Port Adelaide’s Sam Powell-Pepper credits fatherhood for smoothing his often turbulent path to an AFL milestone.
The Power utility will play his 100th AFL game on Friday night when his side face the Western Bulldogs in a rematch of a preliminary final last year.
Powell-Pepper was suspended in 2018 by the AFL and his club for inappropriate conduct, stemming from a drunken incident involving a woman at a bar.
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The West Australian took time away from football early last year to deal with undisclosed issues.
“Just a few things off-field that I had to get sorted,” Powell-Pepper told reporters on Wednesday.
“A year has gone now and I am in such a better place.”
Powell-Pepper’s partner Brya gave birth to a daughter, Frankie Rose, on March 30 last year.
And the 24-year-old said being a father had changed his outlook.
“I am the happiest I have ever been … life is unreal,” he said.
“I am a family man now and it has helped me so much better with my footy … it (fatherhood) just opens your mind so much.
“It’s a bit hard to talk about because you can’t really explain what it is until it happens to you.
“I have always wanted to be a father since I was a young bloke and it has come a bit quicker than I thought but I wouldn’t change it for the world, she is the most perfect little girl.
“And after a loss you come home to her and it puts everything in perspective and you want to go back into the club … and get going again because you have got a purpose now.”
Powell-Pepper, recruited by Port with pick 18 at the 2016 draft, was surprised to be linked with West Coast during the trade period last year.
“Personally I didn’t know anything about it, I was just going about my off-season,” he said.
“As you know, things get out in the media but nothing at my end … I love playing at Port.”
The trade talk came amid Port’s football manager Chris Davies publicly putting heat on Powell-Pepper to get fitter.
“You will all get to see if Sam has a proper commitment to play at AFL level by what he does through this pre-season,” Davies said last October.
Davies’ comments caused a stir but not with Powell-Pepper.
“That didn’t bother me too much,” he said.
“I pretty much set those goals for myself and obviously had those conversations (but) not publicly.”