THE tears hit Jacob Hopper when he embraced older brother Zac in the Giants sheds.
After just holding off a Collingwood onslaught in last week's preliminary final to help Greater Western Sydney to its first grand final, the emotions got the better of the Leeton Crows junior.
"He said to me after they beat Brisbane (in finals week two) 'I'm buggered if I'm losing another prelim, I'm not doing that again'," his mother Deanna said this week.
After losing 2016 and 2017 preliminary finals with the Giants, the 22-year-old was on a mission to ensure history didn't repeat.
The hard-nosed on-baller has always possessed that ruthless, competitive edge. It's helped him overcome many setbacks, including a bout of glandular fever just days after last year's pre-season began.
Injuries limited him to 23 games in his first two seasons in 2016 and 2017. Perhaps it was why the emotions overwhelmed him after the Giants held on by four points against the Pies.
His father, James, said tenacity is something ingrained in his middle son.
"He's bloody minded, and that's been a character trait of him since I could remember, no matter what it was," he said.
"I've seen him get beat in state swimming by a super quick kid. When he got out of the pool he said 'he won't beat me again dad'. He went to nationals and beat him."
OLD HABITS DIE HARD
Harry Perryman's younger brother Joe was driving to the MCG with his family to Saturday's preliminary final when he spotted Magpies champion Steele Sidebottom in his ute.
Before Perryman, 20, got drafted by the Giants, the whole family were mad Collingwood fans. Joe, 16, Ed, 19 and Nick, 22 all barracked for the Pies.
After spotting Sidebottom in traffic, Joe leapt out and gave him a thumbs up before realising he was draped in Giants gear.
"We all go for Collingwood as well," Ed said. "It (preliminary final) was difficult but it would have been shattering had they lost for Harry."
WATCHING THE PRELIM
James Hopper reckons his "poor old ticker nearly blew up."
Ed and Nick Perryman were frantically searching on their phones how long was left as a surging Collingwood camped themselves in their attacking 50, searching fruitlessly for the goal that would break the Giants' hearts.
"I don't want to go through that again, I thought my heart was going to give in on me," James said.
"I had a laugh with Jacob because I don't think I've ever seen someone celebrate getting their kick smothered (just before the final siren) as much as he did."
Perryman's father Max was virtually rendered mute as Collingwood's final quarter comeback was unfolding.
"I just sat on my seat and didn't say anything to anyone. I thought they were going to lose when they basically had it won, I thought," he said.
"I'm pretty keen to stay here (on the farm) so I don't have to focus on it so much. You can put your mind onto other things when you're here."
Nick Perryman captains Collingullie-Glenfield Park and won two premierships alongside Harry with the Demons in 2014 and 2015. He admitted his mind had already started to wander toward his brother being in a grand final when a Jeremy Cameron goal gave the Giants a 32-point lead early in the final term.
"Ed and I were looking at our phones checking how much time was left, I thought they were going to get beat to be honest," Nick said.
"We were starting to think about the grand final at three quarter time, we thought we jinxed him."
CALL OF THE FARM
Harry Perryman returns to the family farm every chance he gets.
Sydney's hustle and bustle certainly isn't in his wheelhouse. He'd prefer to be fixing fences, sitting on a tractor or herding sheep.
Football's biggest stage, playing in front of over 90,000 fans, is a world away from the Perryman's farm on the outskirts of Collingullie, but making it in the AFL takes sacrifice.
Collingullie's biggest claim to fame is perhaps a world sheep shearing record late last month, but Perryman could be their new pin-up boy come 5.15pm Saturday.
"His plan is to always come home and be a farmer, that's his goal," his father Max said.
"This (football) is what he has to do in the meantime."
"He misses the farm a lot, still misses it, but he's got used to it I think, mother Liz adds.
His brothers reckon he adores the farm life more than they do, and they're bigger footy heads than Harry. He just got blessed with the ability.
"He was probably more keen on it (farm) than we were, we were more keen on the football but we weren't good enough," Nick said.
"Over the off season he basically stays here all the time and doesn't go anywhere else."
Ed added: "He was pretty pumped up after the game, he never really shows much emotion but he was up and about."
FIRST MCG VISIT
James Hopper says Jacob and older brother Zac still talk about their first sojourn to the MCG just over 20 years ago.
James is an avid North Melbourne fan and he took the brothers to the Kangaroos' clash with Collingwood in 1999.
Jacob said "I want to play here", and it's where his love of the game was first fostered.
"Dee (Deanna) was pregnant with (youngest son) Sammy at time and Zac and Jacob still talk about that trip," James said.
"It was like they fell in love with the ground itself."
On Thursday the Hoppers jumped into their banged up Kia Sorrento for another trip to the hallowed turf with just a little more significance.
"We've got a seven-year-old car with 320,000 kays on it, we'll soak it up," James said.
"Gosh, it was just six weeks ago that Jacob was out with a hammy and the Giants were wounded and getting belted, here they are now in a grand final."
AS THE CROW FLIES
As Leeton gets wrapped up in Giants fever, Jacob's folks reckon it "takes them three hours" to get a cup of coffee as excited well-wishers bail them up.
"I can't go into one shop and then another shop, it's taken me hours to get something done with how excited people are," Deanna said.
James ran Auskick in Leeton for a few years, which started with about 30 kids and grew to 120.
One of those was a four-year-old Jacob who would watch his brother play. The rules say kids shouldn't start until five, but James relented.
It opened the floodgates for other kids the same age to join, and they would eventually to go on to win an under-12 premiership with the Crows.
It remains the only flag Hopper has won thus far as a far bigger prize goes on the line on Saturday.
"He was four and he was there (Auskick) with his older brother and he could kick the ball by then," James said.
"We bent the rules for him and then we had these other four year olds sign up. They won an under-12 grand final together, they're all still really close mates."
After playing 17 games for the Giants in 2017 and 2018, Perryman was named in the round one team for the first time this season.
But a punctured lung suffered in the win over Essendon set him back, and he didn't resurface in the AFL until round nine.
"That was his biggest worry in the rooms after he did it. He said 'I'll never get back in now," Liz said.
But Max assured him it was only a bump in the road that he would eventually overcome.
He has impressed so much since, he was trusted with the task of helping shut down Pies prime mover Sidebottom in the preliminary final.
"He seemed pretty excited to be playing on Steele, he's looked up to him his whole life," Liz said.
"It's funny when you hear older players retire and they say all they wanted was a premiership or to play in a grand final. I think Harry's pretty lucky in his third year to play in one."
KEEPING THE FAITH
Hopper re-signed with the Giants until the end of 2021 in April.
Other potential suitors made inquiries, but Hopper wanted to repay the faith the club put in him after he advanced to the big stage through their Academy program.
The seventh pick in the 2015 AFL Draft burst onto the scene with 32 disposals on debut against Gold Coast in round eight, 2016.
Injuries and ill health have provided challenges, but he will enter the grand final with ten finals appearances to his name.
"He's found that consistency and ended up finally doing a full pre season. His body just hadn't allowed him to do that," Deanna said.
Culcairn's Jeremy Finlayson, Narrandera's Zac Williams and Wagga's Harry Himmelberg complete an impressive batch of Riverina talent set to play for the Giants in the grand final.
James said their rise will help give country kids belief that they too can achieve their football dreams, regardless of where they're from.
"It really struck me when I got home (from the preliminary final) and we started to organise things that he's in grand final," James said.
"The Giants have copped their fair share of criticism, but to stay the course and achieve what they've done is fantastic. Fingers, toes and everything else crossed they can take it that one step further.
"I'm just amazed at what they've achieved so far. Sure, you can listen to all the criticism that they've been given the world, but you still have to make that work.
"Jacob did get some interest from other clubs and his management talked with him about that, but he's pretty loyal and once he buys in it's boots and all.
"He's formed such tremendous friendships and relationships at the Giants, he wanted to repay some of the faith that got shown in him.
"The Riverina's so well represented, it's unreal those boys out playing together on the weekend. It's something our district should be really proud of, I reckon."