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Heart and soul Joel

Matt Burgan  January 15, 2013 1:48 PM

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I do feel like a Melbourne person … I’m proud to say I play for Melbourne
BACKLINE coach Jade Rawlings recently told melbournefc.com.au that his pupil Joel Macdonald brought “a lot to the group from a spiritual sense”.

When Macdonald was told these comments, he was somewhat surprised, but genuinely chuffed to hear them.

“If you could look ahead to the end of your career and go ‘what do I want to be known for?’, then it’s nice to be known like that. Even when I first started, you wanted to be respected, trusted and loyal,” Macdonald told melbournefc.com.au.

“I know loyalty is leaving the game now, with how everything is going, but for the time you’re at a certain club, you still have the opportunity to be loyal to your coaches and your players.

“That makes me really happy that Jade has said that because I’d like to be known as someone like that when I leave the game, so it’s nice.”

The thing that strikes you about Macdonald is his honesty and his realistic take on a range of subjects. He’s a considered person to have a conversation with.

He knows he’s not the superstar of the team, but understands that he’s an important role player. His coaches and Macdonald’s teammates also realise that he won’t give anything less than 100 per cent commitment.

Quite simply, Macdonald is a heart and soul player.

Moreover, he is adamant that the Demons are on the right track. He even drew some similarities from his time at the Brisbane Lions, where he played 80 of his 123 AFL matches from 2004-09.

“I definitely believe in the system and where it’s heading. I can draw some comparisons to when Leigh Matthews coached the Lions and how simple the game plan was, so I’m fully behind Neeldy (Mark Neeld) and what the coaches are trying to do,” he said.

“Even with [defensive coaches] Andrew Nichol and Jade Rawlings, they really get to know their players inside out. They really care about their players and they know how to handle each different personality really well, so they get a great response from us.

“I have real confidence in them and am happy that those two are so competent in their jobs. Nicho comes from a teaching background and he just understands guys, so I’ve got a lot out of both of them, more so than coaches I’ve had in the past few years, especially at Brisbane. So it’s been a real bonus for me.”

Although Macdonald played 16 matches for Melbourne last year – including the final 11 rounds – he was pragmatic about his expectations this year. Still, he is genuinely excited about the prospects of the team having a much more competitive season.

“I understand my strengths and my weaknesses and I’m pretty realistic about where I sit. I know the thing I can control is my role, and as soon as I was given a role last year, I played well,” he said.

“Focusing on that team role and doing it for the team will just be the same this year as it was in 2012. I believe that when you firmly invest in the team, it gives you huge returns down the track.

“The best teams have great defence, a number of role players and a lot of talent. A lot of role players need to sacrifice their own game for the team and I see myself as one of them, playing a role for the team. I’ll just do that again.”

Entering his fourth season with Melbourne after six senior seasons with the Lions, Macdonald now sees himself as a Demon.

“I do feel like a Melbourne person,” he said.

“I still haven’t got used to the weather, but it’s weird that I’m now one of the older, more experienced guys at the club. You get that excitement out of seeing younger guys develop who I’ve now played with for three to four years.

“I’m proud to say I play for Melbourne.”