By Zak Jones
Former Melbourne captain Nathan Jones will line up for his 300th game against Richmond on Saturday night, becoming just the second Dee to achieve the milestone. Writing for aflplayers.com.au, Jones’ younger brother and St Kilda midfielder Zak pens a piece on their relationship and Nathan’s resilience.
When Nathan debuted against the Western Bulldogs in 2006, I was 11 years old.
Even though there is a seven-year age gap between us, I was fortunate to be given opportunities to watch as Nathan’s career progressed.
My major recollections of his career, in particular the earlier parts, are his loyalty and resilience.
It wasn’t always easy at Melbourne, but Nathan consistently worked to better himself and build on everything that he could to support the development of the team.
He had opportunities to leave, but he always worked to make Melbourne better. If you speak to him, he never even entertained the thought of playing elsewhere.
Growing up, Nathan set the benchmark for myself and the other young kids that were part of Mount Eliza Football Club. He set the standard for us to know that playing at the elite level was achievable.
Seeing how hard Nathan worked throughout his career, it’s unsurprising to see how he’s achieved what he has.
Footy makes you grow up pretty quickly, but for Nath he needed to grow up and become a leader for his club earlier than he maybe thought.
I saw that development over the years, but I think it was a pretty natural progression for him.
Being the oldest of three, he was always looking after Josh (turning 30 this year) and I, making sure we were on the right path.
He took me under his wing and really helped to push me in the right direction to succeed. He was always wanting to help take me in the right direction and see the people around him succeed.
I was probably a little bit ignorant growing up and just thought, ‘Yeah, my brother’s a football player’.
There were times where I didn’t understand how hard he worked, but then I would be privy to moments where I joined him in a boxing session or would train with him and I saw firsthand how he approached his career.
I can vividly recall the first time we played against each other.
It was raining heavily in Sydney and I was walking out for a trot around the oval when I saw Nath across the ground.
I could only just see him through the rain, but he was smiling and laughing at me.
He was trying to play a few mind games with me because I was pretty serious back then – I didn’t laugh or smile but you can’t not when it’s your brother there.
The first hit I got was from him. He hit me off the ball, pushed me on the ground and punched me in the back.
Then there was another moment where he kneed me in the back of the head. I was shocked by it and looked up and saw him there chuckling and running off.
When you’re playing it’s hard to reflect on what an achievement 300 games is but for me, watching on I have that opportunity.
Although I can’t be there on Saturday night, I’m incredibly proud of what he’s been able to achieve.
Nath’s always worked hard and looked to better himself and so it doesn’t surprise me that he’s been able to achieve the milestone.
It speaks volumes to the type of person he is and how resilient he has been throughout his career.
I’m so proud of him and what he’s achieved. I can’t speak highly enough of him, not just because he’s my brother, but what he’s done for me throughout my life.