“I never played one senior game (for Torquay), so I want to get back there, play a few games in the number five.”
Some clubs viewed Boak as a flight risk if he left Victoria when he was in the draft of 2006, the same one that saw the Power net his close friend Robbie Gray and Justin Westhoff.
Recruiters knew that he’d just lost his father, that the family were a tight unit and that Torquay – and consequently the Cats – would exert a magnetic pull on Boak, whom Geelong actually ranked ahead of Joel Selwood in that draft’s pecking order.
But the local lad never came home. Nor did fellow Victorian Gray and, despite constant speculation for two years, Ollie Wines, an Echuca lad, has stuck with Port, too. It’s worth considering the impact that Boak had upon the Power’s long-term prospects – football and even fiscally – when, after a very public courting by the Cats in mid 2012, he signed on with Port.
“I think a lot of us – myself, Robbie and Ollie and you know these guys, we’ve had to see it through,” said Boak, whose sincerity stands out as much as his bull-like attack on the football. “Once you commit to something, even though it wasn’t going so well for us for a few years, you know we wanted to turn it around ourselves.
“We never wanted to walk away from it, even though it did get really challenging at times. It’s pleasing to see our playing the footy we are now.
“That’s life, that’s footy, that’s business – walking away from something that’s not going well, it doesn’t fit well with myself and a lot of others here.”
Boak’s mother learned over time that Travis wouldn’t be coming home. “I think mum sort of always knew that I was going to stay, I think she was hopeful that I was coming back home … but she knew it would be really hard for me to leave.”
Port Adelaide are a club richer in tradition and camaraderie than dollars. Boak calls Port “a massive family” that like Richmond and Collingwood, has benefited from footy’s post-2017 buzzwords, “connection” between players and the sharing of stories and vulnerability.
One those stories has a special resonance for Boak: that of Todd Marshall, the young team mate who lost both parents in 2017 and 2018. Boak, having experienced the grief of losing his dad, has found himself in discussions with Marshall that he says have helped both men.
“We’ve definitely had discussions together and we’ve been drawn to conversations of how you get though that. I think, you know hopefully, I’ve been able to inspire him getting through some hard times and he’s certainly been able to do that with me.”
Boak said 2020 was “probably” his best season to date, a fair achievement for a 32-year-old, who’s among the top fancies for the Brownlow (after the Winx-like favourite Lachie Neale), and perhaps the most enjoyable season, too, due to the team performance, bonds and improvement.
Giving up the captaincy after 2018 allowed Boak to “shift my focus.” As skipper, Boak felt that he’d fretted too much about matters outside his control. “I was trying to control too many things.”
While chairman David Koch placed the acid on coach Ken Hinkley with a finals-or-bust declaration – in what some observers thought unnecessary pressure on a coach (who had a finals trigger in his contract) – Boak saw the Koch edict as a positive for the team.
“We kind of loved it. Internally we believed we are a very, very good side. I guess that probably for Kenny (showed) that he was very, very vulnerable, he knew, he understood … we’ve had this belief that this is what we can do.”
Boak is contracted until the end of 2022, which means his tenure at Port – which includes a grand final back in 2007 (when they were smashed by the Cats), but none since – should stretch for at least 16 seasons.
After that, the only club that seems to have any chance of getting Boak are the Tigers – the Torquay version.
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Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.