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300-gamer up there with the best

Ryan O’Keefe spent more than a decade alongside Sydney Swans veteran and now 300-gamer Jarrad McVeigh. O’Keefe shared his views of the former Swan skipper in an exclusive column.

Jarrad McVeigh was a standout junior and young player when he arrived at the Swans in late 2002.

But the thing that stood out well before he touched the footy in that first pre-season was that curly mop of hair sitting on top of his head.

Those curly locks were receding pretty significantly, however, and he’s been running with the nude nut since around 2006.

He was a raw kid when he first arrived from the Central Coast but you could see that determination to work hard immediately after he walked through the doors.

Jarrad didn’t play senior footy in his first year but that was mainly due to how well the side was going at that point in time – we made the Preliminary Final in 2003.

But it didn’t take him long to force his way into the team and he has been a mainstay in the Sydney line up almost ever since.

He learned his craft as a tagger early days. To be a good midfielder, you need to learn off the best and Paul Roos was massive on younger guys having roles on some of the gun players to develop more rapidly.

Jarrad definitely became a strong midfielder and a goal-kicking one at that – which is what the best midfielders are – and has transitioned seamlessly to the backline in recent years.

There’s no secret to becoming an elite player. It comes down to hard work and the determination to improve and that’s certainly how Jarrad has become the player he is today.

He has been an integral part of the leadership group for a while and has become one of the great leaders in the competition. He always had those leadership capabilities. He’s one of those guys who leads by example and sets the standard both on and off the field.

You always knew what you were going to get out of Jarrad when you stepped onto the field alongside him. He’s a consistent performer – you don’t get to 300 games without being so.

He always gave his all, his work ethic was elite, along with his footy IQ, which you can see by the way he reads the game, his decision-making and ball use. The way he organises and directs his teammates to the right spots is like a coach out on the field.

Jarrad has had his share of adversity, but the way he handled himself during those times was truly remarkable and a testament to his character. He’s one of the most resilient characters I know.

As a person, Jarrad is a genuine guy. He’s as caring and thoughtful as they come and was a great person to be around during my time at the Swans.

He’s now a 300-gamer, which is an incredible feat, but more importantly is the calibre of the person and he’s right up there with the best of them.