Alabakis’ unique footy journey
Updated: Apr 29
St Kilda rookie Sam Alabakis has managed to fit plenty in to his 22 years of life.
Born in Malaysia but raised in Dubai, Alabakis grew up playing rugby, tennis and indoor snowboarding before a growth spurt in his teens saw basketball at the top of his sporting priorities.
A move to Western Australia saw him board at Hale school in Perth’s western suburbs.
“Because I was pretty tall I chose to use my height as an advantage and go for basketball,” Alabakis told Sports Drive on Tuesday.
“I moved through the ranks gradually, I made the first team in my final two years eleven and twelve and then went through the rep programs with the Perry Lakes Hawks (in SBL).”
Alabakis spent 2015-16 as a development player with the Perth Wildcats as an 18-year-old, before deciding to take his basketball talents to the US college system.
“I had to make a choice, I could either stay home and play SBL at the Hawks or I could go to college and hopefully get a scholarship to play for four years there.” He said.
Still a teenager he moved to Florida and then Louisiana to attend LSU, completing two years of study before a message on social media while back home in Perth changed the course of his sporting journey.
“I was on the beach with my dad fishing at night down at Cottesloe, the St Kilda ruck coach Adam Skrobalak sent me a message on Instagram asking if I was interested in playing football and whether I had any experience,” Alabakis said.
“I only played a little bit at school, but I said yeah I’ll happily give it a go, who knows what could happen.”
After some rigorous physical testing and meetings with the club’s recruiting staff and a week with the club training with the VFL team, Alabakis was offered a rookie contract with the club and joined the Saints in December 2018.
At 211 centimetres Alabakis is the equal tallest player to be on an AFL list, admitting his first year in the system had it’s challenges, having played at VFL level with Frankston, separate to St Kilda’s affiliate side Sandringham.
“My first 3km time trial I came last, I was committed to improving my running. Reading the game and ball movement was a challenge,” he said.
“We played Essendon and I was rucking against Sam Draper, it was one of the hardest matches I’ve ever played. I was so confused; he was smashing me in the ruck. I didn’t know what to do. It was a bit of a struggle at the start but I’m definitely starting to get on top of that.”
With AFL lists facing a likely cull in numbers at the end of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alabakis admitted that it could bring an earlier than anticipated halt to his journey.
“I’ve definitely thought about that, it would be pretty disappointing but at the same time I’m doing as much as I can right now to impress the coaches and show I’ve got real potential to play the game,” he said.
“The most I can do for right now is focus what I need to do which is get better and prove a good case to myself. I’m not worrying about the list cuts but if it comes down to that whatever will be and we will go from there.”
IMAGE: The West Australian.