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‘Gaff is all in’

West Coast Eagles midfielder Andrew Gaff will play his 200th career game on Saturday night against the Brisbane Lions. His teammate and close friend, Jack Darling, has put together a piece to give an insight into what makes Gaff the player he is.

When you first arrive at an AFL club, it can be pretty daunting so it’s important to know that there are people in your corner that will support you and be a sounding board.

Andrew Gaff pretty quickly became one of those people for me.

We both arrived at West Coast following the 2010 Draft and along with Jeremy McGovern and Scott Lycett (now at Port Adelaide) became good friends.

I knew him a little bit through the under-18s National Championships, but didn’t get to know him properly until we were both at the Eagles.

My first impressions were that he was a bit of a Melbourne private school boy, but straight away his work ethic was obvious.

Gaffy has a real hunger to continuously improve. His self-belief and inner-strength was on display from that first day.

When he first arrived at the club he was a skinny, young kid but he’s developed immensely since.

In fact, at my wedding and during his speech, he made mention of how he now feels like he’s put on a few kilos and can hold his own – which he can.

We were both lucky to debut together in Round 1 against North Melbourne.

He probably wasn’t expecting to play as much as he did in that first game – he was the substitute – but an injury to Chris Masten meant he came on the field earlier than expected.

I can remember his first possession when (North Melbourne forward) Aaron Edwards gave him one of the biggest bumps of his career, knocking him down.

True to his competitive nature he jumped straight back up like it didn’t happen.

Celebrating with Gaffy and Luke Shuey (who had played in his first win, but was drafted the year prior) was really special – it’s great that we’re all still playing together now, too.

Over time, Gaffy has grown as a player and leader.

He’s in our senior leadership group and has been for a couple of years.

He does all the right things, leading by example during the week, on the training track and of course, on game day.

There isn’t a week in the season that he doesn’t front up and play his role.

In a footy club you spend a lot of your spare time between weights and running sessions with each other.

Because of this we’ve formed a strong friendship group – Lycett, when he was here, and Elliot Yeo too.

Those times that you have and all the banter that goes on at the football club are the memories you cherish.

It translates to on-field as well.

We have a connection that helps us understand how each other plays – he’s able to kick the ball where he knows I’m going to lead.

It forms a greater appreciation that you have for each other when you’re able to play with someone like that.

The wins are always something you cherish – there are so many highs and lows in football.

We’ve been in each other’s corner any time we’re going through a rough patch or a low moment. He prides himself on his performances and is up there as one of the most driven people I know.

Gaffy is all in.

Well done on your 200th game, mate.

It’s been great playing together for the last 10 years.

We’re playing 200 games pretty close together (Darling will play his 200th game in Round 4) and hopefully we’ll be able to have a bit more success together in the future and punch out as many games as we can.