by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Ryan O'Keefe has not played a senior game with the Swans since Round Four and knew his time in Sydney was up. He was not even in calculations for Round One until an injury to Kieran Jack earned him a reprieve. It quickly became clear to O'Keefe that he had fallen behind younger teammates in the pecking order. While some have urged him to hang up the boots as a one-club player, O'Keefe believes he still has something to offer another club. He almost departed Sydney at the end of 2008 to come home to Melbourne but a suitable trade did not eventuate. When asked whether he would like to play on, O'Keefe, 33, said, "I think so. The fire is in the belly and I love playing." Even though he fell out of favor, O'Keefe is still highly regarded and was given a lap of honor at half time during the match against Richmond so he could farewell the fans. He said “I have had 15 fantastic years at the Swans and it is important to me that I am able to thank all the members and fans who have supported me ... It has been a challenging year, but I have enjoyed working with young players in the reserves and look forward to helping that group challenge for the NEAFL premiership in the coming weeks ... it is important ... that I get to thank the Club, all my teammates and importantly, all of the supporters."
Coach John Longmire said O’Keefe was a champion of the football club and deserved a great send-off. “Ryan’s record speaks for itself. He has played 286 games, won two Premierships, a Norm Smith medal and a Club Champion award. He is one of the toughest competitors I have come across ... Very few players share his professionalism, his drive and will to win. As it is with many of the very best players, most of Ryan’s best games came in Finals. His performances throughout the 2012 series .. were remarkable, and he capped it off with an outstanding Grand Final performance and a Norm Smith medal. Despite the challenges this season, he has handled the situation impressively and been a great mentor to our young players. He is a champion of our club".
Games played: 286 (fourth all-time for the Swans)
Premierships 2005, 2012
Norm Smith Medal 2012
All Australian 2006
Best and fairest 2009
International Rules Series 2005, 2006
Swans best player in finals 2012
Swans Rising Star 2001
Source: afl.com.au, Jordan Laing, Sydney Media Release
For months, there has been speculation that Karmichael Hunt would not be with Gold Coast in 2015. Hunt famously came to the club as an inaugural squad member and convert from rugby. Although Aussie Rules was not unfamiliar to him as he had played the game as a schoolboy, he still had a lot to learn. He was tried as a forward before settling in defense but also had bursts through the midfield. He played 14 games in his debut season of 2011.There were times when he looked lost and critics were quick to say he wouldn't make it. He showed marked improvement in 2012 and switched to the midfield where his strong frame allowed him to crash through packs and create space for teammates. He played a further 18 games that year before a shoulder injury in Round 19 prematurely ended his season. Hamstring and calf injuries restricted him to just nine games in 2013. Injury and illness have kept him out of the side for all but one game this year.
Hunt, 27, admitted that his body could no longer withstand the rigors of AFL and will join the Queensland Reds rugby team. "Genetics suggest I should be playing another code. I'm confident I'm ... not going to a game where I'm going to have to run about 12 kilometers (approx 7 miles) every Saturday." Hunt said he came to the AFL aware of the gamble he'd made and had worked hard to earn his teammates' respect. However, he was also grateful for the chance to try saying it was a once in a lifetime experience and that the decision had been considered and emotional. He said, "I've enjoyed every aspect of it and the game and the Suns will always be part of mine and my family's life. There are far too many people to thank for helping me to achieve ... but to the coaches and support staff, my teammates and our ever-growing fan base, I thank you for your direction, guidance and importantly your support. It has been an amazing challenge and an incredibly fulfilling one".
Coach Guy McKenna praised Hunt, saying no one at the club had done more to show the Suns' young core of players what it took to be a professional athlete. Gold Coast CEO Travis Auld, praised Hunt's achievement, dedication and role in establishing the club, both on and off the field. AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan also acknowledged and praised Hunt's contribution to the establishment of the Suns and the growth of the game in Queensland saying Hunt "has been an inspirational ambassador ... over the past four years and his progress in playing our game has helped inspire many children, particularly in Queensland and NSW, to play and watch Australian football ... He has also made a valuable contribution to the AFL community as an Australia Post Multicultural Ambassador, promoting inclusion and diversity within our game and more broadly.”
For the record, Hunt played 44 games and kicked six goals. Two of his goals will surely be highlights of his career. The first was a 60 yard torpedo punt against Geelong in the first game at Metricon in Round 10, 2011, even though the Suns were thumped by 11 goals. The second came in 2012, an after the siren goal against Richmond to give the Suns the first of their three wins for the season.
Source: James Avery, AFL Media Release, Sean Tobin, GC Media Release, brisbanetimes.com.au, AFL Record Season Guide, SEN audio, ed. notes
After their match against Adelaide in Round 23, the Saints announced that defender James Gwilt and midfielder Clint Jones would not be offered new contracts. Coach Alan Richardson thanked them for their service to the club. “James and Clint have played a significant role in a highly successful era in the football club’s history and both have been fantastic servants of this club over many years."
Gwilt played 126 games for the club after debuting late in 2005, while Jones notched 149 matches after being selected in the 2006 AFL Rookie Draft. Gwilt has indicated he would like to explore other options while Jones is yet to make a decision about his playing future.
Source: Luke Holmesby, St Kilda Media Release
Article last changed on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 6:37 AM EDT