GETTING Sheila O’Keefe away from the television was a task yesterday as she happily watched a replay of the AFL grand final featuring her grandson Ryan O’Keefe winning the Norm Smith Medal.
Mrs O’Keefe, of Warrnambool, said she was enormously proud of O’Keefe who dominated the game with 28 touches in a battering ram effort as the Swans won a thrilling grand final by 10 points at the MCG.
His effort was highlighted by a near record 15 tackles.
“It was great,” Mrs O’Keefe said. “Ryan played very well but I didn’t think he would win the Norm Smith Medal.
“I suppose it was a pretty even all-round effort by the Swans. They had a lot of contributors.
“I’ll talk to Ryan later in the week when he settles down a bit.”
Mrs O’Keefe said Ryan’s father only left hospital late last week but was at the game on Saturday. “I’ve exchanged a few text messages. Everyone was very excited,” she said in reference to her 20 grandchildren.
“Ryan grew up in Melbourne but he always spent a lot of time with me down at the Winslow farm.
“The boys were often out there. They loved it,” she said.
Mrs O’Keefe said she was enjoying watching the grand final a second time around.
“It was a very good game,” she said. O’Keefe was left stunned after the game.
He cut a somewhat lonely figure in the players’ room after a team meeting, sitting alone for a few minutes with a fat lip while other players celebrated with family and friends.
He said he loved being part of the Swans midfield, which was rated as one of the toughest in the competition. “I enjoy it. I just enjoy getting in amongst it, where the action is, being physical,’’ he said.
“I’m just enjoying my footy at the moment. The coaches have given me the confidence just to back myself in and to get in there and get physical.’’
O’Keefe said he was sure he wouldn’t have won his individual medal without his teammates.
“It’s a credit to the group because we always knew we just had to persevere,” he said. “These games are always going to go down to the wire, to the last few minutes, and that’s what we did today,” he said.
O’Keefe’s game was outstanding — 28 disposals, almost half of them contested, seven clearances, four inside 50s and 15 tackles. He was relentless, laying five more tackles than the next best effort.
“I suppose the guys that have been around for a while, we built this from the ground up and we just try and set a good example,’’ O’Keefe said.
“It’s not all talk and rah-rah. It’s all about actions and we tell guys, if you want to be a part of if, you jump on board and help drive it.
“To the boys’ credit, it’s not just about the 22 who played today.
“Right through our whole list, everyone bought in and really made it what it is.
“It’s a sensational club right from the top to the bottom,” he said. “This week’s been a huge week ... for everyone involved in the club.” O’Keefe even had time to settle down his nervous coach John Longmire before the game.
“He came up to me before the game today and grabbed me, patted me on the head and said ‘don’t worry, we’ll be right’,’’ Longmire said.
“And he was right, which I’m pretty happy about. He led from the front. I thought all our leaders did that, but Ryan went into the middle and he was sensational.
“To have 15 tackles at this time of year, in a grand final ... he was enormous,” he said.