Matt Burgan catches up with Jeff Garlett in the lead-up to his 150th AFL match
MB: Jeffy, congratulations on reaching 150 games.
JG: It’s a good achievement. People get to 100 games or 150 and it’s a huge honour to get there.
MB: How do you reflect upon your achievement?
JG: I was lucky enough, when Carlton first picked me up, that they gave me the chance to play 100 games there. When I finished there, I was lucky enough Melbourne gave me the opportunity to come and play here. To reach 150 is a huge achievement and I’m grateful to get where I’ve got.
MB: Did you ever envisage you’d reach this milestone?
JG: Not a chance. I never thought I’d get to play round one in 2009 after coming off the rookie list. The amount of hard work that you have to do to get off the rookie list is pretty hard. But to get off the rookie list and play in round one in your first year is pretty huge. To get the success of playing so many games is an honour.
MB: You’ve started 2017 strongly, leading Melbourne’s goalkicking with seven goals. Your chase and tackle on Blue Sam Docherty in round three was not only critical, but a highlight. How have you rated your season start?
JG: It’s been pretty good. I want to keep backing it up every week and I want to have that consistency, playing a good game every week. If I play my role – apply pressure, chase and tackle, then I’m playing my role. I just want to play it and help my team to where it wants to go.
MB: How do you find the game plan works with your style of play?
JG: It’s been pretty interesting. The way we’re playing is suiting all of us and it’s been good for all of us as a team, with the way we want to play. We’re a quick and exciting side and we want to attack the game, and be very good defensively as well. It’s definitely been good. I enjoy it and it helps me as well. If I get involved in the contest, everything looks after itself.
MB: What do you enjoy most about playing at the highest level?
JG: I just enjoy playing with the young group. It’s a good feeling coming to training. Everyone is pretty happy and excited. The journey we’re on makes it even more happy to come to training. I’m enjoying every bit of it and we’re all making the most of our opportunities, and where we want to go as a team. I love every bit of it at the moment.
BEING A MENTOR
MB: What’s it like being a mentor for young Indigenous players like Dion Johnstone?
JG: I definitely enjoy and like helping him understand the game plan, the way we want to play and what he needs to do to get better – and how he can adjust quickly. He’s doing pretty well at the moment. He wants to play as a small forward. If he does the team things, everything else will come, like the goals. It’s pretty similar to when I was at Carlton and Eddie [Betts] was mentoring us. It’s vice-versa now. I get to the opportunity to help the young boys and I look forward to the challenge. I’m a quiet person, but when I need to talk, I’ll talk.
MB: It seems you’re relishing playing a mentor role.
JG: Since I’ve been at Melbourne, I’ve been able to get out more and speak to Indigenous kids. It’s not just me and Nev [Jetta], all Indigenous players are role models for the Indigenous community – and not just the Indigenous community, but for all Australians. To have that impact on young kids, it’s a good feeling, because you know you’re a role model for them. They want to see that you’re doing the right thing and follow in your footsteps. You’ve got to keep looking back and make sure you’re doing the right thing and creating a pathway for young kids to follow.
MB: Who have been your mentors along the way?
JG: Since I’ve been at Melbourne, the coaches have been awesome. When I was at Carlton, Eddie has always been there, but there have been quite a few. I enjoyed my time at Carlton and I’m enjoying my time at Melbourne even more.
EDDIE, CYRIL AND BUDDY
MB: You’ve played with Eddie and watched Cyril Rioli. Who do you rate as the best small forward in the game? And where do you see yourself in the mix?
JG: Eddie’s always been the best small forward [I’ve seen]. Cyril is an awesome player, but Eddie is No.1 for me. Hopefully I can get up there. I’ve always looked up to Eddie and I see him as my brother. He’s always been No.1 in my eyes.
MB: It’s fair to say Eddie is your best mate?
JG: He and ‘Yaz’ (Chris Yarran). We’ve got a group message going with a few of the guys. There are quite a few in that.
MB: How have you seen Eddie’s career at Adelaide?
JG: He’s definitely gone to another level. He’s 30 now and he’s taken his game to another level, which is what you want to see. He’s experienced and his understanding of the game is massive. Hopefully I can catch him, but he’s way ahead of me.
MB: ‘Buddy’ Franklin is your cousin. Do you have regular contact with him?
JG: When I see him, I always chat and catch up, but because he’s in Sydney and I’m in Melbourne, we don’t get to see heaps of each other. But every time we time we play each other or when he’s in town, hopefully we catch up. But everyone’s schedule is different.
MB: What have been your career highlights so far?
JG: What stands out for me is when I play good footy, I like to put as much forward chase and pressure on. If I do all of that, everything else comes. Since being at Melbourne, I’ve worked with Macca (Brendan McCartney), Ego (Matthew Egan) and Rookey (Max Rooke) on what I need to do to become the best I can.
MB: And conversely, what have been the toughest times in the game?
JG: At the start of the season, I did a hamstring tear in the first JLT [Community Series] game and then I was lucky enough to have that extended period off to get everything right and come ready into the season. I haven’t looked back. That was the main one this year. In previous years, I’ve had shoulder surgery, but I’ve got to keep healthy and play my role for the team, and everything will pay off.
MB: How do you look back on your time at Carlton?
JG: I look back on my time at Carlton and definitely miss being part of the ‘Three Amigos’. You hear about there being other ‘Three Amigos’, but everyone knows there is only one ‘Three Amigos’ (laughing). I miss playing with them – Eddie and Yaz. They were the good times and I definitely miss that.
MB: And now you’re into your third season at Melbourne. How do you reflect on your move?
JG: Since I’ve come across to Melbourne, it’s been a new challenge. I’m not with Eddie or Yaz anymore, but now it gives me the opportunity to work with the young guys like Dion Johnstone. It’s great to work with guys like Dion, so we can get the best out of them – and it helps to get the best out of me as well.
MB: What are your aims for the rest of your career?
JG: We all want to play finals and get there for there for the Grand Final. If I can keep playing my role, hopefully I can stay in the team for as long as I can.
MB: And how long do you see yourself playing for?
JG: It’s hard to tell. I’m contracted for another two years and I just want to take it year-by-year. It’s not my decision how long I can stay here, but I’d love to stay as long as I can.
MB: Thanks for your time Jeffy and congratulations on your milestone.
JG: No worries, mate.