UNSELFISH grand final heroism more than a decade ago provided the first hint Jordan Lewis would forge a successful AFL career.
The Hawthorn midfielder was just 13 when he helped an Emmanuel Hawks side claim a hard-won under 14 premiership.
The Hawks beat South Warrnambool on that day in September, 1999, and Lewis won a medal for being best-on-ground. Lewis was prolific through the midfield, but it was his telling late game efforts which caught the eye of coach Gary Barker.
“They were pretty good opponents, South,” Barker recalled yesterday, as Lewis geared up for today’s AFL grand final.
“He was in the play a lot and when it got to the end of the day we sent the runner out to say ‘perhaps hang down the backline’ so he could get the ball-up.
“He was one who wanted to get into the action. But he took that advice on no worries. He took a couple of timely marks by scouting around the half-back line.”
Barker said he knew Lewis’ skills and team-first mentality would take him far in football.
How far depended on his will and determination — and that developed a few years later.
“Some kids you coach that are elite kids can get a bit selfish,” Barker said. “They prefer to run up the ground and bounce the ball 10 times and kick a goal.
“He wasn’t like that. He was happy to hand off a handball and do the one percenters like he does now.”
Barker said he wouldn’t take credit for Lewis potentially becoming a two-time premiership player when Hawthorn takes on Sydney at the MCG.
He said the 26-year-old had bigger influences on his career, but he was proud to be part of the journey.
“It’s always great to look back on that and say ‘geez, I coached him’, but that’s when you’ve had a few beers and want bragging rights,” he said. “He was always going to make it, as long as he had the right attitude.
“He had the basis there, he just had to keep practising and work on that as he got older. I think it was in him.”