Alex Pearce says he couldn’t have had a better education as a defender in the AFL after training on Matt Taberner during his eight years at Fremantle.
Pearce spoke about the good and the bad of life with Taberner, with the pair starting off as housemates and quickly becoming close friends after their arrivals at the Club.
As a football player, Pearce said there wasn’t any tougher opponent in the country.
“Early days (of my career), it was him and ‘Pav’ (Matthew Pavlich) who were the two I played on most (at training),” Pearce said.
“I still think (Taberner’s) the hardest guy to play on and I’ve played on a few big boys around the league.
“It’s how hard he works and how strong he is in the contest and how he just never gives up.
“There’s a few big boys when things don’t go their way they (give up) a little bit, but ‘Tabs’ always has a crack.”
Despite their friendship, Pearce said Taberner was so tough to play on at training that they’ve come close to blows.
“We always look for each other at training as I feel like that’s part of the reason why I’ve been able to develop like I have, playing on someone like him who just competes all the time,” Pearce said.
“He’ll do marking after training as well and he gets pretty heated. There’s a few times we’ve nearly come to blows (but) not yet.
“We haven’t really had a pre-season for the last couple of years but I think the next full pre-season we get there might be a bit of fisticuffs.”
Pearce shared a number of Taberner stories in the episode, including from his earliest days when Taberner blamed Pearce for the pair being late to training.
“He was drafted a year before and took me under his wing I guess,” Pearce said.
“I stayed with him and the host family. It was the first couple of weeks when I was a nervous, skinny white Tasmanian man.
“On a Monday morning, I’ve woken up – I’m not normally the best in the morning but at that stage I was too scared to sleep in. So I was up and ready. The clock was ticking down a bit (waiting for Taberner to wake up).
“I was ready and really weighting up, do I wake this big weird unit up, what do I do?
“Eventually he’s woken up and we’re running late.
“We just shot down the South Street bus lane the whole way there. We could sneak in around the toilets, get your gear on and stroll in.
“He snuck me in and as soon as we get there, he found Tommy (Sheridan) and Cam (Sutcliffe) and said ‘you wouldn’t believe what this weird Tasmanian bloke done to me!’”