AT THIS point of the season, the statement 'it's a cruel game' is never truer.
I've sat back this week and thought about the different scenarios confronting all the teams and players in the AFL. Some, like us, are lucky to be playing finals but for others, it's not so pleasant.
It's times like this, you thank your lucky stars. It's this time of year, clubs start to delist players, end careers and sometimes shatter dreams.
You have two extremes - some making names for themselves on the biggest stage and others trying to stay in the game and get another opportunity.
The average player's career lasts about four years in the AFL. It's a woeful statistic and doesn't offer much security to those dreaming of making the 'big time'. While the rewards are there if you can last a decade, the reality is most won't, don't or can't.
So as the clubs out of the finals begin their thorough 'list reviews', spare a thought for those who get cut loose or set free.
For North, it's the first time we've been in finals since 2008 - a long time between drinks. In the past few years, I wouldn't even watch the finals because I was so jealous and full of disappointment. Everyone I bumped into still wanted to talk footy, but I couldn't have cared less really. In that situation, you just want to get away from it all, have a decent break and ready yourself for pre-season training.
But that was then.
Now, talk to me all you want. I'll give you an in depth analysis of where I see each team and what their chances of winning the flag are. I'll break down their list, tell you their strengths and weaknesses and rate their players from one through to fifty.
I've definitely been struck down with finals fever.
We have such a young team and it's great watching the newbies experience finals. I heard the other day that Richmond's Chris Newman had played more than 200 games without ever running out in a final. It's hard to believe and he's been desperately unlucky. Then you take someone like Shaun Atley who is in his second year, has played about 40 games, and will play finals.
I sat next to Geelong's Jimmy Bartel on The Footy Show on Thursday night and he told me he's played 21 finals games with Matthew Scarlett to have played 22 after this weekend. That's an entire season's worth of finals matches - remarkable!
When Brent Harvey came to North in 1996, he was immediately thrust into a team that made regular appearances in September and for a while there, he'd never have considered booking his holidays in September. Harvey won a premiership in his first year for the club, then he played in one in 1999. Boomer must have thought AFL was relatively easy and finals were a given.
For me, I got to Arden Street in 2000 and have had the fortune of playing in 6 finals series - 2008 the last one.
This year makes seven and I've only won one game in 2007.
You can't take anything for granted in this game and as other players have learned throughout history, you can do everything right all season, but still miss out on selection or sustain an injury which prevents you from taking part.
Hamish McIntosh and Leigh Adams are two of ours that will have to watch on and ponder what could have been.
So today, we're in Perth and the countdown to the elimination final has begun. We train this afternoon and play tomorrow in 27C heat. The challenges never stop when you're a footballer, when you're taking the field, or walking into the coaches office after the season's end.
All you can do, is hope for the best, and work bloody hard to keep your spot in the team, and on the list.