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Jordan De Goey never again wants to feel like he did on grand final day five years ago. He doesn’t want to feel like he did 12 months ago when his job, if not his career, was nearly taken away.
The burn from the loss to West Coast in the grand final of 2018 still simmers. The pain of nearly losing his job at the place he had been his whole adult life, and leaving his friends, hurt in a different but no less painful way.
“I am not going to let this one go,” the powerful midfielder said of the lesson he took from the last grand final into this one.
“I am going to do absolutely everything physically possible in my capabilities to make sure we get the opposite result. You understand the heartache that goes with the loss in a grand final and I think you can do one of two things – go into your shell or come out and be better than you were before and that’s exactly what I intend to do.
“I think that showed on the weekend [in the preliminary final] against GWS; a lot of things were out of our control – they had momentum a lot of the time and we showed grit and determination to just keep fighting when things were against us.
“I will take a one-point win any day of the week. We have that dog in us, you could say. We want to succeed, we want to be the best, and we want to win.”
Jordan De Goey played the match of his career in the prelimCredit: Getty Images
In the prelim, Jordan De Goey played the most consequential game of his career. It was a game that 12 months ago it was doubtful he would play, at least not in black and white.
In June last year he had had a new contract pulled after another off-field muck up that frustrated and embarrassed the club. The hierarchy at Collingwood was fed up with his propensity for off-field trouble and withdrew an offer for a new long-term big-money deal. Both sides needed convincing of the other’s commitment before he eventually re-signed with the club post-season.
“It was tough having the job on the line. It was really tough. And there were other clubs involved [primarily St Kilda]. But at the end of the day, I knew this club was destined for greatness and that’s exactly what I felt like; we have got the list to be in this position and that’s why I stayed on, and now I am reaping the benefits of it, I am watching all these gun young players come up,” he said.
“The boys [his teammates] have always been huge [supporters]. I have never had an issue with the playing group. Ever. They have always supported me, they know what kind of person I am, and it was just more about the board members being able to trust me to make the right decisions and take the job seriously, and I have been doing that.”
De Goey at his explosive best.Credit: Getty Images
Working out how to make the right decisions is the biggest change in him, De Goey says. He does feel he is a changed person, or at least a work in progress. The difference is what he now knows about himself, more than what others know about him.
Actions speak louder than words, but in De Goey’s case, Louder’s words have spoken to De Goey’s actions.
De Goey credits sports psychologist Jacqui Louder with the turnaround.Credit: Getty Images
Jacqui Louder is the Collingwood psychologist, and she has worked closely with De Goey. She was an enthusiastic advocate for the club retaining him last year.
“Jacqui has been huge for me. Everyone knows I have been working with her for a while especially since New York,” De Goey explained, referencing the 2021 incident in a bar after which he spent the night in police cells and was exiled from the club.
“She has pretty much changed my life to be honest, changed my perspective, changed the way I go about it, my decision-making, everything like that.
“She is definitely a major reason why I am in this position and the same with the football club, the culture we have created, the people we have got involved. It just breeds success and makes you want to get better, and I think that is what I am thriving in.
“She has probably just helped me understand myself, what I am like, what makes me tick, why I make the decisions I do, what is involved when I make these decisions so that next time I am in a situation it is the forefront of my mind: ‘This is a trigger point so be careful doing this, is it better to leave now and not even put myself in that situation?’ Just things like that. And when your job gets put on the line it makes it a bit easier to make those decisions.
“It’s just growing up, understanding myself, learning about myself and evolving. I am not perfect.”
Collingwood knew when they were agonising late last year that the one certainty about him was that De Goey was an elite talent. A-grade players are hard to find and De Goey was an A-grade talent. That he did not translate that into consistent A-grade performances due to a mix of injury, suspension and form was a frustration. He has never won a best and fairest, never been top three, as a player of his ability should have.
De Goey returned to the club this year fitter. He did extra sessions over summer, and was determined to make an impact. He did. While eyes were trained and discussion centred on Nick Daicos, De Goey more quietly began by delivering the season he and the club have been wanting to see from him.
Even the umpires, whose judgment in these matters is plainly not the most reliable, gave him three Brownlow votes in round one. Twice in the first three rounds, the two coaches gave him the maximum 10 votes between them for best on ground.
His form was as good as it has been and that was not just down to him. De Goey was the most obvious beneficiary of the arrival of Tom Mitchell whose greatest ability is to get first hands on the ball and shovel it out to others. More often than not De Goey was on the other end of the shovel.
De Goey then got himself suspended for a bump and missed games. When he returned he admits he took time to find his early season form.
“The team dynamic changed a bit there too. As the game evolves teams understand how we play, and they changed their structure dependent on that. That caused a little bit of conflict there for a bit, but I managed to work my way through that and started to play some good footy in the back end which is the most important part.”
De Goey rates his preliminary final performance as “one of my better ones”.
“But I think the best part was the fight of the team, the way we gritted it out, and we pretty much ran the clock down with four minutes to go which is pretty much unheard of. I was more proud of that, to be honest,” he said.
“It’s definitely good for your confidence, any player would like to say they are playing well in finals time so yeah to have a game like that and a result like that more importantly is awesome, and it just builds confidence within the group.”
When the Magpies last played a grand final De Goey was effectively the full-forward. He booted 48 goals that year. Partly that was due to his ability to find a goal in a side that lacked firepower. Partly he was still building his endurance to play midfield. He now has that endurance and the club, for the main, has had firepower forward. But the team’s goalkicking has dried up in the finals – they kicked just eight and nine goals in their two finals – and now they have lost full-forward Dan McStay.
While probably unlikely to happen given his importance in the midfield, De Goey has a licence to take matters into his hands if he sees fit and could roll forward in a Christian Petracca-Dustin Martin style mid-forward role.
“I think ‘Fly’ has given me the freedom I guess to play the position I want to play so if I feel we need to score and if I feel I am confident in myself that I can do that then he wouldn’t mind me going forward, so there is always that opportunity, but this whole year the forwards have held up – Ginny, Bobby Hill, Dan, Billy, Checkers – they have been great.”
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