Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Would-Be Hawk Key for Swans

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Would-Be Hawk Key for Swans

Article excerpt

ONE of the most hard-fought battles between Hawthorn and Sydney in recent times was not played out for a premiership, or even four points, but for the services of Ryan O'Keefe.

The Hawks might have just stunned the football world, and not least of all grand final opponent Geelong, by claiming the 2008 premiership, but they were determined to remain a step ahead of the competition by adding some proven class to what was still a young outfit.

They especially saw a need to lessen the reliability on then 21-year-old forwards Lance Franklin and Jarryd Roughead, who had kicked almost 200 goals between them that year, particularly given Stuart aTree Trunk Legsa Dew and Mark aShotguna Williams were fading forces, despite their grand final heroics.

Seeing the Swans' star blond-headed ahigh half-forwarda as the perfect foil for their twin towers in attack, Hawthorn wanted O'Keefe. And, as it turned out, an out-of-contract O'Keefe wanted Hawthorn.

After nine seasons in the Harbour City, and a member of Swans' 2005 premiership team, the then 27-year-old was aiming at a return to his home state of Victoria with his young family. And he was so determined to join the reigning premier he was prepared to take a pay cut to do so.

In turn, Hawthorn was prepared to give up its first pick in the national draft, No.16. But it was not about to give up a player as well, as requested by the Swans. So after days of neither club being willing to budge, the deal collapsed.

The Hawks hung on to their top draft pick, which they would use on a young South Australia key position player called Ryan Schoenmakers.

O'Keefe, not about to risk heading into the pre-season draft and being selected by wooden spooner Melbourne, decided to stay put.

While he didn't change clubs, he did change his role at Sydney. Since his decision to sign a new contract with the Swans, O'Keefe has been transformed from that lead-up marking forward, who would slot his 30-plus goals a year, to one of the team's biggest ball-winners in the midfield. …

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