Former Bulldog Favourite plays his 100th


By ZAC MILBANK (SANFL) | Twitter @zacmilbank

Ian Callinan admits it was the hardest phone call he’s had to make.
Adelaide’s inaugural SANFL captain vividly remembers telephoning Central District chief executive Kris Grant to inform him of his decision to leave Elizabeth.
As he prepares to play his 100th SANFL match against Norwood on Friday night, Callinan detailed the difficulty he encountered as he prepared to call the Bulldog’s long-serving boss.
‘’That was the hardest call I have had to make in footy to be honest,’’ said Callinan, who played 95 games for Central between 2007 and 2013.
‘’I have got an unbelievable relationship with Granty, he has pretty much been a father to me since I have been here (South Australia).
‘’He has done a lot for me and my whole family so it was a pretty tough call. But to his credit, he understood what the role (at Adelaide) was going to be about and where it could lead to in the future so he was more than happy for me to take the role.’’
Considering what he achieved with the Bulldogs, Callinan’s attachment to his first SANFL side is more than understandable.
Hailing from the Hobart-based club of Clarence, the 31-year-old played in four consecutive premierships after making his debut against North Adelaide at Elizabeth in Round 1, 2007.
‘’I do pinch myself and I really will pinch myself when I retire,’’ Callinan said of his remarkable run of grand final victories.
‘’I was only talking about it the other day, playing in 12 grand finals in a row as footy club, I am not sure we will ever see that happen again while I am alive. So it is nice to reminisce about those things.’’
The classy rover rates the Dogs’ 2007 and 2010 triumphs as his most memorable, Callinan claiming the Jack Oatey Medal in the latter title-decider.
‘’Your first one is always the one you cherish,’’ said Callinan, who measures in at just 171cm and 72kg.
‘’But in 2010, I think a lot of people thought we would drift away and not play in finals. We strove hard that year and went on to win it (against Norwood) by only six points.
‘’You want to win premierships by 100 points but it does make it that bit more special when you just get over the line and get reward for all of your hard work.’’
As well as his relationship with Grant, Callinan shares a special bond with the Gowans twins – James and Chris. As a trio, they would regularly make their way to Central matches together, with some of the banter between them becoming legendary.
‘’They are probably the best two mates I’ve got over here,’’ said Callinan, who trained at four AFL clubs before being selected by Adelaide at pick No.64 in the 2011 AFL Rookie Draft.
‘’We do a lot together like playing golf and other things like that. They made the footy club into what it was by the way they were demanding on the field. In the end you look back on it and you know why they did that, because they wanted to win and be really successful.’’
And it is this winning culture Callinan is looking to help inject into Adelaide’s SANFL team, as he not only plays his role as an on-field leader but development coach.
‘’I am really enjoying it,’’ said Callinan, who played a total of32 AFL matches and kicked 49 goals with the Crows between 2011 and 2013.
‘’I am enjoying the coaching during the week and working with the younger guys to see their development and the progress we are making.
‘’It’s great to see the way the top-up players have come on and are becoming part of the footy club too. That is what footy is all about, meeting guys and trying to help them be a better player and a person, so I am really enjoying that part of the role.’’
Despite being sidelined by a hamstring strain for the past fortnight, Callinan – who paid tribute to his wife Lauren and sons Jack and Harry - is confident his body can handle the rigours of playing next year.
But for now, he will relish the opportunity of playing a part in the development of young Crows such as Charlie Cameron, who is making his AFL debut against Collingwood on Thursday night.
‘’He’s been unbelievable,’’ Callinan said of Cameron.
‘’He’s a credit to himself and he’s done a lot of work with (SANFL Crows assistant coach) Tate Kaesler. On game day, I just try and help him (Cameron) out with where he’s got to be and to his credit he has done it well. He’s earned his spot at AFL level and I am sure he will do well.’’

Callinan, as a Dog last year at the Bay in Round 4
And against Port Adelaide in 2013.
Callinan, returning to the heartland on April 19 this year. Callinan is following his aspirations to Coach and Develop young players at AFL level.
Pictures by Callum MacKinnon

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