With seven flags, a dual Morris medallist and best and fairest winner in 2012 and 2015, alongside a Did Simpson medal in 2015, Joel Mackie's record speaks for itself. Mackie caught up with The Border Mail's BRENT GODDE to reflect on his outstanding career at the sportsground.
BRENT GODDE: You're a talented player with an unbelievable record. Did any AFL clubs show interest in you?
JOEL MACKIE: Maybe in the early days my name was mentioned a bit by Sydney and St Kilda and I believe they were keeping a close eye on me. But nothing really concrete.
BG: Winning seven flags and playing in 10 grand finals is not a bad back-up option?
JM: I'm definitely more than happy with what I have been able to achieve. I've got no regrets and wouldn't change a thing.
BG: How many flights have you taken in the Joss jet?
JM: I was flown down to the doctor in Melbourne a couple of times. But only when I was injured, I never went on any joy flights or anything like that.
BG: A lot of people don't know Colin Joss personally but are jealous of his success and sponsorship of Albury Football Club. How would you describe him?
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JM: Despite his extraordinary business achievements he is a humble man and very approachable. Around the club he doesn't see himself as better than anyone else and is the first one to roll up his sleeves and help out with all the other volunteers. While he is very passionate about Albury, it's not to the detriment of rival clubs. Colin has done a lot to help other clubs that goes unnoticed by most people. I think the community in general is fortunate to have a man of his stature and the amount of jobs that he creates.
BG: Yarrawonga is Albury's biggest rival and you had some classic grand final encounters. Do you think you could have won another two flags if it wasn't for the Pigeons recruiting Fevola?
JM: Definitely. There is no doubt the two flags that Yarrawonga won in 2012-13, Fevola was the difference. It's an obvious statement but he was an amazing player. He was such a powerful and dominant presence. He was a dominant player in the AFL so he was always going to be unstoppable in the O&M. Even when we won in 2014, Fevola nearly pinched the Pigeons another flag. He kicked six and probably should of kicked more when he hit the post when the Pigeons had all the momentum in the last quarter and we held on by seven points.
BG: Can you give us an insight into what sort of tactics the coaches at the time used in a bid to stop the rampaging Fevola?
JM: It was always a team focus and we weren't relying on one or two players to stop him. You just had to reduce the amount of opportunities he had a match and that comes back to midfield pressure. It seemed every time he kicked a bag us midfielders would get the blame because Fev got too much supply. It's never the defenders fault, always the midfield. But class players like Fev just find a way to get the job done and you were never going to stop him, you just had to minimise the damage. We went in with the mindset that if we could restrict Fev to six or seven, we could still win the match. If he kicked more than that, we were in trouble.
BG: You were always a big supporter of interleague football and represented the league with pride. Were you disappointed in Fevola when he was busted drinking alcohol the night before?
JM: I was filthy, not just with Fev but there were a few other players involved as well. It was a let down because I thought it was the O&M's best chance to regain the mantle as the No.1 ranked league in Victoria. Especially with a fit Fevola, it would have made a hell of a difference.
BG: You obviously didn't know at the time but were you suspicious Fevola had had a big night?
JM: He was coaching that year and did reek of alcohol when he was addressing the team. After it all came out in TheBorder Mail that he was spotted out late on CCTV footage, it did hurt a bit. A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into interleague and are very passionate about the cause.
BG: Do you think Fev shared that passion or saw interleague more as a social event?
JM: I think that would be a fair comment. Interleague is good socially but you have to get the job done first.
BG: Andrew Robinson got dropped in the lead-up to the 2011 grand final for drinking in public on the Friday night. Did it cause much controversy at the time?
JM: It just came out of the blue really. We had a light training run on the Saturday morning before the grand final the next day. At training it somehow filtered through to Paul Spargo and he summoned the leadership group together after we finished. Spargo told us that Robinson had been drinking the night before and asked what would be the appropriate punishment. Lloyd Shepherd was going to be dropped and he had done everything right in the lead-up. Everyone in the leadership agreed that Robinson shouldn't play seniors. Some thought he should still play in the reserves but in the end he wasn't picked in either side.
BG: Did big Andy 'Undies' Carey dodge a massive bullet after only getting one week in the final round for striking Corey Greer in the lead-up to the 2013 decider.
JM: I think the photo that was in TheBorder Mail withGreer in a headlock and Andy with his right arm cocked was worth a thousand words. I remember everybody at the club was dumbfounded he only got one week at the time and missed the second semi-final. He was a very lucky boy. I don't know what Iain Findlay used to charge to represent players but he was worth every cent on that occasion.
BG: Looking back on your career at the sportsground, would the pinnacle have been playing in those big matches against Yarrawonga from 2009-14 where the two sides played off in six straight grand finals?
JM: It was for sure. Even the early days before Fev arrived, playing Yarrawonga was what I always used to set myself for. They were always tough matches physically and then Fev came along and it went to a whole new level.
BG: Do you think the crowds have been dwindling since 2014 and some matches at the sportsground there would be lucky to be 250 people?
JM: Definitely but it's not just at the sportsground, it's everywhere.
BG: Who do you rate as the best big time performer at the sportsground?
JM: Two words - Shaun Daly. Probably the last few years Dean Polo has been super and had some big moments in big matches.
BG: What about the toughest Tiger?
JM: There's none tougher than S. Daly.
BG: Were you happy to see Lavington win the flag considering it has been thereabouts in recent seasons?
JM: Nobody likes Lavington winning but for some reason I was happy to finally see the Panthers win one. More because I didn't want Wangaratta to win it. I thought we let the 2017 flag slip against the Magpies and a few of their comments in the wake of the grand final have stuck in my mind. Their comments inferred that they were the better side all season, not just on the day. We went into the grand final with a few injuries and I thought we were the best side all year.
BG: Did you lose the flag at the selection table that year?
JM: I don't think so, we just got ambushed early and that was the difference. We got a few of our match-ups wrong early and paid a hefty price. We almost pinched it back in the end. That's why winning the flag last year was so sweet.
BG: A big talking point this year was the axing of Peter German. Were you surprised he was shown the door at the sportsground?
JM: No I wasn't surprised. It was a difficult situation and it would have been tough for him to arrive at the sportsground with his background at a higher level and then coaching a side that had been so successful for a long period. Really not too much had to change and I think he was trying to change things just so he could have an input.
BG: German was the first coach to be appointed from outside the inner sanctum for more than a decade?
JM: It was always going to be a challenge for him in that regard. I was surprised he got axed so soon but the writing was on the wall early.
BG: What do you think is the biggest issue in the O&M?
JM: I think over the past decade it would be equalisation but this season was the most even it has been for a long time.
BG: You accepted the Osborne coaching job last week. Considering the amount of high-profile coaches the Tigers have had over the past two decades, is it a badge of honour to be even asked?
JM: I think it is. You just have to look back at their history and how successful they have been and some of the coaches they have had. I was a little bit chuffed when they first approached me and definitely honoured to get the job.
BG: Osborne is one of the most successful clubs in modern history with 15 premierships in the past 25 years. Will it be a failure if you don't win a flag?
JM: It depends on how you want to gauge it and there is so many factors that determine that. There is obviously high expectation internally and I don't want to put too much pressure on myself but I want to go out there and be successful.
BG: How do you think Jindera handled the news you were coaching a rival club considering you have to drive through the town to get to Osborne?
JM: I'm going to go the long way in case my ute gets rocked driving through Jindera. That's a joke but I have no doubt there would be some disappointed supporters at the kennel. But I feel a fresh start at a new club is the best fit for me at this stage of my career. I don't know a lot of people at Osborne and I'm heading out there with a blank canvas basically.
BG: Are you a bit apprehensive knowing that you will have to play against your home town club?
JM: I think I will be when the time arrives. I have got so many great memories growing up in Jindera and have still got some great mates at the club. It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.