Kieren Jack will line up in his 150th professional game this weekend, but not in the code you would expect.
Is it an unwritten law that if your father played over 300 games at club and representative level of the NRL, his son must follow suit?
Not if Kieren Jack has anything to say about it.
As the son of Balmain Tigers legend Garry, Kieren was destined for greatness in rugby league, but a highly publicised decision to trade the Steeden in for the Sherrin will pay dividends for Jack on Saturday when he runs out for his 150th appearance in the red and white.
“I wished and dreamed that I could play senior football, but there were a lot of doubters of me,” Kieren said at a press conference today.
“When you come into an AFL environment… in my first year I was a long way off. I had to improve and get better very quickly and due to a lot of hard work I’ve been able to get senior football and then continue to play.”
Jack locked down his first season of regular football in 2008, but lacked many of the fundamental skills that come from learning AFL from a young age. As a result, he credits an inspired move by former head coach Paul Roos to pair his competitive nature with a tagging job on the games best players which finally launched his career.
“My background in AFL football wasn’t big,” Jack said.
“I had to learn the game and the patterns of the game and I think tagging allowed me to do that.
“Defensively and [when] tackling, I was a very competitive kid, so that went hand in hand.
“So I think Roosy thought if he could put me on a player and try to negate them with my competitive attitude, I’d be able to pick up some things along the way and learn that offensive side and where players go to get the football.”
This made it all the more ironic for Jack when his football began to prosper in 2010, and he found himself a victim of his own ability to be tagged.
“Towards the back end of that year (2010) I started to play some pretty good football both ways and started to get a bit of attention,” he said.
“It was funny, in a way.”
Having tasted premiership success as an inspirational member of the 2012 squad, the Swans co-captain and one-time All Australian is eager to experience the elation again with the current crop of players.
“That’s the drive,” he said.
“Getting the group going again so we can achieve that ultimate team success, that’s what you play for.
“That feeling five or 10 minutes after the Grand Final, that’s what you want.”
With a top-of-the-table clash awaiting the Swans when they host ladder leaders Port Adelaide at the SCG this weekend, power defender Alipate Carlile shot the first arrow midweek when he declared Sydney as the best team in the competition.
Kieren, however, was having none of it.
“We’re sitting third and they’re sitting first, so it’s fair to say they’re the best team in the comp,” he quipped.
“But it’s nice for him to try to deflect that.”
The Swans face Port Adelaide on Saturday afternoon. – Patrick Boddan
Top photo by Daniel Walker.