Late-blooming Biggs having a ball with the Bulldogs
IF THE Western Bulldogs' rise to become finalists in 2015 is the stuff of fairytales, Shane Biggs might be considered the Cinderella story.
Biggs didn't take the usual pathway to the AFL.
In fact, you could say a career in the big league wasn't ever in the pipeline until he turned 21.
Now he is set to play a pivotal role as a hard-running half-back/wingman for the Dogs in an elimination final against Adelaide at the MCG tonight.
But up until about four years ago, he was looking for a way out of his job as a plumber in Melbourne's eastern suburbs.
That was when Sydney Swans recruiting guru Kinnear Beatson stepped up to fill the role of fairy godmother, spotting a skinny kid having one of his first runs with the Bendigo Bombers in the VFL in late 2011.
After being overlooked for the elite TAC Cup under-18 competition, he went on to play with Warrandyte in the lowly third division of the Eastern Football League in Melbourne.
"When everyone was getting drafted at 17 and 18, I probably wasn't quite big enough," he told APN. "I grew pretty late.
"When I was playing local footy, I didn't really think about it (playing AFL) too much. But when I got asked to have a run with Bendigo, I got a bit of that desire back and gave it a crack."
Beatson was down to watch another Bendigo player, but ended up selecting Biggs in the rookie draft of December 2011 after just six games in the VFL.
Biggs thought it was a joke, though he had met with Swans officials once, while he was "on a lunch break at work".
"The rookie draft came around and I didn't even know it was on," he said. "I had to get told by a few mates that I'd been drafted.
"I was working locally as a plumber, doing an apprenticeship
"I was trying to get out of it, to be honest."
Biggs would only play six games for the Swans - the last three games of 2013, including two finals and the last three home and away matches of 2014 - and didn't disappoint in any, averaging 17.5 touches off halfback.
But with Sydney being a tough team to hold a place in, Biggs looked for more opportunities at the end of 2014 and was traded to Whitten Oval.
"When I first got to the Doggies, we had no coach and there was a lot of staff turnover, so it was a bit interesting at first," the 24-year-old admitted. "But I can't speak highly enough of the group ... how driven everyone was."
Tipped by many to finish in the lower rungs of the ladder due to an inexperienced list, the Bulldogs barged their way into the top eight, and stayed there.
"We didn't think we'd have a development year, we thought with the players we had we could really get something out of the year," said Biggs, who has played the last seven games.
"I reckon we've gone a bit further than we thought, but we definitely didn't think it (finals) would be out of reach."
The rookie draft of 2011 has turned out to be a gold mine for clubs.
It featured a trio of Bulldogs from tonight's game - Shane Biggs, Jack Redpath and Lin Jong - as well as Adelaide's Rory Laird. Other players to go on and carve out a career have been: Sam Frost (Melb), Justin Clarke (Bris), Lee Spurr (Frem), Tom Bell (Carl), Jack Crisp (Coll), Mark Blicavs (Geel), Clancee Pearce (Frem), Harry Cunningham (Syd), Mark Baguley (Ess) and Sam Gibson (North).