Mark and Jarrad McVeigh

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:

                               Jarrad & Mark 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.”

             Tony McVeigh in his                days at Killarney Vale FC

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.”

 

 

SYDNEY’S RICH AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL HISTORY

This article is written by Miles Wilks, former member of the Society’s management committee and author of a very detailed and well researched book, Australian Football Clubs in NSW.  To read more about his book and how to get copy click here.

Miles is passionate about this subject and welcomes any comments that can be directed here.
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It is a commonly held belief that Sydneysiders have had an almost non-existent role in the game at the top level, yet the fact is that as many as 80 players have been recruited from Sydney to the VFL/AFL.  Amongst the players recruited from Sydney is a player who kicked the winning goal in a VFL grand final, a Norm Smith medallist, eleven premiership players and a couple of record-holding goal kickers. It is a record of achievement that deserves more kudos.

In comparison, although one must preface this by stating I don’t have an intimate knowledge of rugby league recruiting, this figure of 80 players from Sydney to the VFL/AFL would presumably be larger than the combined number of rugby league players recruited from Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Darwin rugby league clubs to the NRL.

Decade by decade- number of players recruited from Sydney clubs to the VFL/AFL

1897-1909 –  4 players

1910s – 6 players

1920s – 12 players

1930s – 10 players

1940s –  2 players

1950s –  7 players

1960s – 1 player

1970s – 5 players

1980s – 11 players

1990s – 9 players

2000s – 11 players

2010-11 – 2 players

In 2012, there are 20 players who have been recruited from Sydney who are on AFL lists. Eight of these twenty have debuted in league football.

1897-1910
Sydney’s first playe
r: Bob Kenny
Bob Kenny was the first player recruited from a Sydney club to play in the VFL. He debuted in 1899 and played just two games for St Kilda. He was followed soon after by John Stephenson, who was recruited from the Balmain football club and played 10 games for Essendon in 1907. Marshall Herbert, a recruit from Redfern, was the most successful of these early Sydney recruits, as he played 51 games with the Pies from 1908 to 1910. At this stage it should be noted that the only major football code that competed with Australian football in Sydney for players was rugby union, as rugby league was not played in Sydney until 1908.

1910s
The 1910s was a decade that resulted in the recruitment of two Sydneysiders who had a significant impact in the VFL.

STAR PLAYERS: Bob Merrick and Chris Laird.  Recruited from East Sydney, Merrick established a goal-kicking record for his adopted Victorian team of Fitzroy in 1919 when he kicked a total of 12 goals in a match. This feat of 12 goals in a match was never bettered by any other Fitzroy player in the history of that club. Bob headed Fitzroy’s goalkicking list each year between 1919-22.

The other Sydneysider to have an impact in the big league during this decade was Chris Laird. He was recruited from the eastern suburbs club of Paddington and is one of the few players in the history of the game to live the dream of kicking a clutch goal in a grand final with just vital seconds remaining in the match. Laird changed the fortune of the 1918 VFL grand final when he kicked the winning goal for South Melbourne with less than a minute remaining in the match.

1920s
The 1920s saw a twofold increase over the previous decade in the number of players from Sydney making the transition to the best Australian football competition in the land. Six Sydneysiders played in the VFL in the 1910s and as many as twelve Sydneysiders were recruited in the 1920s.

Fred Davies, who was another recruit from Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, was the pick of the
Sydney recruits in this decade. His most notable achievement was being named as the captain of Fitzroy in 1934. Nevertheless, few of the other Sydney players had a large impact during this decade.

1930s
Ten players from Sydney made the transition to the VFL in the 1930s. The pick of the players was Newtown’s Reg Garvin.

STAR PLAYER: Reg Garvin
Before he played football for the Sydney club of Newtown,
Reg Garvin had played soccer and rugby. Garvin was recruited from Sydney by St Kilda and he was a star player for that club, as he won the Saint’s best and fairest award in
1941 & 1944 and also captain-coached the club.

1940s
The 1940s was a decade in which there was a noticeable drop-off in the numbers of high quality players making their way from Sydney clubs to the VFL, obviously due to WWII. Ron Hall, from St George, was one of only two players recruited from Sydney to the VFL in the 1940s. The other player was Arthur Richardson, who played just five games for the Swans.

1950s
The 1950s was another decade in which only a small number of Sydney players were recruited to the top league.  One of the recruits, however, had a large impact in the VFL.

STAR PLAYER: Roger Duffy –
Another Newtown player.   Duffy played his junior football for the South Sydney Australian football club and then for the nearby rivals Newtown.
He was an exceptional player in the Sydney league, and was a Newtown premiership player as well as the leading goal kicking for the Sydney football league in 1950 and 1951.
Duffy achieved the premiership and goal-kicking double by being a premiership player and a goal-kicking leader in two states.
His premiership wins were with Newtown (NSW)and Footscray (Vic) and he was the leading goal kicker with Newtown (1950-51) and with Footscray (1952).

 1960s
The 1960s was Sydney footballs lowest point in terms of the number of players recruited from Sydney clubs to the VFL.  Barry Fitzgerald was the only player recruited directly from a Sydney club to the VFL during this decade.  And he played just 35 games for Fitzroy.

1970s
The 1970s can be viewed as a decade of revival for football recruiting from Sydney. Whilst the 1960s was a low point in terms of player recruitment, the 1970s saw the recruitment of two stars of the game – Mark Marclure and Michael Byrne.

STAR PLAYER:Mark Maclure
Maclure played junior football for East Sydney and also won the Sanders Medal as the best player in Sydney’s reserve grade competition as a 17 year old. From there he tried out with Carlton’s under 19s team and was eventually lured to Carlton by their master recruiter Bert Deacon.
Of all the players to have been recruited from Sydney, Mark Maclure is the player who can boast as having the greatest CV. On top of his list of achievements is being a member of three premiership teams (1979, 1981 and 1982). Maclure is the only player recruited from a Sydney football club to have played in as many as three VFL/AFL premiership teams. On top of this, he was the captain of his AFL club (in 1986), won his club’s goal kicking award (1979 and 1985) and played over 200 games for his beloved Blues.
STAR PLAYER: Michael Byrne
Michael Byrne is Sydney born and raised, having come through the ranks of local Sydney football on the northern beaches and then playing for the Sydney club of North Shore.
Byrne’s induction into football was a tough one, as he played in the ruck for North Shore in the bloodbath Sydney grand final of 1976 at Trumper Park. This match was infamous in Sydney football for being punctuated by rolling brawls involving almost every player on the ground. After he left Sydney, Byrne became a premiership player with Hawthorn in 1983 and he produced on the big day, as he was the 2nd highest goal kicker for Hawthorn in the grand final after the legendary Leigh Matthews. Playing during Hawthorn’s greatest era.  Byrne also had the honour of being runner up for the club’s best and fairest in 1984.

1980s
The 1980s saw the introduction of the Sydney Swans into the VFL competition and it was a decade in which there was a large upswing in the numbers of players recruited from Sydney.

Only one player (1960s) and five players (1970s) made the transition to the top league in the two previous decades, but 11 players made the transition in the 1980s. Amongst these players was St George’s Mark Roberts, who was a premiership player with North Melbourne in 1996.

1990s
The 1990s was a remarkable decade in terms of the contribution of Sydney footballers to the AFL. It was the starting point for the careers of three Sydneysiders who played over 200 games of AFL football. The three players from Sydney who pulled on the guernsey in over 200 games of AFL football were Mark McVeigh [pictured left] (Essendon), Lenny Hayes (St Kilda) and Greg Stafford (Sydney and Richmond). McVeigh and Hayes were recruited from the Pennant Hills football club and Greg Stafford was recruited from Western Suburbs.

 

STAR PLAYER: Lenny Hayes
Hayes became the first player from Sydney to win the Norm Smith medal. His last quarter performance in the 2010 grand final for the Saints was one for the record books, as he willed his team back into the contest by obtaining 11 possessions as well as kicking an inspiring goal from 50 metres out.

STAR PLAYER:  Nick Davis
Nick Davis, recruited from Ramsgate juniors, didn’t have the longevity of career that Hayes, McVeigh or Stafford had, but he produced one of the defining moments in finals history and arguably the Swan’s greatest moment outside the 2005 grand final when he kicked four goals in the last quarter of the 2005 semi-final against Geelong. That blitz of goal turned the match around and secured the Swans a vital 3-point victory and the passage to a grand final victory.

2000s
Two exceptional footballers were recruited from the Pennant Hills football club in the 1990s (Lenny Hayes and Mark McVeigh), and the feat was replicated in the noughties, as two further Pennant Hills juniors of exceptional talent, Jarrad McVeigh and Kieran Jack, made their transition to the AFL.

STAR PLAYER: Jarrad McVeigh
McVeigh won the Sydney Swan’s best and fairest award in 2008. This was a noticeable feat as McVeigh became the first player to be recruited from a local Sydney football club to win the award. It took 26 years after the club started in Sydney for a Sydney local to win the award, yet it only took a further two years for the next Sydney local to win the award when Kieran Jack was deemed Sydney’s best and fairest player in 2010.

STAR PLAYER:  Kieran Jack
Jack started his career for the Swans as a dogged tagger in 2007, yet it was only three years later that he won the club best and fairest award. Displaying unbridled determination,

Kieran Jack won the award in 2010 largely because he had become a vital attacking option for the Swans. In his best and fairest year of 2010, Jack kicked 21 goals whilst still largely working in the midfield. In 2012, he is in contention for All-Australian selection as he continues to combine attacking flair with an ability to win the contested ball.

Many may question if the introduction of the Swans has been a success, yet from a recruiting viewpoint for Sydneysiders it has been. Only one player from Sydney in the 80 years prior to the Swans introduction into the Sydney sporting landscape played over 200 games of top grade football. Since the Swans moved to Sydney there have been three 200 game players from Sydney .

The players recruited from Sydney clubs in the years ahead will be following in the footsteps of exceptional footballers such as Roger Duffy, Michael Byrne, Lenny Hayes and the McVeigh brothers amongst others. Over the journey, the record of Sydneysiders at the top level is far better than what many would presume is the case“ there have been premiership players, club captains, club coaches, and best and fairest winners. Sydneysiders have achieved at the highest level of the Australian game, but just not with all the fanfare of players from other cities.