Collingwood’s Keeffe keeping head up

By Beth Newman

From playing soccer at one of Brisbane’s biggest rugby union nurseries to being drafted to the biggest club in the AFL, it’s fair to say Lachie Keeffe had an unusual start to his AFL career.

Gympie-raised Keeffe, a boarder at Marist College, had barely played any footy when he was pre-listed by the Magpies in 2007, after being spotted by recruiting manager, Derek Hine, at an AFL Queensland rookie search.

Having focused on soccer for most of his footballing career, a professional career wasn’t exactly on his mind when he first picked up a Sherrin.

“It was more just to get out class on a Monday afternoon, that’s why I started it,” he said.

Ultimately, though, the chance to realise a childhood dream drove him down the AFL path.

“Some of my mates were getting A-League contracts or AIS contracts and I wasn’t good enough and it was an easy enough decision for me to make,” he said.

“The opportunity to be in a professional organisation and be a professional sportsman – every kid wants to be that.”

With soccer playing second fiddle to rugby union at Marist, which produced players including Wallabies legend, John Eales, the switch to a major Victorian AFL club was an adjustment for Keeffe, but the Magpies’ environment made the adjustment easy.

“Rugby would get 2-3,000 to games, so we were always on the outer to an extent,” he said.

“I didn’t know how intense it was going to be (coming to Melbourne) but Collingwood were really good with what they did in the early days.

“They put you up in a house, helped you out and the culture down there’s very good and made the transition really easy.”

Keeffe obviously made a good impression on the club, the first Queenslander to head to Collingwood in a decade

The Magpies have since signed six more, including a former school rival, in Josh Thomas.

“I’m always having a chat to Dekker (Hines), asking if there’s any Queensland talent going around and we’ve still managed to get a few to the club,” he said.

“I went to Marist and Joshy Thomas went to Iona (College) and we used to cross paths in other sporting codes.

“It’s always good to have a bit in common.”

Keeffe has had a horrific run of injuries through his sporting career, going all the way back to a broken nose in a high school rugby game right up to a kidney injury he suffered in his first game back from a knee reconstruction last year.

“I’ve had a shoulder reconscruction, done my ACL, had hip surgery, I feel like an old man,” he said.

“(The kidney injury) was disappointing because you get back and put all that hard work into getting the knee right and then you have to worry about your kidney.”

In his eighth season at the Magpies, Keeffe is hoping luck finally turns his way and he can cement a regular senior spot.

“It’s my seventh season now and I’ve only played 22 games so I’m not even a regular player,” he said.

“Seven years is a long time and a lot of work and I’m still not quite there yet.

“It shows how fickle the game is if you’re not on top of it.”

Follow Beth on Twitter: @bethknewman.

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