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Star SANFL midfielder signs with Swan Districts

Thursday, October 5, 2023 - 3:18 PM

Nik Rokahr is no stranger to moving around the country for his football or to winning premierships, and he wants to be part of more success at Swan Districts with the prolific midfielder wanting it to be the last stop in his career.

Having grown up in Shepparton, country Victoria, Rokahr has already spent a season playing in the Northern Territory Football League winning a premiership at Southern Districts, played in the VFL at Geelong and for the last four years has been a midfield star with Norwood in the SANFL.

That included shining in the 2022 premiership triumph along with winning the 2021 and 2023 best and fairest awards with the Redlegs and then representing the SANFL in the 2022 State match against the WAFL.

That means the 28-year-old on-baller signs at Swan Districts for the 2024 WAFL season with quite the resume in terms of individual accolades and team success he's been part of.

While it's been quite the journey so far from his home in country Victoria to play in Geelong, Darwin and Adelaide, coming to join Swan Districts in the WAFL is what he hopes will be the last stop of his career with the added benefit of his girlfriend getting to come home to Perth.

"I was probably a little bit late to come into state football but I had an apprenticeship back in Shepparton where I grew up," Rokahr said.

"That was my main goal was to finish my four years of my apprenticeship and then that would allow me to go do these things. I was also lucky enough to go up to Darwin and lived a season up there because that was another thing I knew I wouldn’t be able to do again if I was playing state football.

"I was lucky enough to win a premiership up there and make some really good friends, and then had a year in the VFL where I met Jacko and since then I've been in Adelaide for the last four years. 

"I'm really keen to settle myself in WA now and I see it as a long-term destination for us."

Ending up coming to Swan Districts

When Rokahr and his partner decided that in terms of their life and his football that now was the perfect time to make the move to WA, that's when it was decision time about which WAFL club he would play for.

As a two-time club champion, premiership player and two-time Magarey Medal runner-up from his time in Norwood, the hard ball winning midfielder was a prime target from a host of clubs.

However, once he knew his former Geelong VFL teammate Jackson McLachlan was at Swan Districts, and once he spoke to football manager Phil Smart and coach Andrew Pruyn, his decision became an obvious one.

"Obviously my girlfriend is from WA and it's been something that's been on our minds for a while," Rokahr said.

"We weren’t sure when we would be able to do it, but just with where I'm at with my football and life, it was going to be the best time for us to do it now and my manager from way back is from WA so he had some contacts to get things started.

"He reached out to a few teams to see if they were interested, and I was very grateful that a few of them were. Knowing Jackson McLachlan was playing at Swan Districts last season and this upcoming season helped me with my decision. 

Joining up with an old teammate

Joining a new club and playing in a new state for the first time can always be a daunting proposition even if Rokahr has become accustomed to that throughout his career so far.

However, having a familiar face at Swan Districts to join with McLachlan is something he's grateful for.

"I had a year playing in the VFL with him and I'm excited to get over there, and see him again and to call him a teammate again," he said.

"I'm also looking forward to meeting the rest of my new teammates and learning how they go about things. I'm excited to play with Jacko again not only because he's a good footballer, but he's such a good bloke as well and I'm keen to link up with him again."

Deciding to leave Norwood

It might have been the right time for Rokahr to make the move to WA to play in the WAFL while he is still in the prime of his career and to begin setting up life after football, but that didn’t mean it was an easy decision to leave Norwood.

Having played in the 2022 premiership, winning two best and fairest awards and coming second in 2022 along with representing the SANFL and being named twice to the SANFL Team of the Year and being the 2022 SANFL Now Player of the Year, he will have some lifelong memories at the Redlegs.

"It was incredibly tough. It was a bit of a rollercoaster throughout the year and more so the last month or two when I was thinking about leaving, but the club has done so much for me and I hope I did a lot for them in return," Rokahr said.

"It was hard to decide to leave, I've had a few individual accolades there, but more importantly we won a premiership there and I’ll always have that to reflect and celebrate with everyone involved.”

"That was probably one thing that made it a little bit easier having won that premiership so it didn’t feel like we had unfinished business. It was still so tough to leave because I've got relationships there that are so strong, but because of that I know that they won't be going anywhere no matter where I am."

Making the most of the bigger grounds

From what he's learned from watching some WAFL football and also from playing against WA at Optus Stadium in the 2022 State game, Rokahr expects the bigger grounds to provide a more open and running style of football than he's perhaps used to.

And while he has built his reputation as an inside midfielder over the last four years with Norwood, he's confident his outside game will get to flourish more in his time at Swan Districts now too.

"The footy over here suits me to a degree but one part of my game I've really wanted to flourish in a bit more has been showing what I can do on the outside," he said.

"I've probably been relied on to play a bit more inside over here, but I feel with big grounds and space I can put my running and outside strengths together a bit more” 

"That really excites me now to think about other areas of my game and how I can implement other strengths. I do pride myself on my inside work, but I feel like I can be a 50-50 player inside-out so I'm really keen to get those opportunities over there."

What are you expecting at Swan Districts

From what Rokahr has so far learned about Swan Districts he can't wait to get to play in front of the club's supporters especially the famous can bar at Steel Blue Oval, but more than anything he wants to help achieve the first premiership since 2010.

"I'm obviously learning as we go and I've got a lot to learn, but in my brief experiences in talks to Smarty and Andrew, and what they've educated me in, obviously it's a proud club and a big club with a big fan base," Rokahr said.

"That's something that I'm really excited about getting to play in front of and knowing  that their last premiership was in 2010 so it's been a couple of years in between drinks. But looking at their last couple of years, they've been in teasing distance from having a go at finals.

"I think if they had a little bit of luck earlier on they could have got there this year so with another good pre-season and a couple less injuries, then we can be well and truly up there next year so that's exciting."

Making the move to WA

You might think that with a partner from WA that she might have been the overriding factor why Rokahr is making the move, but it's every bit a mutual decision and he can't wait for them to both now make a new home for themselves once they arrive this summer.

"She's been extremely supportive and if I wanted to keep playing SANFL for a couple of more years she was supportive of that, and just wanted the best for me so there was no push or pull from her to go home or anything like that.

"We pretty much just came to a pretty well educated decision that it made sense to do it now while I can still play football in my prime and try to set ourselves up for the next phase of our lives”