Stocker and Perkins go back to where it all began

Essendon’s Archie Perkins and St Kilda’s Liam Stocker back at their junior club, East Sandringham Zebras, holding up the club’s jumper and surrounded by jumpers of other local footy clubs from across Victoria, as part of ‘Local Footy Week’. Photo: Daniel Pockett / AFL Photos

AFL players Liam Stocker from St Kilda and Essendon's Archie Perkins are getting used to playing big games at the elite level and will face off this Easter Saturday in Round 3 at Marvel Stadium, but for both, their football journeys started at the same place in the bayside suburbs of Melbourne.

On Monday, Stocker and Perkins went back to where it all began, Shane Warne Oval - the home of the East Sandringham Zebras Junior Football Club - where dozens of the club's young boys and girls flocked to get up close to current day AFL players who once were in their shoes and wore the same junior footy jumper.

The pair came together as part of 'Local Footy Week', to help acknowledge and celebrate the return of junior and senior local footy competitions, which is happening all over the country in coming weeks.

Stocker, 24, is making the most of being part of his second AFL club having amassed 53 games including the last 25 for the Saints. He talks glowingly about his experiences playing junior footy for the Zebras.

"It's pretty cool to be back, I only live around the corner," Stocker said.

"I have so many great memories here. I still remember something similar to this from 10 years ago with Tom Lynch when he was in Adelaide, so I really understand the importance of a round like this and a culture like this where you can grow up and play footy in a safe environment.

"I think it's really, really important to how we turn into AFL players and coming back and realising what you got into this game for, again another really important aspect of my footy journey and plenty of others."

Perkins, 21 and emerging as a young star of the Bombers' midfield, also has fond recollections of his time at East Sandy, "mostly footy training, canteen after the game, get an egg and bacon roll, run around, have a kick with mates, really good memories."

Over coming weeks suburban football grounds all over Australia will spring to life with goal posts going up and hundreds of thousands of junior and senior local footballers starting their seasons.

To celebrate 'Local Footy Week', clubs from the AFL through to state leagues, talent pathway programs and local leagues are encouraged to show their support for the return of local footy, with one way being to hold training sessions with players wearing the jumpers of their junior or community clubs and sharing content to social media.

Players, volunteers, coaches and umpires can register via the AFL’s recently launched local football platform