Sport is often said to be a great metaphor for life, but tellingly, sport likes to deal in euphemisms when explaining its own life.
There’s no shortage of it in the disappointing end to the career of Sydney Swans stalwart Ryan O’Keefe after 15 seasons.
Coach John Longmire says “Despite the challenges this season, he has handled the situation impressively”.
O’Keefe also says it’s been “a challenging year”, and he “understands” he’s unlikely to play senior football for the Swans again.
O’Keefe would have likely played his 300th game for the club this year, but instead, he’ll be farewelled at Saturday’s game against Richmond at ANZ Stadium with a lap of honour at half time.
It comes just two weeks after fellow veteran Lewis Roberts-Thomson announced his retirement due to injury and was farewelled at the SCG.
O’Keefe’s made no decision about his future, despite earlier speculation that he’s keen to be released to play for another club. He’s certainly still keen to play.
He’s not injured but he hasn’t played a senior’s game since round 4’s loss to North Melbourne, where he kicked a goal and star recruit Buddy Franklin, who had yet to shine, was kept scoreless.
Rumours emerged a month earlier of a rift between the dual premiership champion and the newly arrived $10 million superstar, and the team made light of it when Longmire handed the pair boxing gloves for a pre-training whack that was reported at the time as a jocular response to the scuttlebutt.
A few weeks later, the nuggety midfielder vanished from the side. He hasn’t been picked since.
O’Keefe, 33, played 14 seasons with the club and is one of their greats. He is fourth on the all-time games list with 286 matches. He played in the 2005 and 2012 premiership teams, taking out the Norm Smith Medal in 2012. He played in the 2006 grand final and was named All-Australian in 2006, as well as receiving the Jim Stynes Medal. He was Swans Club champion in 2009.
Longmire paid tribute saying “He is a champion of our Club. He is one of the toughest competitors I have come across in the game. Very few players share his professionalism, his drive and will to win”.
O’Keefe has been kept busy mentoring players in the reserves.
“It has been a challenging year, but I have enjoyed working with young players in the reserves and look forward to helping that group challenge for the NEAFL premiership in the coming weeks,” he said.
“I will have a look at my options at the end of the season, but it is important to me that I get to thank the Club, all my teammates and importantly, all of the supporters.”
It seems like such an anti-climactic end to a great career at the Swans. Surely there’s a euphemism for that. It’s certainly a metaphor for life.
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