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‘Mature’ Heath has found his voice

Ahead of Heath Shaw’s 250th game, Rhyce Shaw has honoured his little brother in an exclusive column.

It’s a proud feeling knowing your little brother will be playing his 250th AFL match.

But after watching him play footy his whole life, it’s not really a surprise.

I always saw him getting to 250 games because he is a great player, and after all, he’s proved that over a long period of time.

I’d suggest he’ll give a fairly good crack at getting to 300 games as well with the way he’s tracking, but 250 is a massive achievement.

The first thing to know about Heath is that he’s a dedicated family man.

We’re a tight family but he’s always the first to put his hand up to help look after the kids when I’m away.

The second thing to note is that he’s definitely a better player than I was. He’s always been the best and has been since he was 11 years old.

I remember one Grand Final he played in the under-11s and there was this big kid who almost looked like a man-child. He was dominating the game and running through everyone and Heath ended up hurting him with a massive tackle halfway through the second quarter.

He’s a serious competitor, he’s courageous and tough and he has a fantastic footy brain, so he was destined to be better than me and he’s certainly become that.

I remember that he filled in a couple of times with my junior teams but being four years younger he might’ve struggled slightly. He was always the most talented player at our junior club, however, and he was always keen to help us out.

As his older brother, I’d try and look after him as much I could and my mates tried to do the same.

The biggest thrill was playing together for the first time at Collingwood. It was a pretty special moment.

In 2005, I did my knee and was out for 12 months and he got into the team and did well. I came back in 2006 against the Western Bulldogs in Round 9 and he looked after me a fair bit.

I only got around 10 touches but I reckon he gave me nine of them and he burnt some of our teammates to give me the ball.

Heath is definitely an interesting cat, and I bet there’s plenty of people who are keen to know what he’s really like away from the field.

He’s in the papers a fair bit and goes on the Footy Show so he’s doing plenty of stuff that’s for sure but deep down, he’s the same bloke and that’s the key to ‘Heater’, he doesn’t change for anyone — he’s an honest, knockabout fella.

He’s pretty OCD. He colour-codes his boots, shoes and clothes in his bedroom which can be a bit scary at times. He’s pedantic in the way he goes about things and what order they should be done in.

He loves counting his money, buying houses and thinks he’s a bit of a fashionista. He thinks he’s pretty cool but he’s definitely not.

Money, properties and clothes are his main hobbies — he doesn’t really do much else.

I’d say he has become more mature and has grown up a lot since coming up to Sydney. He’s found out what he wants to do and who he wants to be.

From a young kid to who he is today, he’s always been a determined little bugger and he would’ve done anything to play at the top level but he soon learnt that you have to tick every box to play each week.

Now, he gets up early in the morning on his day off and goes for a jog and goes to the beach, gets massages and that’s all when he’s not required to do so.

That’s why he’s where he is today because he’s not only a fantastic player but a great professional, too.

I think his teammates see that and that’s why they look up to him.

When he moved to Sydney, he lived with us for three or four months and I think he struggled with the move because he left everything and ventured into the unknown.

He took a risk coming to GWS — to a club that had only been in the system for two years previously — but he learnt quickly that he was being relied on to show the way for the young players in terms of what to do, how to prepare and what it takes.

He embraced that and really relished the opportunity to be a leader and now the Giants are reaping the rewards of all the hard work their senior players have put in over their short history.

I think it was a big change for Heath. He has a great footy mind and sometimes he doesn’t articulate it very well but he certainly knows what’s going on out on the field.

When he took his new role at the Giants on board that’s when I realised how much he had matured and taken that responsibility of being an experienced player.

Even though we’ve both grown up and spent time away, we have actually lived together for the majority of each other’s lives. We bunked together at mum and dad’s house as kids and when I moved out he pretty much lived with me and was going to school each morning from there.

Then he bought a house and I lived with him, so it’s fair to say we have been around each other enough over the journey.

But when I moved to Sydney at the end of 2008, I think that was a big shock for him — and for me for that matter — and it was pretty hard for us all early on.

On the field, he’s a really smart player who attacks the game and isn’t afraid to make a mistake. He’s like me in that he might make a few errors every now and again — I definitely made much more than he does — but he’s trying something.

He’s a great kick, one of the better ones you’ll see and he has that instructional voice around the ground.

Playing against him, he was annoying because he was so good. He showed me up a few times and was one of the targets when we played them each time. As an opponent, you had to put time into him because he’ll get on top of you.

He’s a multiple All-Australian, a best and fairest winner, he’s won a premiership and played for Victoria.

There isn’t much else for him to do, but no doubt his biggest challenge has been with the Giants and he has gone to another level there which is a sign of his maturation.

I can’t wait to see him run out on Saturday and who knows, potentially in his 300th game, too.