Lachlan Keeffe will be under no illusions that this could well be his last chance in the AFL. The 27-year old was handed a lifeline by GWS, having been delisted by Collingwood after failing to make a single appearance last season. Following a two-year ban after a failed drug test, the 204cm big man failed to break into the Magpies team last year, bringing an end to his career at the club that had promised so much. The Queenslander’s time at Collingwood never really took off despite so much early optimism, suffering a serious knee injury before being banned, alongside former teammate Josh Thomas, having tested positive for clenbuterol.
Despite his lack of regular AFL action in recent years, the big man will add some much-needed depth to the Giants, especially in regards to their talls, with ruckman Shane Mumford recently retiring. While he spent much of his time playing up front for Collingwood’s VFL team, Keeffe has enjoyed his best form in the AFL playing in defence, where his clear physical attributes made him a very effective player to have at the back. The Giants have a position available as back-up to Rory Lobb, widely-tipped to be the club’s number-one ruckman this season.
The Giants, priced as short as 9/2 in the latest AFL betting, are heading into the new campaign with a team strong enough to have convinced a lot of punters that they have a very real chance of competing for honours this season. While he might not be an automatic starter, Keeffe’s versatility and size will make him an important member of this squad, providing support and back-up for defenders such as co-captain Phil Davis, Adam Tomlinson, Aidan Corr and Nick Haynes. Giants head coach Leon Cameron also has Dawson Simpson and Matthew Flynn as backup ruck options.
Keeffe is the latest player to have been handed an AFL lifeline since the opening of the delisted free agency, joining Aaron Mullett, who recently joined Carlton and former Essendon Bomber Alex Morgan, who has been snapped up by North Melbourne. Stewart Crameri, Billy Hartung, Michael Talia, Sharrod Wellingham, and Jack Trengove are other experienced players still looking for another chance in the AFL. For Keeffe, though, now he has his second chance, he’ll be under pressure to take it with both hands, having spent so long out of action.
Keeffe will have the chance to meet his former teammates when GWS host Collingwood in a pre-season clash at Manuka Oval in March, the first time the ‘Pies will play a game in Canberra since crushing North Melbourne by 43 points in 2001. The game will act as a chance for both teams to finalise their plans ahead of the 2018 campaign, in which both teams will be hoping to fulfil their potential. While GWS are expected to be challenging for both titles, Collingwood will be attempting to squeeze into the top eight for the first time since 2013.
Keeffe will just be hoping he is able to take this chance with both hands and run with it.