Ryan Clarke’s season, and perhaps his AFL career, changed in an instant seven weeks ago.
Sydney coach John Longmire has asked Clarke, 25, if he would like to become a forward after the 25-year-old has worked in obscurity since the start of last season, mostly as a midfielder or winger in the VFL.
His five senior games at the time were all played on behalf of medical. It was only his one of them that he actually played.
With his contract expiring and entering the Round of 15 for his fourth season with the red and white, Clarke’s playing future looked bleak.
Longmire then told him at a meeting before the Swans’ main training session that week about his new defensive forward role and what it would be like to face St Kilda.
Clark told News Corp this week:
“I wanted to go out and play with guys I hadn’t played with in a long time.”
Clarke spent most of his time against in-form St. Jack Sinclair and even scored two goals as Sydney secured a 51-point win at SCG.
A week later he was submarine again and suffered a disappointing loss to Essendon. However, Clark’s career revival did not take place.
He was included in the Swans’ 22 in the next round against the Western Bulldogs and never looked back.
Clarke kicked yet another goal, in a head-to-head match against the Star Dogs, limiting All-Australian Baileydale to 16 disposals in 103 minutes that night.
“It’s been good. I used to tag and go to opponents in midfield, so as a forward it’s a bit different,” he said.
“But I have a lot of good forwards and good defensive forwards around me, like Will Hayward and the ‘Pups'[Tom Pupley]so they really helped me and made the transition as smooth as possible. Made it easy. ”
Clark himself has accomplished a lot. He maintained his position, planting his 14 tackles and manic pressure in his next three games.
On Sunday at Marvel Stadium, Clarke will meet his former side North Melbourne, who have played 40 of 75 games in the AFL, for the second time against good friend Luke Macdonald.
“I’m still dating Cam Zulher, Nick Larkie and a few other boys, but it’s been about four years since I was there and some of my closest pals have left. ‘ he said.
“But it’s nice to see the boys. At the end of 2018, I was out in the North for a bit, but I got a great chance in Sydney to change that and go to Interstate. I thought it would be nice to move.
“I will forever be grateful that the Swans took me on four years ago. Incredibly wonderful.”
Clarke’s story, and that of many other footballers walking the tightrope around the AFL, is rarely told compared to a star where everything seems easy.
At the same time, he has never been tight-lipped about his predicament, admitting, “We still kick footballers and run around for a living.” Longmire has a lot to do with it.
“The best thing about Horse (Longmire) is that he is really honest and always tells me how I am going and what to work on. said, and kept me motivated,” Clark said.
“Maybe there was no discussion with the ‘hose’. I’m not sure if I was motivated.
“I also really appreciate the chats with Pupley,[Justin]McInerney, some of the mentors at the club and the coach’s close buddies. It’s been great.”
With only three home-and-away rounds left in the season, Clark doesn’t dare dream of his first final.
He refuses to make himself comfortable.
“I basically played five games in two years, so I don’t really think about it,” Clark said.
“This week, this is a good opportunity to play against my old club,” he thinks.
“I have the ball now.
Clarke has taken the same approach to other minor issues in his football life.
His senior return and new role appear to give him renewed hope that the Swans will offer him a new contract.
But Clark lives in the present too. I don’t know what it would have been like if he wasn’t his AFL footballer, but the ideal scenario would be that he would have more time to make the big decisions.
“I try not to think too much about it all,” he said.
“Six weeks ago I didn’t look great, now everything is just a bonus. I just keep enjoying my football.
Life on the AFL Fringe: Why Swans Footballer Ryan Clarke Appreciates Senior Opportunity
Source link Life on the AFL Fringe: Why Swans Footballer Ryan Clarke Appreciates Senior Opportunity