IT HAS been a long but enjoyable journey for David Hale as the Hawthorn ruckman/forward prepares to play his 200th AFL match in tonight’s Grand Final re-match against Fremantle.

Originally drafted by North Melbourne in 2001, Hale played 129 games for the Roos before crossing to Hawthorn for more opportunities at the end of 2010.

The move has been an inspired one for both Hale and Hawthorn but more so for the 29-year-old ruckman whose career had stagnated at Arden Street.

Languishing in the VFL as a stay-at-home forward, Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson saw Hale as the perfect ruckman/forward whose athleticism would add another dimension to his team.

The move has worked perfectly for both parties, with Hale playing 68 games for the Hawks in three seasons including nine finals, two Grand Finals and a premiership.

“It has been a long journey but it’s been an enjoyable one,” Hale told ahead of his 200th game.

“Since I’ve been at Hawthorn it’s been very beneficial – I’ve played in a lot of finals and obviously last year topped it off.

“Hopefully with another few years we can get another one.”

Hale has been an AFL journeymen and endured a long rise to becoming one of the game’s most valued players.

When he was drafted by the Kangaroos in 2001, he was a 201cm big man who weighed just 79kgs. Clearly his dream of playing AFL football was still a while away despite earning a place on a club list.

He has met the challenges of adding size to his frame, developing enough to earn a senior debut, then taking that development to a new level as he continued to mature head on.

“When you’re a little kid all you want to do is play and even in your first few years after being drafted, you just try as hard as you can to get a game,” he said.

“Some blokes are blessed because they can come in and play straight away but for me, I think when I was drafted I was 79kgs.

“I was always going to take a little bit of time to put a bit of weight on.

“After a couple of years you’re then in a position where you can play some games and compete with the players that play at AFL level.

“From then on you work on your game and as you get a bit older and a bit more mature, you try and perfect the things you do and contribute in a team sense.”

Since that journey began, Hale has worked hard to continually improve his game and has faced the challenges of forging a career as a ruckman, something that some find difficult.

He has achieved a lot in his career to date and while the buzz and excitement may have eased just a little, the pride he feels in representing his family, his friends and his club has never wavered.

“The excitement factor of your first game is something you’ve looked forward to your whole life and the buzz around your family and friends about finally making it is big,” he said.

“I guess now, it’s probably more of a proud moment. The excitement not so much dies off but you’re just proud of what you’ve achieved in the time of your career.

“The amount of support your family and friends have offered you starting from when you’re a kid and they drive you all around the countryside, I guess it’s a bit of a reward for them as well, for all the time they’ve invested in you.”

Now a family man with a wife, Teresa and two daughters, Mia and Asha, the Hawks big man is looking forward to sharing the moment with his family.

It’s something that makes his achievements even more special and something he’ll remember for the rest of his life.

“Having the kids run out with you will be a special moment,” he said.

“I guess when you’re old and grey and sitting back in your chair you want to be able to look back and say that was a proud moment.”