This article was originally published in June 2018
I was beaten many times throughout my AFL career, too many to count (let’s say it was more than four times).
On many occasions, I would be playing on a gun forward and they’d have me covered in a contest and I knew that I was gone, but all of a sudden this fist would come from nowhere and save the day.
I could tell by the glutes on the person flying past my head that Heath Grundy had just saved me again.
Reg helped me out so many times on the field — I’d have to restrain myself from giving him a hug and revert back to the standard high-five.
I’m really excited to see him reach 250 games. I’m so pleased for him as he’s done it the hard way, off the rookie list. I’ll be at the SCG on Friday night to watch the milestone game and I’ll be standing by for the text when he reaches my tally of 261 later this year or early next.
I arrived at the Swans after their premiership year in 2005 and Reg was just another young player trying to get a game. Maybe it was the tips in his hair at the time but I wouldn’t say we were great mates from day one.
We would have been vying for the same role as the third or fourth target up forward behind Michael O’Loughlin, Barry Hall and Ryan O’Keefe early days.
He made his debut in Round 16, 2006 but despite the fact I can’t remember the game — it was 12 years ago — the stats tell me Reg kicked three goals and received a Brownlow Medal vote. Even if I could remember, I’d still tell him I couldn’t remember it though. He does remind Nick Smith that he’s been given more Brownlow votes in one game than Nick has received in 200 — but that’s another story.
He took a while to cement a spot in the side, though, but that was due to the strength of the Sydney line-up — not any lack of trying by him. He bided his time, worked hard and continually developed his game both as a forward and a defender. This ‘apprenticeship’ would make him the player that he is today.
By 2011, key defenders Craig Bolton and Leo Barry had retired, Paul Roos had handed the reigns to John Longmire and questions were asked about the quality of the Swans unproven defence.
We had the midfield, had the options up forward but our defence was seen as our weakest link. However, the season turned out differently than what people expected. Reg became an integral part of our defence and was one of the reasons we were able to turn it into one of the club’s strengths, and it continues to be so.
I have many memories of playing down back and witnessing first hand Reg outmuscling his opponent. Normally key forwards want one-on-one contests with their opponent so they can use their strength and size but that plays right into Reg’s hands.
There were times where it felt like he was the forward because of how good he was at marking the ball in defence and the forward was the one trying to spoil the ball away from Reg.
Strength is an obvious pillar in which Reg has built his game but I think people underestimate his athletic ability, too.
He’s one of the best runners at the club despite weighing north of 100kg (note: well north of 100kg). Due to this he’s never needed to lift weights to get stronger, but don’t pigeon-hole him, he’s also blessed with a huge engine. On top of this he trains hard and has a great resilience to play when injured and continually back up each week.
This can’t be underestimated as not many teams have depth in key defenders. It takes a lot of resilience to play while being not quite 100 per cent each week, but by doing so it provides the team consistency within its structure and the side is the better for it.
He would very rarely miss a skills session, which is a testament to his professionalism. He didn’t waiver in his routine towards training, regardless if he played well or not.
Off the field, Reg is a fantastic guy. He has a dry sense of humour and, I mean this in a positive way, footy hasn’t changed him at all. He’s come off the rookie list, done it the hard way and he still drives a ute despite having a healthy football salary for a long time. If anything he spends far too much time sipping on lattes down at Coogee beach but we all have our luxuries in life.
He’s happy working away in his tool shed, trying to fix things that, in all honesty, don’t really need improving. I know that he has aspirations of buying an old combie van and doing it up one day and, on a day off, he gets a lot of enjoyment out of checking out new tools at Bunnings.
Halfway through 2016, I announced that I’d retire at the end of the year so Reg and Nick Smith came to me and said, ‘we better get in one last footy trip then’ and allowed me to choose the destination. I think they were hoping I’d pick Vegas but I’d had enough of that place so I decided on Tokyo.
Reg doesn’t like fish, which could have been an issue, but he didn’t hesitate to come along so we went to Tokyo and he barely ate the whole time we were there.
That just sums him up — he’s selfless. He’s known to shy away from media opportunities because that’s not who he is but he thoroughly enjoys playing football and being involved in that team environment.
He’s just so content playing his role in the team. He doesn’t care who gets the credit and the Swans are a better team for having him there.
His character doesn’t change off the field either. Reg and his wife are selfless people. He’s a great person, a great friend and part of a family of great people.