AFL player Lachie Keeffe back on top
THREE years, 248 days.
That's how long it had been since Gympie product Lachie Keeffe last played a game in the AFL.
The drought broke when made his debut for the GWS Giants in the defeat at Geelong on Friday night.
In between he had endured a two-year drug ban while at Collingwood, before ultimately being de-listed by the Magpies at the end of last year and granted a lifeline by the Giants.
The 28-year-old had feared his career at the top level would be over after he and then fellow Queensland Magpie Josh Thomas tested positive to the banned substance clenbuterol on the eve of the 2015 season.
"When I first found out I had been banned, I didn't think I would play again,” he said.
"The first year I spent in Melbourne and stayed fit, started a new university course and took advantage of this time off from footy and travelled.
"It was not ideal to take time off. Originally it was a shock to the system as footy season was about to start and I was gearing up to play 20-25 weeks and it got taken away.
"My take on it was, if you do something you should not be doing, then the rules are there. I put a positive spin on it and travelled and saw my family.”
Keeffe, who had played 40 senior games for Collingwood, the last of which was on August 29, 2014, and Thomas were both re-drafted by the Magpies.
But Keeffe spent the 2017 season confined to playing in the VFL before being de-listed.
Despite receiving an assurance from the Giants they would rookie-list him, the 204cm Keeffe did not get his hopes up.
"You never really know because clubs might make offers to 10 players but only five are contracted with the club,” he said.
"I had a great interview with the club and always believed in my ability to play. If I didn't think I was good enough I would not have wasted their time.
"I took the contract to play not be an extra number. I was lucky the Giants came with an offer. I was looking to repay the faith in a way on the weekend and hopefully there is more to come.”
Due to a number of injuries to key personnel, Keeffe finally got the call up for the round-seven clash with the Cats.
He admits it was an emotional experience.
"It was a shock to the system when you are out there but it comes back to you. After what I had been through I didn't know it was going to eventuate,” he said.
"I wanted to get a win for the boys but it was nice to be back out there and hopefully I will play again and feel the joy of a win.”
Keeffe filled in for Giants No.1 ruckman Rory Lobb, and could hold his head high, gathering 16 disposals, three marks and 18 hit-outs.
"I thought I played my role in the ruck well enough to merit another call-up,” he said.
"Our side has quite a few injuries to our key players but if someone comes in, you might be shuffled around or you might be out.
"With the Giants being a decent side, I will hold up my end of the bargain by playing decent footy and make the decision harder for selectors.”