DION PRESTIA – 

My premiership medal is as much my dad’s as it is mine.

That’s why I handed it to him, the moment we finished singing the team song after the Grand Final.

To share that moment with him was incredibly special; not just for me but our entire family.

I’ve learned over time the sacrifices we ask our parents to make when we choose to pursue a career as a professional athlete.

I remember as a young teenager my dad, “Osi”, regularly working through the night; he is heavily involved in the fresh fruit markets of Melbourne.

There wasn’t a night he came home before 9am.

It was exhausting hours, but he provided for his family and made sure we were well looked after.

And through it all, I can’t ever remember missing a training session. He would sleep two hours each day just to take me to the footy grounds.

And even when the rest of his colleagues were enjoying their Saturday morning off work, Dad was driving me around the city for Calder Cannon games and cheering for me from the sidelines.

Looking back, I could only imagine how fatiguing that would have been at times, but those were the sacrifices he made so I could chase my football dream.

Over time, it became “our” football dream. I’ve never forgotten that.

My whole family, including my mum Delene and two sisters Tahlia and Chanel, mean the world to me.

And of course my partner Lainey has been a rock through it all.

MELBOURNE, VICTORIA - SEPTEMBER 30: Trent Cotchin of the Tigers, Dustin Martin of the Tigers celebrate with the the AFL Premiership Cup and supporters in the crowd as the Tigers make their way to the changing rooms after winning the 2017 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Adelaide Crows and the Richmond Tigers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 30, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/AFL Media/Getty Images)

MELBOURNE, VICTORIA – SEPTEMBER 30: Trent Cotchin of the Tigers, Dustin Martin of the Tigers celebrate with the the AFL Premiership Cup and supporters in the crowd as the Tigers make their way to the changing rooms after winning the 2017 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Adelaide Crows and the Richmond Tigers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 30, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Which is why I couldn’t stop smiling when we walked off the ground with the premiership cup, and there they all were – standing right next to the door of our change rooms.

I was able to give them each a hug on my way through, and emotionally handed my medallion over to dad.

It just meant so much to share that premiership experience with my family, having them there in the rooms and ultimately heading back home to Craigieburn to continue the celebrations as a family.

I think that is what has helped me so much this year; my re-connection with family.

I absolutely loved my time on the Gold Coast, and owe them everything for what they have done for me.

They helped me not only grow as a football player, but as a person, taking me in from the first time I walked through their doors as a teenager.

But it had been tough living away from home, and this year I have been able to strengthen those family ties which weren’t as strong in years gone by.

I think Dad, deep down, was always hopeful I would get back to Melbourne, as he too felt it’d be easier, especially when footy isn’t going great at times.

This year, it definitely helped having him around a lot more. Probably half-way through the year, when my football wasn’t going so well, the fact I could just drive an hour to Craigieburn to catch up with him was the circuit breaker I needed.

Our catch-ups were a reminder of how far we had come just to get to this point.

The late nights, early mornings & long distance, and the taxing hours Dad turned in is in many ways the reason I have been able to forge a career in the AFL, and even continue dreaming for greater success.

That’s why my premiership medal is as much his as it is mine.