Fremantle Dockers star Caleb Serong opens up on tough first years away from home amid COVID-19 pandemic

Samantha RogersThe West Australian
Fremantle Dockers young gun Caleb Serong has opened up on missing his family back in Victoria, as the first two years of his AFL career has coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Camera IconFremantle Dockers young gun Caleb Serong has opened up on missing his family back in Victoria, as the first two years of his AFL career has coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Daniel Carson/AFL Photos

Fremantle Dockers young gun Caleb Serong has opened up on missing his family back in Victoria, as the first two years of his AFL career coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic shutting WA off from the rest of the country.

The 20-year-old moved to the west coast just before coronavirus outbreak, selected by the Dockers with pick 8 in the 2019 draft.

2020, Serong’s introduction to senior football, was heavily disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis - which was formerly declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation on March 11 - eight days before the scheduled start of the season.

The AFL managed to sneak one round in before the league shutdown until June 11, three months later, while Serong had to wait until round four for his debut.

Caleb Serong with Justin Longmuir after being drafted by the Dockers with pick 8 in 2019.
Camera IconCaleb Serong with Justin Longmuir after being drafted by the Dockers with pick 8 in 2019. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

But despite a clean-sweep of the first-year awards in his introductory season, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the formidable midfielder.

“It’s been difficult, especially at times where say it’s in the footy season and things aren’t going well and whenever it’s kind of tough to escape footy ‘cause you’ve got your mates at the club and the coaching staff but I guess we don’t have a lot of connection elsewhere other than that,” Serong told The West Australian.

“But for a lot of us guys, we’ve got partners over here that have made the sacrifice to move over, which has been a massive help for a lot of us and has really made the transition over the last two years a lot easier.

“For me, my parents have only been over here about three or four days each since I got drafted and I’ve only been back for a few weeks since.

“I haven’t seen them a lot over the past two years and at times you do miss them a lot.”

While the February 5 border opening delay hasn’t helped the light at the end of the tunnel get much brighter, Serong has found comfort in the fact that he isn’t the only Docker missing loved ones.

Defender Hayden Young (pick 7) was drafted in the same year as Serong, joining fellow Victorians including Sam Sturt, Lachie Schultz, Andrew Brayshaw, Adam Cerra, Lloyd Meek, Sam Switkowki, Sean Darcy and Luke Ryan to join the club’s list since 2016.

While Cerra packed his bags to return home at the end of last season, Serong insists the rest of the players from interstate are throwing their arms around each-other as they chase success in purple together.

Cerra left at the end of last season.
Camera IconCerra left at the end of last season. Credit: Paul Kane/via AFL Photos

“That group of interstate guys are really close and over the last two years, it’s been really tough,” Serong said.

“A lot of guys haven’t been able to see their families and haven’t been able to get home so we’ve kind of been stuck here together and you can look at it in a negative light that we’ve been away from our families and it’s been tough for us, which it has.

“But it’s also allowed us to grow together and really get close and lean on each-other a lot, which has built that connection.”

Serong revealed around 30 players spent Christmas Day together at the house of Fremantle vice-captain Brayshaw, as they “couldn’t get home” to see their families due to WA’s strict border controls.

“Those kind of things are things that really build the connection and that culture at the club that you don’t want to leave,” he said.

“So that’s what we’re doing at the moment and hopefully everyone feels the same way, because I’m really loving what we’re building at the moment at the club.”

Serong says the Dockers drafted from interstate have a special bond.
Camera IconSerong says the Dockers drafted from interstate have a special bond. Credit: Will Russell/AFL Photos

“I guess for me we just try to put our arms around each-other and grow that connection because it’s not going to be like this forever – hopefully – but for this moment, the positives we can take out of it is the connection we’re building.

“To lean on each-other as much as we have and other teams in the competition haven’t really had to deal with it as much as we have and obviously they’re going through other stuff with COVID but for us, we’re trying to take this as a really positive experience for us to improve our culture and build that connection.”

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