Congratulations to former Belconnen Cats player Jack Steele, who played his first AFL game for GWS Giants on 20 June 2015. Below are some thoughts from Jack’s former coaches at the Cats:
From Colin Mues, u14s coach (2009) and u18s Assistant Coach (2012):
In his Junior days, Jack was small in stature, but big on skills, guts and loyalty to his mates. He was like a sponge – he soaked up anything you taught him and then showed it on the field on the very next weekend.
He played in possibly the best Under-14 side that Canberra has ever seen – a great cohort of kids. They were damned good footy players and Jack, like his teammates, was always confident but never arrogant.
He was a damned fine footballer but he was always respectful and enjoyed helping his mates. I’m gunna guess that hasn’t changed.
From Rob Kelly (Nick and Matt Kelly’s dad):
On Saturday 20 June 2015, Jack Steele made his AFL debut against North Melbourne for the GWS Giants. This represented a proud day not just for Jack and his family and his mates but also the Belconnen Cats who Jack played with before transitioning to the Belconnen Magpies Seniors.
I was fortunate enough to see Jack play most of his footy from the age of 12 when he joined the Cats. At that stage Jack was naturally shy and small in stature by comparison to his teammates. Cause of his size and age he was initially nick named “Baby Jack”. This didn’t hold him back from being a good player and most of all being highly competitive. A notable example in his first year was in a final against Queanbeyan. The biggest player on the ground (a Queanbeyan boy) was running into an open goal with no one in front and only Jack chasing from behind. Despite having no hope Jack kept chasing even though from the sideline it looked like it was in forlorn hope. That was until the Queanbeyan boy decided to have an extra bounce and fumbled the ball only for Jack to catch up, tackle him and pin him for holding the ball. A certain goal stopped by pure will. Those who were fortunate enough to witness this new they had seen a fierce competitor in action.
The following season Jack was a key player as the Cats cruised into the Grand Final to play Tuggeranong. The Cats were a hot favourite and the Tuggeranong boys went the biff. One of Jack’s teammates copped one behind play and Jack came in to remonstrate. The umpire of course only saw the second act of aggression and gave Jack a breather on the sideline. When he came back on he tackled bumped and harassed the tormentor to clearly display that if you messed with one of his mates you were in trouble.
Jack up to the age of 15 was one of the smaller players and was the youngest in his age group (his birthday is in December). Jack initially missed out on selection for a rep side (he was later selected) and the coach of the rep side was at Cats training later that week. One of the boys who had made the team was heard to say “I wish he wasn’t here ’cause he makes me nervous” Jack’s response was “I am glad he is here so I can prove he was wrong”. Which is what he did, was selected and was one of the best ACT players in that tournament.
This seemed to represent “the moment” when Jack emerged from the pack to become an elite player. “Baby Jack” was beginning to grow and soon his nickname was “Steeley”. The next season he was selected in the NSW/ACT Under 16 Rams and played in the under 18s premiership team with Belconnen Magpies. The following year Jack starred in the under 18s at Belconnen (another premiership year) and won the club best and fairest by polling the highest number of votes ever recorded. Later in the year Jack debuted in the NEAFL with Belconnen as a 17 year old.
The following year was Jack’s chance to shine for the NSW/ACT under 18 Rams to give himself a chance to get drafted later that year. Unfortunately during the final training before the Rams first game he slipped during an indoor training session dislocating his knee. That was to end his season and seemingly his chances of getting drafted. However, despite not even playing at the National Under 18 Championships Jack was invited to the NSW State Draft Combine as several AFL clubs were interested in him and wanted to see him undertake the tests. Unfortunately due to his knee he could not participate.
The following year Jack was invited to play again for the Rams and the rest is history. At the carnival Jack helped lead NSW/ACT to the Championship, was named NSW/ACT player of the tournament, was selected in the All Australian team and was invited to the National Draft Camp. At the Draft Camp Jack finished in the top ten in more than five fitness tests (finishing in the top ten in one is a good achievement) and was told by the GWS Giants on the last day that they were going to draft him. North Melbourne and Richmond also put in a bid for Jack to play for them but in the end he went to the Giants with pick 24 in the draft.
The story has only just begun for Jack but he managed to impress enough in his first pre-season at the Giants to be selected in the first two NAB Cup games. Following this Jack was consistently being best on ground for the Giants in the NEAFL which lead to his selection last Saturday night.
For an old crusty who had seen him come through the ranks it was fantastic to watch Jack debut and play so well. To watch the game with his family is a memory I will always treasure – thanks Jack and thank you the Steele family.