By Beth Newman
By 17, Ryan Davey had played in back-to-back grand finals .
“My first year at Trafalgar I played in a senior grand final that year and the following.
We lost both of those by under a goal and I was upset at the time but you think, ‘it’s okay there’ll be more chances’.
Eleven years later, his tally still stands at two and 12 months ago, after three fruitless seasons at the Tigers, the Labrador captain had to come to terms with the possibility that would never change.
“I was at that level where I wanted to be involved in building and assisting people like Jarrod (Labrador footy operations manager, Jarrod Field) to build the club and make sure it was going to have some success,” he said.
“I honestly thought it would…I just thought it might take longer than the time I had left.”
It’s been a remarkable turnaround at Cooke-Murphy Oval the past year, going from one win in 2014 and scraping together a side each week, to now boasting a healthy list, with their reserves in a grand final and the seniors into a preliminary final.
With new coach, Steve Daniel making an immediate impact and a swag of new and returned players coming to the club, who Davey said were all picked with a primary focus.
“It’s strange you pull on the same jumper as last year…but it’s a totally different club,” Davey said.
“You appoint a coach like Steve, who naturally draws people to the club and we’ve recruited not only good players but great people.
“The guys who are there at the moment, they all buy in to the footy club, they all really enjoy being there and that translates into on field performance.”
The captaincy, which once was a heavy burden for Davey as the Tigers struggled to get up each week, is now a blessing for Davey, with the added support of a new leadership group in Jye Warren, Tom Daniel, Dyson Budarick, Todd Featherstone and Kieran Daley.
“I suppose I felt the burden a lot more last year,” he said.
“Last year… it was really difficult to get the boys up knowing in all reality that you’re going out there in what’s a pretty difficult task to try and win games of footy.”
“It’s certainly not all on one person this year, which has been fantastic.”
Click above for our video chat with Ryan Davey.
Driven by success, the highly decorated Tiger, with a Grogan medal and multiple representative games to his name, says all he’s ever wanted from football was to win a premiership.
“It’s (a flag) certainly all I care about and all I ever have,” he said.
“I’ve never heard of an anniversary or people getting together for individual stuff or even rep sides.
“All I want to do is win a flag and have 22 mates in 10 years’ time that are to come back and reminisce.
The fiercely loyal Davey says the only way he sees himself holding a cup aloft is in the yellow and black.
“I’ve played at three clubs my entire life and I’ve been at each of them for a minimum of five years. I want to win a flag and I want to win it where it means something and (if I do) it’s going to be Labrador, because that’ll be the last place I play.”
The Tigers’ return to finals was bittersweet for Davey, who had to watch on as they played the qualifying final, after hurting joints in his left foot at Mt Gravatt in Rd 14.
Dittmer Park has been a cursed venue for Davey, who broke his right foot there in 2012, and this year’s injury caused plenty to write him off.
Despite reading his season might be over, the 28 year-old was always confident he would return to the Tigers team, undergoing an intensive rehab program, helped by access to some of the Gold Coast SUNS facilities, as the club’s events coordinator.
“Anyone who wrote me off probably didn’t know the work that I was doing,” he said.
“I bumped into one of the coaches here and they said that I had been written off in the paper and… I just said I wish they’d told me first because I wouldn’t have gotten up to train at 6am that day.”
A man who seems to find a silver lining in most situations, found another in his lengthy layoff.
“The positive thing from my end is that I don’t have any niggling injuries because mine have healed over the last 6-8 weeks,” he said.
“It was just about getting as many minutes in as I could over the weekend, freshen up this week and go into a prelim final, which is pretty exciting.”