I’ll never forget the first time I met Jack Steele.
It was Round 15, 2015, and I was playing on this kid wearing No. 38 for GWS in just his third game.
We had a contest in the forward pocket, I went up to spoil and felt like I got a good piece of it. Job done, I thought.
But Steeley floated across in front and pulled down this huge contested mark on me, went back and slotted his first goal in footy. So, he owes me a bit.
Fast-forward a year and a bit and that same kid was walking into the locker room at Seaford for the first time.
Steeley had a fractured foot and probably wasn’t in the best condition to be honest, so he couldn’t show his true colours straight away, and I could see that got to him.
I remember thinking he seemed a frustrated kid who probably felt like he hadn’t had the opportunity to show the player he could be or what he was capable of at the Giants.
He had a point to prove from day one.
He hadn’t been at the club long and I remember being super impressed with the way he went about it.
Pretty soon after that I was at an AFL captain’s day, and I remember speaking to Cal Ward and he was really disappointed that they lost Steeley. They’d lost a few players in that period, but he said the one they were most flat about was Steeley.
I started to think this kid could be pretty important for us going forward.
The first thing you need to know about Steeley is that he can seriously play.
I think he’s always had the ability, but something that was holding him back at times was probably his self-belief.
Clearly last year, he became a really elite player of the competition, so he started to believe in himself a bit more.
That belief started to seep into his game and his character, and that’s really what turned him into a leader of this footy club.
I had Lenny and Roo as my captains.
Roo was vocal, and he wouldn’t be shy in letting you know how he felt.
Lenny led with his eyes. He would just stare at you if he thought you could’ve done better or he wasn’t happy.
I know ‘everyone loves Lenny’, but that stare he used to give was bloody terrifying.
I think Steeley’s probably a leader who leads with his eyes more than his voice.
Steeley is one of the most selfless footballers I’ve ever played with.
When you dedicate your footballing career to making the team better, and every action you commit on the footy field is for the team, you gain respect pretty quickly.
Everyone’s focussing on last year, but even before then, there were games where he’d just explode and inspire his teammates to come with him.
He definitely earned respect by doing the hard stuff he’s known for, but I think he’s been able to flourish with a bit more freedom.
Because he’s done that, everyone’s just so happy to see how much his football has developed over the last 18 months.
I’m just really rapt to be able to lead with him.
I think we complement each other really well. We’ve got a good relationship already, we’re always talking and having conversations about how we can get better.
For him to have this role now while I’m still around is really beneficial, if I can take a little bit of the load off him and he can still focus on his footy and perform, then that’s a great result.
He was always going to be the next captain.
He’s always had enormous respect from the group, and I’ve spoken to him about the captaincy for a number of years.
Last year he took a real step forward as a leader, which is why I wanted him involved in the leadership meetings.
He was having such an influence on the field, not just with the way he was playing, but also his growing voice, and I wanted him to be involved so that he could have more influence in the day-to-day.
He was brilliant, he really was, he really took it in his stride and I think the added responsibility really helped his footy.
He’s the kind of bloke I’d follow into battle.
Steeley is team-first personified. That’s a leader. Someone who inspires through their actions and lets their footy do the talking.
When the ball’s there to be won, there’s not even a question. It’s Steeley throwing himself in harm’s way for the good of his teammates. Them before him.
He’s quiet but considered. Never says something he doesn’t mean, and when he does speak, the boys listen.
Jack Steele was meant to be St Kilda’s captain. I’m honoured to be standing beside him as he takes this next step.