To play 250 games of elite-level footy is an outstanding achievement for anyone but, being my older brother, Nathan sets a great example for me.
Footy, and essentially our lives, started in the backyard in Mt Eliza, where Nathan, seven years older, and my brother Josh, four years older, beat me up while kicking the ball around.
It would never take long for me crack it after being fended off or used as a stepladder for the 100th time — maybe that’s why I have such a short fuse nowadays.
Growing up with Nathan, he was always doing something. Be it playing footy, surfing, triathlons or general training, he was always active.
When he was at home, he was competitive with everything he did. He never wanted to lose so when we’d play FIFA, he couldn’t leave on a loss — he was so competitive that we used to get to a few places late because Nathan had to keep going until he won.
Being a lot younger, you always think you’re older brother is going to make it in the AFL. I remember everyone telling me he was going to get drafted but I didn’t really understand what that meant or how big that actually was. Once Nathan was drafted to Melbourne, the realisation that my brother was an AFL player meant I could be too.
Nathan spent his first year in the AFL living at home with us before getting his own place in Mentone. That apartment became my second home and a place I could escape to when things became stressful in Mt Eliza.
Nathan was always welcoming and it helped that his place was only a train ride away.
Having a brother in the AFL system did wonders for my own career. I got an insight into what being an AFL player was about and some days he would take me into the club and drag me around.
It’d get to a point where I’d want to leave but he was still busy doing things like rehab to get his body right. He showed me early on what it took to get yourself right to play each week and that’s been proven through his consistency in his 249 games so far.
The main piece of advice he’s taught me over the years is to be honest with myself and what real effort and hard work looks like.
I probably didn’t work as hard as I could in the off-season and he showed me what was required and how you can significantly improve during that time. He’s always done that.
He’s finally getting some reward for the effort he’s put in when the club was going through the lows. He’s so loyal to the Melbourne Football Club and he never expressed to me that he wanted to go elsewhere. He’s unwavering in his connection to his club, even through their dark times.
I didn’t see too much of the lows with him because I was young and focussed on making a career for myself. He sheds a bit more light on it now that it’s over and I can grasp just how difficult things would’ve been for him during those times.
Now, as an adult, I realise the lows he went through would’ve been difficult and that shows how resilient he is. It’s incredible, to be honest, when you actually look back at what he’s had to endure throughout his career.
It typifies Nathan’s character. He’s loyal, honest and genuine. He wants the best out of everyone and he’s a driver of that. If he cares for you, he’ll do anything for you.
Off the field, he’s a big surfer and he’d tell you he’s Kelly Slater — so he rates himself. I jump in the water with him every now and again and he always reminds me how good he is.
Josh loves a paddle, too. Those two would go for a surf when they were younger and drag me along. Some of my fondest memories are grabbing onto Nathan’s leg rope as a kid and he’d paddle me out because I wasn’t strong enough to get out there.
Nowadays, he’d tell you he’s better than me but I reckon I’ve got him covered.
Nathan’s also a clean freak. Every time I go to his house, everything is neat and tidy. He’s just done a renovation too and Dad said that he wanted everything absolutely perfect. I’m not sure where he gets that from. I’m not the opposite in that regard but he needs everything spotless.
On the field, I’ve only played against him once and that was in 2016. It’s actually my favourite memory with Nathan and one that’ll live with me forever. He even clipped me a couple of times during the game but it was all in good fun.
To catch up with him at the end of the match was something I really enjoyed and hopefully there are a few more to come.
Go well in game 250, brother!