July 13, 2024

Last September proved to be a devastating setback, but it won’t define someone who has consistently defied the odds throughout their career.

Despite playing every game of the regular season, Noble was unexpectedly dropped before Collingwood’s qualifying final against Melbourne, ending his streak of 83 consecutive games.

Unfortunately, he remained sidelined as Collingwood went on to secure victories over Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney, culminating in a historic 16th premiership by defeating Brisbane in the 2023 Grand Final.

However, Noble has now earned his place back in the team. Following a determined effort over the summer, he secured a spot in the lineup for the Opening Round.

Although he was relegated to the substitute role for a match at Engie Stadium, Noble returned to the field after two weeks in the VFL and has since showcased his determination in matches against Brisbane and Hawthorn.

Reflecting on his journey, Noble shared, “‘Fly’ (coach Craig McRae) had a conversation with me before the qualifying final. While it wasn’t the outcome I had hoped for, it was a difficult moment to accept at the time.”

“It’s quite emotional to discuss because you always strive for that ultimate success and dream of playing in a premiership for a team you’ve been a part of for so long.

“It was incredibly challenging, to be honest. One of the toughest experiences I’ve ever faced. While it was an incredible time for the club, and I like to think I played a significant role in that, it was also immensely challenging. But now, as we’re in 2024, we move forward.”

Noble didn’t let the setback of last season’s disappointment define him during the off-season. He isn’t wired to give up easily. Instead, he channeled the pain from September into motivation for October and November, ensuring he returned for pre-season training fully prepared to fight for his place in the team.

“I focused on refining my skills and conditioning during the off-season. I was determined to return as a better player,” Noble explained.

“The experience drove me a lot. Being out of the team only fueled my desire to reclaim my spot. I leaned on the guidance of mentors I’ve relied on throughout my career.

“Maintaining self-belief and confidence in my abilities was crucial. I never doubted my capability to contribute to our best 22. For me, it was about putting in the work, finding clarity amid uncertainty. It feels good to be back.”

McRae has faced few tougher decisions than the one involving Noble during his initial 56 games as a senior coach. While sentiment has no place in September, such decisions can take a personal toll, especially for a coach known for his empathy.

Noble’s response since then has been exactly what McRae expected. The dynamic defender not only reclaimed his spot in the team but also delivered standout performances in two games, earning coaches’ votes. He racked up impressive stats, including 24 disposals, six intercepts, and 440 meters gained at the Gabba, followed by 23 touches, eight intercepts, and six rebound 50s at the Adelaide Oval.

“We’re incredibly proud of him,” McRae expressed at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday night. “We encourage everyone to improve, and he has certainly grown from his setbacks. That’s exactly what you’d expect from ‘Nobes’.”

Noble has faced his share of football disappointments. From being overlooked in underage representative teams to not attracting the attention of any AFL clubs until he was 22, his journey has been challenging. Before veteran Collingwood recruiter Derek Hine changed the course of his life by selecting him in the 2019 Mid-Season Rookie Draft, Noble was working at Foodland during the week and playing for West Adelaide in the SANFL on weekends.

“My path to the AFL was tough enough, so I’ve always had a strong drive for success,” Noble reflected. “But these experiences add an extra layer to that determination; it’s like a fire in your belly that never goes out.”

Although Melbourne is now his home, Adelaide will always hold a special place in Noble’s heart. Collingwood trained at his former club, West Adelaide, last week and secured a victory against Hawthorn in the final game of their second Adelaide stint, banking four premiership points in the process.

“I’m a big fan of Gather Round; I believe it’s a fantastic concept,” he expressed. “Adelaide may have its critics, but it’s a beautiful city. Personally, I may be biased since I grew up here, but I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to explore the state through various games at different venues. I’m fully supportive of it.”

Following some personal reflection during the off-season, Noble has reclaimed his position in Collingwood’s top 22. He’s always had a competitive edge, but now it’s fueled by a different motivation.

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