“MY WIFE used to say that it was like a divorce… not with her, with ‘Sammy’!
“When you select someone at pick No.79, they come into the Club and play like he did, you do get a bit attached.”
Shane O’Sullivan had just caught up with someone he drafted at the Brisbane Bears in Michael Voss, when he would have another reunion just a week later at IKON Park.
After finishing up following six seasons at the Bears, in a tenure which saw Voss and a number of future greats walk through the door, O’Sullivan returned to the Club where it all began in 1994.
He was no stranger to Royal Parade, with his first four seasons at Carlton seeing those glorious three flags of 1979, 1981 and 1982.
Returning as Recruiting Manager in 1994, O’Sullivan searched the country far and wide, and still remembers the first time he watched a certain Canberran who he would ultimately select with pick No.79 in that year’s national draft.
“I went out to the ground at three-quarter time because Aaron took my eye during the game. Keith Miller was the coach, and he was talking to Aaron and demanding ‘you can be the bloke to win the game for us’,” O’Sullivan recounted.
“Aaron never took his eye off the coach. He came out and had a terrific last quarter: I started following him pretty closely then.
“We were lucky to get him at pick No.79.”
Hamill endeared himself to the Carlton faithful following his arrival, ultimately playing 92 games - and inheriting the No.4 guernsey from Stephen Kernahan - before a shock move to St Kilda in 2000.
For O’Sullivan, who remains at IKON Park as the Manager of the Spirit of Carlton, to see someone who grew up at the football club come back is something he only sees as a good thing.
And make no mistake, Hamill definitely did ‘grow up’ at Carlton: coming down to Victoria as a 17-year-old, he completed his schooling at St Joseph’s College in North Melbourne in his first season as a Blue.
He played school football for that season, before making his Carlton debut in 1996. One unknowing scout even told O’Sullivan that he needed to come down and watch the school team in action, because “he needed to have a look at this bloke”.
O’Sullivan broke the news slowly that he was, in fact, already one of theirs.
“When he left, it was definitely sad. But these days, you have to understand it’s a real business,” he said.
“To watch him coach at Sandy and be involved at St Kilda in terms of being a line coach, and now to have him come back and be part of Carlton again, I think it’s great.
“He’s back where it all started.”
While Hamill’s football journey has very much been punctuated by the lineage of Carlton-St Kilda- St Kilda-Carlton, it could’ve been very different.
And football history itself wouldn’t have had one of its iconic moments.
O’Sullivan tells that heading into the final day of the trade period, both the Blues and Sydney Swans were of the belief that Hamill would be calling the SCG home.
“We thought we had a deal with the Sydney Swans,” he said.
“We were going to get Leo Barry and a couple of other things, in terms of picks. On the morning of the final day, we got a phone call from St Kilda to say that Aaron was going down there.
“We said ‘No, he’s going to Sydney’ and rang Ricky Barham at the Swans, who thought he was going to Sydney as well. But his manager David Allison had obviously done a deal with St Kilda: that’s just the way it goes.”
The excitement on Hamill's face when he stepped foot into IKON Park as official Carlton personnel a few weeks ago was clear for everyone to see.
He played with a number of Blues who would go on to be named in the Team of the Century who taught him what it meant to wear the jumper, and it’s something he’s already mentioned will be a key element of his coaching style.
That 1996 debut came against Adelaide in Round 4, and while O’Sullivan would normally be looking across the country for the best underage talent, he made sure he was at the old Carlton ground for Hamill’s first game.
“One of my great memories in footy is Aaron’s debut. We ended up having a big win, and under the old Heatley Stand in the rooms, it was always a great atmosphere,” he said.
“We were in the locker area and I can still hear Stephen Kernahan quieten everyone down and say ‘Where’s Hamill?!… Great game son.’
“Things like that were always special, when you hear great players like Kernahan give a young player a rap.”
This is part one of a two-part story with O’Sullivan on Hamill’s return to Carlton For the next instalment, come back to carltonfc.com.au tomorrow.