Dual AFL premiership Sydney Swans player Ryan O’Keefe has been announced as the new Western Jets under 18 coach and Head Coach of the Maribyrnong Sports Academy AFL Program.
The full-time position will see the 2012 Norm Smith Medal winner incorporate the Jets’ under 18 head coaching role with a football academy program role at Maribyrnong.
After his 286 game AFL career ended in 2014, O’Keefe has spent the last four seasons in coaching roles at Adelaide FC, joining the Crows as a midfield development coach, before spending the last two seasons as the clubs’ SANFL coach. O’Keefe replaces Torin Baker at the Western Jets and Sports Academy, after he accepted a development coaching role at Hawthorn FC.
In what is becoming a trend over recent years in the under 18 coaching ranks, O’Keefe will join the likes of Daniel O’Keefe (Geelong Falcons), Craig Black (Dandenong Stingrays), Marc Greig (GWV Rebels) and Leigh Clarke (Oakleigh Chargers) as former TAC Cup players who have returned to coach in the competition.
“Ryan O’Keefe will be making a return to the competition he was drafted from close to 20 years ago at the Calder Cannons and will bring a unique mindset of being able to relate to and understand the needs of players at this level, and what will be required of them at that next level as they progress,” AFL Victoria State Talent Manager Paul Hamilton said.
“The players at both the Western Jets and Maribyrnong Sports Academy will benefit from having such an experienced person at the helm, who will be able to utilise his knowledge of playing at the highest level, and coaching at state level in the SANFL.
“O’Keefe – as a level four coach - will play an important role in helping further develop players in our under 18 system, but also those who are aspiring to take their game further with the Sports Academy, spending time on their skills on and off the field.
Hamilton said the under 18 competition is providing a strong pathway for coaches to develop their skills.
“The pleasing aspect is our competition is creating a talent pathway for not only players, but also coaches with Craig Black (Collingwood), Jeremy Barnard (East Perth – WAFL) Daniel O’Keefe (Geelong VFL) and Torin Baker (Hawthorn) all progressing to state-league or AFL coaching roles at the end of the 2018 season.
“We will continue to provide these opportunities for our coaches, with recent appointments Nick Cox (Dandenong), Josh Bourke (Sandringham Dragons), Mark Brown (Murray Bushrangers) and Rhett McLennan (Gippsland Power) all having fulfilled assistant or development coaching roles in the under 18 or 16 system before being appointed head coaches.”
Three Maribyrnong Sports Academy students were drafted at the recent NAB AFL Draft, with Calder Cannons Jack Bytel (St Kilda) joined by Western Jets pair Zak Butters (Port Adelaide) and Buku Khamis (Western Bulldogs) on AFL lists. The trio continue the links to the College in the AFL, with former students such as Kayne Turner (North Melbourne), Peter Wright (Gold Coast Suns) and Touk Miller (Gold Coast Suns) also having been drafted from the school / TAC Cup in the past, while former cricketer Guy Walker has joined the Melbourne FC this year as a Category B rookie.
Maribyrnong Sports Academy Director Mark McAllion says Ryan brings a wealth of experience into the program.
“It's very exciting to partner with AFL Victoria and the Western Jets to have someone with Ryan’s experience both as a player and a coach join the Academy’s coaching ranks,” McAllion said.
“Torin Baker did a fantastic job in developing the program over recent years and we now look forward to Ryan taking it to an even higher level, in conjunction with Assistant Coaches Scott Lucas, Leon Harris, Martin Walsh and AFLW head coach Bree White
“The Academy’s AFL student-athletes are definitely very fortunate to be coached and mentored by such high quality individuals.”
Listen to Ryan’s interview with Andy Maher on SEN.