13/04/2024
Jack Viney

Jack Viney. Credit: Flickerd, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Jack Viney bleeds red and blue, and on Saturday night, he will celebrate his 200th game against Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval.

He becomes the 26th player in the club’s history to reach an illustrious milestone, joining club legends such as Robert Flower, Adem Yze, Jim Stynes, Steven Febey, Brad Green, Russell Robertson, Stan Alves, Garry Lyon, Ron Barassi, and his father Todd among many.

The courageous onballer was always destined to represent the Melbourne Football Club. Todd represented the Demons 233 times from 1987 to 1999, winning two club Best and Fairests, an All-Australian in 1998, and captaining the club in his final two seasons.

Jack’s introduction to football came at a young age, being within the confines of the Melbourne change rooms and running out with his dad through the team’s banner before games.

It wouldn’t be long until Jack made his mark, earning selection in Melbourne’s VFL affiliate team Casey in 2012, playing against opposition players several years older than him.

Concurrently, he was balancing his final year of school studies.

Two years earlier, Adelaide showed interest in Viney until Jack, on November 23, 2010, committed to Melbourne under the Father-Son rule.

On draft night, the Demons selected him with the 26th pick in the National Draft.

Jack Fitzpatrick, former Melbourne and Hawthorn ruckman who played with the steely Viney for three seasons, clearly remembers when Jack first arrived through the doors.

“I do remember when he was a schoolboy coming in as a possible father-son, and he’d come into the club and whether that be to get some physio or to join in training sessions sort of throughout the school holidays and those kinds of things,” Fitzpatrick told The Inner Sanctum.

“Before day one, because he was coming into the club before he got drafted, his work ethic, and the way he prepared himself and his competitiveness were all simply outstanding.”

Having been selected, a then 18-year-old Viney, turning 19 the following April, it was an automatic guarantee he’d be in the best 22.

Usually, first-years take a while to adjust to the rigours of AFL football, but not for Viney.

His early introduction to senior football with VFL side Casey in 2012 was the stepping stone facing seasoned campaigners well into their careers.

In one of the matches, Viney received a broken jaw from dashing Geelong half-back David Wojcinski, leaving him unable to consume solid foods for the next week.

Viney’s first AFL game came in round 1, 2013, against Port Adelaide at the MCG.

Unfortunately, Melbourne comprehensively lost by 79 points. However, Viney was one of Melbourne’s few winners, collecting 22 disposals (16 contested), six clearances, and a goal.

“I think there were hopes for improvement at Melbourne and possibly a winnable game against Port Adelaide in the sense that they sort of were around a similar area the year before,” Fitzpatrick said.

“Unfortunately for Melbourne fans, it didn’t go to script, and Port Adelaide played quite well.

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“I do recall it was also Ollie Wines’ first game, and Ollie and Jack had played so much junior footy together and had that friendship from juniors.

“And it was like those two going head to head because I thought Ollie was outstanding that day.

“You could probably make an argument to say that he (Jack) was Melbourne’s best player on that day in game one.

“Things were quite grim. But at the same time, at least there were if you’re looking for the silver lining, I think fans saw from Jack Viney that day what they could look forward to over the next 200 games.”

In his first year of senior football, a teenage Viney wasn’t reclusive in speaking his mind during team meetings.

“But I feel like he has a deep sense of care. He’s incredibly competitive, and he would speak up when things were frustrating him,” Fitzpatrick said.

“And I think you knew that it was coming from a place of care and a place of competitiveness and determination. But at the same time, he is a very no-frills character. And I think that the way he goes about his football is who he is as a person.

“He’s very intense and he likes things to be done properly.”

In Viney’s first season, Melbourne was enduring one of the most turbulent times, losing two games by 100 plus points, including a 148-point shellacking at the hands of Essendon, and 10 matches losing by 10 plus goals.

Melbourne won only two games, narrowly avoiding their third wooden spoon in six seasons.

Within the struggle, Viney was a constant standout, eventually leading him to receiving a Rising Star nomination in round 21 against Fremantle, gathering 28 disposals, four clearances, and a goal despite a 95-point battering.

Fitzpatrick reiterates the ‘love” and “care” for the club Viney bestowed during those difficult times.

“He probably did have that self-confidence that he was more secure in his position as a player that was always going to be a pretty good player and always going to be pretty long-term,” Fitzpatrick said.

“He didn’t have those worries, so he was always sort of able to put the club first and discuss about what was best for the club. Whereas some players I don’t think it was necessarily in a selfish way, but more so around the fact that you can naturally become quite insular when there is uncertainty.

“He probably never had that uncertainty. So (he was) probably more open to being a leader despite his young age at the time.”

Viney might not be the tallest midfielder, standing at 179 cm, in an era where midfielders seem to be getting bigger every season with the likes of Carlton’s Patrick Cripps (195 cm), Western Bulldogs’ Marcus Bontempelli (194 cm), Collingwood’s Scott Pendlebury (191 cm, Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe (191 cm), Gold Coast’s Noah Anderson (191 cm), Adelaide’s Jordan Dawson (191 cm), GWS’ Tom Green (191 cm), Viney’s teammate Clayton Oliver (189 cm), Richmond’s Tim Taranto (188 cm) and St Kilda’s Jack Steele (187 cm), amongst the largest midfielders in the game.

What Viney doesn’t have in size, he has in toughness.

“From the moment he came in because he was so well prepared, he was physically always ready,” Fitzpatrick said.

“His gym work and his body shape and his strength were always very good and very strong. So he’s not necessarily tall, but he’s a physical beast at the same time.

“And I mean you see that week in week out. The way he puts his head over the ball, the way he attacks. He’s a tough player. He’s a hard player. He’s a fair player, (and) he’s certainly not dirty.”

The daily AFL demands can wear on players.

In recent seasons, clubs have strongly encouraged players to find a balance away from the football field. Whether it’s completing an apprenticeship or completing their University degree, it brings about a focus instead of constantly thinking about football.

Away from the bright lights, Viney is a family man, married to Charlotte, with whom they have two young daughters.

Fitzpatrick says Viney’s caring nature for others is what makes a “genuine” person.

“Very unselfish and just a good person, who wants the best for those around him,” Fitzpatrick said.

“I recall many times, I think it was even in his first year or sort of at the end of the year. If it wasn’t his first year, it was sort of the pre-season heading into his second year, the amount of times he would offer just little things to pick me up on the way to training. He wasn’t living far from me.

“He’s saying, “I’m going past your place, I’ll pick you up and we’ll go together.” “Those kinds of things. And he sort of set his day around what time I needed to be there or would get home and just little things like that.”

Still, in the prime years of his career, Viney doesn’t turn 30 until April 13.

Currently, in his 12th season, he has achieved everything there is from winning the club’s Best and Fairest (Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott Trophy) in 2016, claiming the Neale Daniher Trophy, co-captaining the club for three seasons (2017-2019), and being an integral member in ending Melbourne’s 57-year premiership drought in 2021.

When Viney does decide to hang up the boots, his football legacy will be for his selfless acts, according to Fitzpatrick.

“I think a player they know every week they’re going to watch him, they’re going to get every ounce of him,” Fitzpatrick said.

“He might have a game where he has 35 touches and kicks three goals and he’s the best player on the ground. He also might have a game where has five touches and has no goal. But even when he has those five-possession games, I don’t think there’s anyone who would look at Jack Viney and say we didn’t get his absolute best today.

“It might not have worked and he might have had a bad day, but he put everything into it. And I think that’s the type of player he’ll be remembered as.”

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