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The ragged rise of Jack Viney

Viney celebrates Melbourne’s qualifying final win.

Viney celebrates Melbourne’s qualifying final win.Credit:AFL Photos

Although that jumper was red and blue, it was soon clear to everyone that Viney saw football in black and white.

He wanted to succeed through hard work and God help anyone he thought did not share the same approach.

At a training session in Sandringham in the weeks leading into one pre-season, Viney admonished teammates who had turned up for a casual hit-out because the ball had hit the ground.

It was a small thing that showed he was not afraid of confrontation. But his coaches knew work would be needed to harness that inbuilt desire to drive standards. Otherwise, he would alienate those who wanted to follow a different path to success.

Those coaches could see Melbourne’s future in front of them as Viney joined forces with Nathan Jones to embark on what appeared, as Melbourne languished, to be a two-man band resisting opposition heat like baking paper.

In his first 49 games, Viney was on the winning team just 10 times.

He was runner-up in the best and fairest in his third season, having played just 16 games. In his fourth season he won the best and fairest, then was named captain ahead of his fifth as he finished top three in the club award in five of the six seasons from 2015-2020.

By his ninth season, at the start of 2020, he was no longer captain as Max Gawn replaced him and Jones.

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He was disappointed to lose the title, but he picked himself up, as he always does, and went again to arrive at the point he’s at now, aware the number of allies in his force have grown.

“I’m pretty content and pretty happy with my place among the team at the moment,” Viney said.

The journey has made Viney, still the vice-captain, somewhat of an elder statesman at just 27, married to his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte, who he says has been his greatest support throughout, and with a daughter, Mila.

They will move back into their renovated home in Hawthorn at season’s end to be reunited with his much-loved dog Sebastian, who has been spending time near Lancefield on the farm his parents Todd and Meagan potter around on.

Viney has a commerce degree – he majored in finance after nine years of slog – and he’s a keen gamer when downtime arrives.

“Trying to keep a balanced life is important,” Viney said.

That has helped as he battled body and mind earlier this season when foot problems re-emerged.

“The most recent injuries were the most frustrating,” Viney said.

“Over a period of time that frustration starts to build up and build up, and you start to lose patience.

“Those spin sessions and off-legs conditioning sessions were tough to endure at times this year. I love the competitiveness of AFL football. I love playing the actual sport so when you can’t get out there and train and do what you love it can get to you at times, but you just persist.

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“I am out the other end of it now and the body is feeling good.”

He wasn’t afraid to access psychologists to assist him and leaned on club physiotherapists Dan James and Brenton Egglestone to help him up.

Viney is now a hardened footballer with a wise head on his shoulders, having evolved into the type of club-first man that coach Simon Goodwin adores, playing a game perfectly suited to the bash and crash of finals football.

As he focuses on Geelong he knows to take nothing for granted.

“It’s going to be an arm wrestle. It could come down to the last kick again.”

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