IF YOU looked up the meaning of ‘competitive beast’ or ‘competitive animal’ in any book, you might find a picture of Jack Viney.
Few love the contest as much as Viney.
He reminds me of a caged tiger I once saw parading inside a massive wooden fence in Chitwan National Park, Nepal. This magnificent animal was just waiting for its next prey. And heaven forbid anything that got in its way!
So too anyone who gets in Viney’s way!
He’s quite simply a warrior. And a player any side would love to have.
Although he’s still learning his craft, by gee, he’s doing a fine job for someone still young in the game. His ability to play crucial run-with roles and win possessions is becoming an important part of Melbourne’s cog.
And his performance on one of the finest players of the modern era, Joel Selwood, was magnificent.
Viney kept the triple premiership player to 17 disposals and had 28 touches in the process. He didn’t stop harassing the four-time All-Australian all day. In turn, the star Cat got frustrated with his direct opponent at times and couldn’t shake his tag.
In the build-up to the game, Viney was told that Selwood was his man.
He relished the idea and prepared meticulously. Viney did everything in his power to stop the three-time Geelong best-and-fairest winner’s influence. And he did it with aplomb.
“I thought [I] might’ve got Selwood and the coaches said ‘you’ve got him’ [in the lead-up to the match],” Viney said.
“I was really excited because he’s a competitive animal and he doesn’t mind throwing his body around – as do I.
“I was really excited about the match-up and I was really focused during the week. I watched my vision and did all my homework and felt I did really well. The boys helped me out when I was in trouble. It was a really great team effort and I was really happy.”
Viney absolutely thrived on the spirited contest throughout the entire match.
At one point, when Viney jogged with Selwood to the boundary line – the Geelong skipper was going off on the blood rule – and the duo couldn’t stop chirping away at each other.
It was a great footy contest and one Viney spoke about with pride.
“After a while, he was probably getting a bit upset and a few elbows were flying around and a few words were being spoken, so I love that s***. It fires me up and got me going, so it’s all good,” he said.
Coach Paul Roos said Viney’s effort was crucial in the win.
“He’s been really good since he’s come back from the [fractured leg] injury [in round nine] and he’s had some pretty good roles and he’s done it well,” he said.
“The ability to win his own footy is important – and I think we talked about it a lot – you can’t really have a run-with player now that doesn’t get the football.
“To have someone like Jack who gets the ball and keeps Joel reasonably under control – Joel still had a significant impact on the game, as you’d imagine – but to be able to do what he did was really significant for us.”
Overall, Roos was delighted with his side’s midfield, which included some outstanding individual performances.
Bernie Vince was again among the high possession winners, notching up 38 touches, and skipper Nathan Jones had 35 disposals.
In the ruck, Max Gawn played his finest AFL match, with 19 possessions and 44 hit outs. His marking was also a highlight, with six of his eight contested.
“Our mids were terrific, with their ability to keep cracking in for 120 minutes,” Roos said.
“At crucial times, when they (Geelong) got back into it, there was a tackle or a tough, contested ball that [our boys] won.
“[Our midfield] group was terrific – really good.”
Viney’s 28-disposal performance was also an equal personal best. For the record, he also got 28 disposals against Fremantle in round 21, 2013.
But his 39th AFL match was arguably his finest yet.
Even if he didn’t quite acknowledge it was his best game, Viney instead said he was “really happy with it”.
“I had a team role to lock down [Joel] Selwood and I felt like I did that,” he said.
“I also impacted and helped the team out, so I was really happy with my game.
“I just wanted to help the boys out and do whatever I can to get the win.”
He certainly did that.
And the red and blue faithful was also happy with his performance – and his teammates!
What a day for Melbourne.