SOMETIMES, timing is everything in football.
Just ask Sean O’Keeffe.
The Wangaratta Rovers star played his sixth senior game for the Hawks in 1999.
He didn’t play his seventh until 2010.
Tomorrow, he plays his 100th.
“It’s always been a goal of mine,” O’Keeffe, 32, said ahead of tomorrow’s elimination final.
“Dad played for the club and I’ve been around since as long as I can remember.
“It’s always good to play for the club, no matter what game number it is.”
The milestone has been more than 15 years in the making, but timing is something O’Keeffe quickly found out he couldn’t control in his football career.
Drafted by Carlton in 2000, the classy midfielder spent the following three seasons at Princes Park as the Blues fell to the bottom of the AFL ladder.
O’Keeffe doesn’t look back with any regret, but conceded he was disappointed to only manage six games at the highest level.
“It was obviously disappointing to not go on with it but, I think I did everything I could,” he said.
“It just shows you need a lot of things to fall into place.
“Whether it’s the right team, or the right timing.
“Seeing guys like Craig Bradley, Glenn Manton and ‘Ratts’ (Brett Ratten) really opened up another world for me.”
It’s fair to say O’Keeffe has brought that level back to the Ovens and Murray.
The classy midfielder has been a pillar of consistency since making his long-awaited return to W.J. Findlay Oval following stints at Sandringham, Sturt and two years in the mines at Kalgoorlie.
O’Keeffe said the 2012 season — when the Hawks surged to the preliminary final with Barry Hall at full forward — was undoubtedly the highlight but also a source of frustration at the same time.
The Hawks haven’t gone on with it.
“It just shows you how hard it is to keep a group of players together year after year,” O’Keeffe said.
“We’ve had some really good thirds sides and young players come through but as they do, they go off to uni and things like that.
“I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of years playing finals and watching the young guys develop and playing with guys like Ross and Andy Hill.”
Those quotes sound somewhat nostalgic, but O’Keeffe certainly isn’t thinking about pulling the pin on his career and certainly not on this season.
He is confident the Hawks will keep their season alive with a win over Corowa-Rutherglen tomorrow.
“There’s no more tomorrow now, we need to play our best footy for every quarter from here on.”
And if the Hawks can do that, who knows? O’Keeffe may have timed his run beautifully.