Gympie giant Lachlan Keeffe, seven times a senior emerency this year, will finally become an AFL player after being selected tonight in the senior side for premiers Collingwood.

Friday, 8 July, 2011

Gympie giant Lachlan Keeffe will finally become an AFL player after being selected tonight in the senior side for premiers Collingwood.

It was a case of eighth time lucky for clash for the 204cm 21-year-old, who had been a senior emergency no less than seven times in the Pies’ first 13 games this year.

He got the nod tonight when coach Mick Malthouse settled on the replacement for injured full forward Chris Dawes, who will miss six weeks with a broken knuckle.

Keeffe was named on the interchange bench for Sunday’s MCG clash with North Melbourne and is expected to be used as a tall defender to perhaps free up former full forward Chris Tarrant to move from his current role at fullback to deputise for Dawes.

Son of a Gympie newsagent, he will be the second Queensland AFL debutant of the weekend after Rory Thompson gets his first opportunity for the Gold Coast Suns against Sydney Swans at Metricon Stadium tomorrow night.

And, astonishingly, he will be the 14th Queenslander to debut this year behind Zac Smith, Charlie Dixon, Karmichael Hunt, Alik Magin, Marc Lock, Claye Beams, Broc McCauley, Bryce Retzlaff, Joey Daye, James Mulligan, Rex Liddy, Joel Wilkinson and Thompson.

Keeffe will wear the No.23 jumper worn previously by Collingwood great Anthony Rocca.

He was told of his selection this morning before the club rang his parents Matt and Karen to invite them to Melbourne for the next chapter in what is one of the AFL’s great recruitment stories.

Matt and Karen will don their Sunday best to dine with Collingwood president Eddie McGuire at the official pre-match lunch as they son lives a fairytale that began just four years ago.

As is reported on the Collingwood website late today, Keeffe represents another of the audacious scouting moves Collingwood has made under National Recruiting Manager Derek Hine.

A boarder at Marist College Ashgrove in Brisbane, he was a life-time soccer player from age six and had had played virtually no football when snared by Hine shortly before Christmas in 2007.

Hine utilized a little-known AFL rule to sign Keeffe as an unregistered player, and was delighted when he rejected subsequent offers from the Brisbane Lions to reinforce his commitment to Collingwood.

He spent his first 12 months with the Pies on a development squad before being rookie listed in 2009-10 and winning promotion to the senior list in 2011.

A member of Collingwood’s NAB Cup pre-season premiership side in March even before he’d played a senior AFL game, he told Collingwood TV’s Paul Licuria that he is relieved to finally get his chance at the highest level.

“I’m feeling good mate. It’s just good to finally get a crack at AFL. I obviously had the experience in the NAB Cup this year and had a bit of a taste but I’ve been well advised that it’s a bit of a step up, so hopefully I can put my best foot forward and have a crack and hopefully play well,” Keeffe told the Pies’ official television station.

He played four VFL matches late in the 2008 season while learning the ropes with Old Trinity Amateurs, and subsequently played two full seasons in the VFL, emerging as a tall defender after originally being seen as a likely ruckman.

“I played a little bit of soccer; I’d played since I was six, up until I was 17, and I only really started taking up footy at school level at 17,” Keeffe said.

“I played in a few Queensland development teams and squads and that kind of stuff, but the bottom line was that blokes my age were starting to get contracts from the AIS or A-League teams, and I wasn’t getting that, so I jumped at the idea of becoming a professional sportsman in a different code, so there’re no regrets.”

Keeffe played in all four rounds of the NAB Cup, and was a member of the team that beat Essendon in the Grand Final.

“Earlier in the year, I thought my NAB Cup form was alright, but obviously Mick told me throughout the year that you’re a chance, but we have to wait for the right match up and selection criteria and all that sort of stuff.

“I was just waiting to bide my time, trying to play consistently good football in the VFL and put my hand up if I’m needed. I never really thought I was in at any stage, and I’m obviously lucky to get the nod this week.”

The Keeffe clan will make the trip down from Gympie to watch their son take on the Kangaroos.

“I gave mum a ring. I thought she’d be up and about, but I think I woke her up. She’ll be making the trek down, and I think my dad will come too. My sister’s pretty glad because she’s heading over to America to be a nanny for a year, so she wasn’t too sure if she was going to be able to see my first game, so I think she’ll be pretty happy.”

The Collingwood website also lists comments from Keeffe on various aspects of what shapes as a long and illustrious AFL career.


When signed by Collingwood:
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime – it’s not all the time you get a professional team call you and say they have a contract for you,” – Sunshine Coast Daily, 22 December 2007

On his path to Collingwood:
“I did a ‘rookie search’ in Queensland for people who haven’t played much footy before, because I’d only played school footy, and hadn’t played club footy. So I went through that, and Derek picked me out, and I did a couple of trials. I’ve now been down here for a couple of months, so it has been pretty good.” – 16 August, 2008

About his future at the club:
“The club is trying to make me into a ruckman, but there are guys like ‘Woody’ (Cameron Wood) and Justin Crow in there, so I might end up playing in a key position, in both the backline and the forward line. I don’t really have any long-term aspirations (as yet), I don’t even think that I’ll play any pre-season games next year, as I’m pretty raw, so I’m just trying to develop and get better as quickly as I can.” – 16 August, 2008

On the move from Queensland to Melbourne:
“I’m from a small town, Gympie, up in Queensland, so I actually went to boarding school for three years. The move away from home wasn’t too bad, and my parents have come down a fair bit, so it’s been good.” – 16 August, 2008

On his first full pre-season (2008/2009): 
“It would be great to get a game in the NAB Cup or NAB Challenge.  I guess I will have to play it by ear but it would be great to get the experience.”

“His first game was a big one to come in for, but he applied himself really well, and he didn’t let himself down at all.” – Gavin Brown after Keeffe’s VFL debut v Geelong on August 2 2008

“He’s come from a long way back. He’s put on a bit of weight now … and he’s played some pretty good games. He’s a smart kid; he’s a very coachable kid and he knows what’s required. You teach him something and he goes out and does it, which is a good sign.” – Gavin Brown, 25 June 2009

“In many respects, it’s probably a better story than an Irish story. With the Irishmen, they’ve got the football in their hands. With soccer, unless you’re a goalie, there’s not much chance of having it (the ball) in your hands. It is a remarkable story.” – Mick Malthouse, 7 July 2011

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