable career at Norwood thus far – playing nearly every possible game since arriving at the club for the 2018 season.
He grew up playing for the Port Adelaide Magpies, before being drafted to the Western Bulldogs with Pick 39 in the 2014 AFL Draft.
Hamilton won a VFL Premiership with Footscray (Western Bulldogs’ VFL affiliate) in 2016, and signed with Norwood after being delisted from the Dogs at the end of 2017.
The 27-year-old said he was excited to bring up the milestone this Sunday.
“I knew the milestone was on the horizon this season, and I have been able to get through the first half of the season well – I can’t wait to play Sturt on Sunday,” he said.
“When I first came to the footy club I was a bit older, but I was proud to play just one game and as my time at the club has gone on I have grown to love this place. It is a part of who I am.
“I have played with a lot of people in their 100th games and to share those moments with them is great, and to get that name on the locker and be the 126th player to play 100 games at Norwood is something that I am proud of.”
Hamilton said having his name printed on the No. 10 locker as a big milestone in his career.
“My name will be alongside Roger Woodcock’s on the locker, we kick to his End every week at The Parade and the names on the lockers are something that I see every time I walk into the club,” he said.
“It will be something that I hold dear later in my career.”
Hamilton said Nunn’s 100th game against South Adelaide was an inspiration to turn a 0-8 start to the season around (winning the Round 9 match by 23 points).
“It was a focus for us, we weren’t going great (on the field) but it was our club captain’s 100th game and he is such a big part of our club,” Hamilton said.
“I was so excited by how he (Nunn) played, how we played as a team, and when he kicked that goal late I remember jumping all over him, it was a special feeling in the rooms after the game – hopefully we can do the same this weekend and get the win.
“Our second quarter against South gave us a lot of confidence – that was the watershed moment of the year (keeping the Panthers goalless into a strong wind), and the third quarter was powerful footy (to get out a 57-point lead).
“We backed it up against Port at home last week, playing a really tough second half. It’s good signs moving forward.”
Hamilton said the 2022 Premiership and finals series was the clear standout during his time at Norwood, but also referenced a huge comeback against Sturt in 2018.
“That Premiership will be something that I am forever proud of,” he said.
“But, when we piled on 13 goals in a quarter to defeat Sturt was a quarter of footy that I will never play in again.
“When we play Port early in the season I love it, I vividly remember a couple of Friday night games here when there’s 5000+ people at home, the buzz and energy that you get at The Parade (is great).
“I always circle those games in the calendar against the likes of Port, North and Sturt at home.”
Growing up in Parafield Gardens, Hamilton played for Port Adelaide as a junior.
“It is a shame what has happened to the Magpies – I remember being a junior and the way the older people around that club felt about the Magpies was similar to Norwood, two big powerful, historical clubs,” Hamilton said.
“That’s what drew me to Norwood in 2018 – the fact that I had been at a club with such a rich, proud history, I had always had such a respect for Norwood. It drew me here.”
Hamilton spent three seasons on the Western Bulldogs list.
“Getting drafted came out of the blue a bit, I was playing some pretty regular footy and was lucky to have a bit of a purple patch at the start of my draft year,” he said.
“Before I knew it I had my name called out (Pick 39, 2014) and I moved over to Melbourne.
“I loved my time there, but it was difficult and challenging – I was an 18-year-old that packed up and moved away.
“So many lessons that I learnt over there I have brought back to Norwood, and being able to educate my younger teammates is awesome.”
Playing alongside the likes of Marcus Bontempelli, Matthew Boyd, Tom Liberatore and Robert Murphy at the Bulldogs, Hamilton said he reflects fondly on how much he learnt from the older statesmen of the club.
“It’s probably something you don’t think about when you are there, but on reflection blokes like Murph and (Matt) Boyd, the love that they had for their club being 250-300 gamers was special,” Hamilton said.
“As a younger player you are just worried about trying to get a kick but as I have got older and matured at Norwood, it’s made me appreciate the way they spoke about their club. It’s made me think about what this footy club means to me.”
Returning to SA, Hamilton couldn’t return to Port, and ended up at The Parade.
“I was in the position of not being able to go back to the Magpies given my AFL alignment, so I had a free choice,” he said.
“I met with Norwood’s Mark Ross and Jarrod Cotton at the time and spoke about the list and the club’s direction – I had great respect for the footy club from afar and thought why not give it a go.
“Early on I probably didn’t understand what it meant playing here, but the last few years have been the most fun I have had playing footy.”
Hamilton said last year’s Grand Final was a “full circle” moment, following the 2018 Grand Final loss to North Adelaide.
“I won the VFL Premiership in 2016 but the Norwood 2022 Premiership, that’s the one for me – I felt really part of it,” he said.
“We lost to North Adelaide in my first season (2018) and it was myself, Nunny (Matthew Nunn) and Nos (Matt Panos) that played 2018 and last year, it felt like we went full circle.
“At times it felt we had lost the ‘un-loseable’ Grand Final in 2018, and the journey we had been on since with the Jarrod Cotton days and when Twig (current coach Jade Rawlings) came in.
“When we played North last year there was that opportunity to come full circle, with all the work over the past five years and the way it ended with Nos kicking that goal (in the final moments of the 2022 Grand Final), it couldn’t have been scripted better.
“The greatest day of my footy career, for sure.”
A primary school teacher, Hamilton is also involved in the U13 and U14 Development Squads at Norwood.
“I love it,” he said.
“I want to give back to the club when I can, have a presence off field, and to spend time in the junior programs is something I enjoy.”
Norwood will play Sturt at Unley Oval this Sunday, with the SANFL game commencing at 2:10pm.