GROWING up, Warrnambool’s O’Keeffe siblings played some fiercely competitive backyard matches.
Tomorrow, with the same passion and enthusiasm, they will take to a venue that was a playground in those formative years, searching for a rare family double.
While Tim O’Keeffe, a key defender with the Blues is chasing the senior football premiership in the match against Cobden at Reid Oval, his sisters Emma and Sarah will be hoping to snare the A grade netball flag from two-time defending premier Koroit. Tim, 23, and Sarah, 21, are in no doubt who was the toughest competitor in the school-of-hard-knocks backyard.
“Emma,” Tim said.
“There’s a heap of videos from my birthday parties and she would be bashing into my mates playing footy.
“She’d knock them out of the way.”
Sarah knows what Emma’s Koroit opponents are in for tomorrow, having spent hours on the receiving end under the backyard netball ring.
“She’s a very good netballer but it always got competitive,” Sarah said.
“Emma would also play basketball and she would take it really seriously.”
Emma, the Blues co-captain, acknowledged she “probably” had the biggest desire in those games but part of it was generated by circumstances.
She remembers playing footy matches at half-time on Reid Oval where her father Mark, a multiple premiership player, was revered.
“When Dad was playing, we were all dressed up in footy gear,” Emma said.
“We didn’t pay much attention to netball in those days.”
She suspects playing those footy matches fuelled her passion to represent her school in girls’ Aussie Rules matches at both primary and secondary level and contributed to her attack on the ball in netball games.
Such is her willingness to attack a ball in the air, she admitted that despite being a teammate, her little sister, the wing defence, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“I’ve nearly knocked Sarah out,” she said.
But tomorrow it is a case of right time, right place. It is the first time the sisters have played alongside each other in an A grade netball grand final.
Emma, who has played in four winning and two losing grand finals from six attempts in the top grade, is excited Sarah will experience her first A grade premiership decider.
While Emma has been a regular in Warrnambool’s top-level side for the past decade, Sarah has had to fight her way into the team.
Having grown up playing largely as a goal defence, Sarah, who gives away a few centimetres to Emma, had to find a new position with her sibling the regular goal defender.
After playing a couple of A grade games with the Blues in 2009, she found a spot at wing defence under new coach Lorraine English.
“I’ve had more confidence,” she said. “She (Lorraine) has been good because she has given me a go.”
Sarah said she had struggled to pick up the pace of A grade after stepping up from A1 and the change in position demanded a greater fitness base.
“I used to go on the bike when Tim went for a run,” she said.
“He was too quick for me so I would go out running with my dog Mia.”
Sarah said the atmosphere in the Blues camp was positive after last week’s upset win in extra time against minor premier Camperdown.
“We were absolutely over the moon after getting flogged during the season to come out and win by four,” she said. “But Saturday night we were back to focusing on this weekend.
“We have got some confidence but we are not over-confident. (That win) gives us that little bit of extra oomph.”