Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in New South Wales this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney in 1880.
To commemorate, 140 coaches, players, umpires, administrators and media personalities from both the Elite (VFL/AFL) and Community level will be inducted into the inaugural New South Wales Australian Football Hall of Fame.
Neil Cordy profiles the nominees this time with brothers, Mark and Jarrad McVeigh:
The Daniher brothers have amassed a total of 752 games between them as well as a host of honours and wards but another pairing are the McVeigh brothers, Mark and Jarrad.
Long before the Swans and Giants Academies started developing NSW talent there was a prototype set up on the Central Coast by their father, Tony McVeigh which set a standard for others to follow and produced a success rate almost impossible to compete with.
It’s two graduates, his two sons Mark and Jarrad McVeigh played 557 games between them.
Mark played 232 for Essendon between 1999 and 2012 and Jarrad played 325 for Sydney between 2004 and 2019.
Only Justin and Simon Madden (710 games), Peter and Shaun Burgoyne (616 games) and Ian and Bruce Nankervis (578 games) have done better for pairings of brothers in the history of the game.
Tony’s set up was rudimentary with gum trees for goal posts and an overturned trampoline for rebounding ground balls. But his Killarney Vale Academy has a strike rate for producing AFL talent none have been able to match- 100 per cent.
“We played games against each other and trained every single night,” Jarrad McVeigh said.
“We’d play footy in the morning and come home and watch the only televised match on a Saturday. We’d be back outside kicking the footy at half-time. We were always competing, who could take the best mark, who could kick the best goal, it was a daily occurrence. I was lucky to have a brother playing footy because there weren’t many on the Central Coast at that time. I was six when we started doing that.”
The four year age difference between Mark and Jarrad didn’t seem to matter, Jarrad was a fast learner. “I was lucky Jarrad was as good as he was,” Mark said. “We would go at it for hours and hours. Jarrad’s skill level was amazing for such a young kid.”
Their dad Tony was a talented sportsman in his own right, representing Victoria in badminton and squash and playing 45 games for Williamstown in the VFA between 1978 and 1981. In 1982 he, his wife Margaret and Mark moved to the NSW Central Coast where he took up the coaching job at Killarney Vale FC, then in the Central Coast league.
Jarrad was born in 1985 and it didn’t take long to see the boys had sporting ability and needed some space to develop and grow.
“I cleared the scrub so they could run around and we had a pool so we did triathlons together,” Tony said. “We’d run around the house, jump in the pool, do two laps and then rode pushbikes down the driveway. The skills were the main thing because they were naturally fit. I showed them how to handball, kick, baulk and mark.
The trampoline was an innovation; I painted a bullseye on it and laid it on its side. When the ball hit it, it bounced back on the ground and they would run in and pick it up and dispose of it. Mark was more aerial and Jarrad had great ground skills. They would spend hours out there and I would watch them from the house.”
While the Killarney Vale Academy and junior footy club gave Mark and Jarrad a great start the move to Pennant Hills took them to another level with their football.
“We left Killarney Vale to get more exposure to better players and more opportunities,” Mark said. “I was 13 years old and it was a good move. Pennant Hills was a really strong club and that’s where I met Lenny Hayes. It was disappointing for a lot of people on the coast and there was resentment towards us but dad is pretty strong.”
For those who know the McVeigh family well it wasn’t hard to see where Tony got his strength from. Tony’s father, Mark and Jarrad’s grandfather, Jimmy McVeigh was a merchant seaman born and bred in Liverpool, England. He was a gunner in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War.
“The Germans hunted the supply ships down so he saw plenty of action,” Tony said.
“He travelled to Australia a number of times and fell in love with the place. When the war ended he said to mum this is where I want us to live. There were already four boys in the family when we made the trip including me. I was two, my oldest brother Jimmy was 15, Terry was 13 and Peter was one.”
The McVeigh’s ended up in Williamstown in Victoria and had another four children including an only daughter Colleen. She was Jimmy’s favourite and became a champion lacrosse player for Australia participating in four world championships and captaining the team. Colleen married Western Bulldogs player Mark Hunter. Their son Lachie Hunter played against Jarrad McVeigh in the 2016 grand final.
Playing on opposite sides seems to be the family norm, the four year age difference meant Mark and Jarrad never played in the same team throughout their junior days. They were opposed each other throughout their AFL careers with Mark and Jarrad staying one-team players throughout their time at the Bombers and Swans respectively.
The closest they came to joining forces was in 2004 when Paul Roos was keen on bringing Mark to the Swans.
“It was close to happening but Essendon were a big club and I wanted to stay a one team player,” Mark said.
Mark missed the 2000 premiership team but played in the losing grand final the following year against Brisbane. Over the following years he became a key member of the Bombers line up and leadership group. He represented Australia in the International Rules Series in Ireland in 2004. In 2008 he finished in the top 20 in the Brownlow after missing eight games through injury polling 13 votes.
In his 17 seasons at the Swans Jarrad established himself as one of the club’s greats, he was captain from 2011 to 2016 winning two Bob Skilton Medals (2008, 2013) and All Australian honours in 2013. The highlight came in 2012 when he led Sydney to an epic grand final win over Hawthorn.
Over the span of their careers the brothers lined up against each other eight times and have continued their rivalry into the coaches box with Jarrad now and assistant alongside John Longmire at the Swans and Mark an assistant to Leon Cameron.
“They’ve been destined to go in different paths,” Tony said.
“I’d love to see them on the same team one day but they’re two different people and have got their own ideas and ways. If it happens it happens.”