Mackie on Domsy

691744-tom-lonerganThese days Tom Lonergan is considered one of the most reliable defenders in the AFL. However, reliability wasn’t always a strength of his.

“Early days, he probably needed to set a couple of alarm clocks, not just one,” long-time teammate Andrew Mackie recalled in an interview with Cats Media this week.

“He had a few troubles getting up in the mornings. He ran late a few times and [then-assistant coach] Brendan McCartney let him know.

“He might have sent him home once or twice.”

It was an inauspicious start for the boy from Yarrawonga.

But, as Mackie is at pains to point out, Lonergan’s approach and standing within the club have changed markedly since then.

The 33-year-old is now among the most respected players at the Cattery, his reputation forged by his ability to overcome adversity, including the loss of a kidney after a collision in a game against Melbourne in 2006.

And this weekend he finds himself in the spotlight as he prepares to play his 200th AFL game, a milestone that gives his teammates a welcome reason to reflect on what has been a remarkable footballing journey.

“His story is very different to everyone else’s,” Mackie said. “No one has been through what he has been through as a footballer.

“Even without taking into account the kidney injury, he’s been through a lot: those struggles as a forward, then switching to the backline and basically having to start his career over again.

“It’s a credit to him, what he’s been able to achieve.”

Lonergan was drafted as a forward from the Murray Bushrangers in 2002.

He arrived at the Cats as a tall but lean key position prospect and soon become a popular member of the playing group thanks to his affable personality.

However, he initially struggled with the training loads, something his teammates often had a chuckle about.

“The training made him really sore,” Mackie explained. “After every big leg-weights session, he could hardly walk the day after.

“He suffered a lot from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. He put DOMS on the map, and that’s how he got the nickname Domsy.”

He played four games and kicked five goals that year, then struggled to get a look in during the first half of the 2006 season.

The afore mentioned clash with the Demons was just his seventh appearance at the highest level.

It was early in the last quarter when Lonergan ran back with the flight of the ball and collided with Melbourne’s Brad Miller.

The incident looked serious at the time, and the then-22-year-old was rushed to hospital, but no one could have expected the complications that would arise after Lonergan was placed in an induced coma.

Internal bleeding cost him one of his kidneys and almost his life.

“The whole 24 to 48 hours after the incident were pretty scary,” Mackie said.

“There are some things that pop up in your life that make you think about things a lot. That was definitely one for me, and I’d hate to think about what it was like for Domsy’s parents.

“I suppose Domsy didn’t know what was going on at that time, which was probably a good thing for him.”

Lonergan lost 17kgs during his stay in hospital, and few people expected him even think about playing football again.

But once he had fully recovered, he decided he wanted to have another crack at making it in the AFL.

The Cats subsequently redrafted him as a rookie and he began slowly building towards a return in the VFL.

“I’ve spoken about it a lot over the journey, but it’s quite remarkable that he made it back onto a footy field when you consider it was touch and go that he’d live,” Mackie said.

“He obviously felt that he had more to give, that it was his passion, and to his credit he’s gone and done what he wanted to do. Since then, he’s forged a really good career.”

Lonergan returned to the field in the VFL midway through the 2007 season. Three months later he captured the imagination of the footy world by kicking six goals and winning the Norm Goss Medal as the Cats defeated Coburg in the VFL Grand Final.

But Lonergan’s big break didn’t come until two-time premiership captain Tom Harley retired at the end of the 2009 season.

The Cats now needed another key defender. Lonergan, who had struggled to make an impression as a forward in the AFL, was switched to the backline and his career suddenly took off.

Yet it probably wasn’t until the 2011 Grand Final that his improvement was widely noticed.

That day Collingwood’s Travis Cloke had started brilliantly, kicking two goals on Harry Taylor.

But after Lonergan moved on to him, Cloke hardly touched the ball for the rest of the game and Geelong stormed away to win its third premiership in five seasons.

“I think he was playing well before that, to be honest,” Mackie said. “He was already doing jobs that were earning him a lot of respect within the playing group.

“But that game is the one that caught the eyes of the people outside the club and convinced them that he was a top-liner.

“The 2011 Grand Final was a game where it was obvious that he was influential and played a big role in us winning the game. It was great reward for all the work he put in.

“He spent so long working on his craft to get himself into a position where he could have a big impact in the biggest game of the year.”

Since then, Lonergan has cemented his reputation as one of the best key defenders in the game.

He has regularly held the upper hand in his battles against superstar forwards like Buddy Franklin, and continues to calmly set up attacking moves for the Cats.

“Where he’s earned the most trust and respect among his teammates is being able to do jobs on big players,” Mackie said. “He’s been able to do those big jobs for a long time now.

“His early days of chipping away and learning his craft in the VFL have really strengthened him up for what he’s become. He really had to fight pretty hard to keep developing. It didn’t come easily for him.

“So, even nowadays, every AFL game he plays means a lot to him. Every day that he’s able to be a professional footballer is something that he holds dear.

One thing Mackie never takes for granted is Lonergan’s courage.

“For someone who’s lost an organ, he’s super-courageous,” Mackie said. “I don’t think people talk about his courage as much as they should.

“Some of the acts he’s done since having his kidney taken out have been unbelievable. They’re things that are really inspiring.

“He’s one of the most courageous players that I’ve seen.”

Mackie is rapt that he will run out alongside Lonergan in his milestone game on Saturday night, and he hopes his old mate is proud of all he has achieved.

“I suspect it will mean a fair bit to him, given what he’s gone through,” Mackie said.

“We don’t play footy to accumulate games, but it is nice to pause when these milestones come around and celebrate an individual.

“I think Domsy will look back on the milestone in years to come and be very, very proud of it.

“I think his career has been one of the great stories.”
These days Tom Lonergan is considered one of the most reliable defenders in the AFL. However, reliability wasn’t always a strength of his. “Early days, he probably needed to set a couple of alarm clocks, not just one,” long-time teammate Andrew Mackie recalled in an interview with Cats Media this week. “He had a few troubles getting up in the mornings. He ran late a few times and [then-assistant coach] Brendan McCartney let him know. “He might have sent him home once or twice.” It was an inauspicious start for the boy from Yarrawonga. But, as Mackie is at pains to point out, Lonergan’s approach and standing within the club have changed markedly since then. The 33-year-old is now among the most respected players at the Cattery, his reputation forged by his ability to overcome adversity, including the loss of a kidney after a collision in a game against Melbourne in 2006. And this weekend he finds himself in the spotlight as he prepares to play his 200th AFL game, a milestone that gives his teammates a welcome reason to reflect on what has been a remarkable footballing journey. “His story is very different to everyone else’s,” Mackie said. “No one has been through what he has been through as a footballer. “Even without taking into account the kidney injury, he’s been through a lot: those struggles as a forward, then switching to the backline and basically having to start his career over again. “It’s a credit to him, what he’s been able to achieve.” Lonergan was drafted as a forward from the Murray Bushrangers in 2002. He arrived at the Cats as a tall but lean key position prospect and soon become a popular member of the playing group thanks to his affable personality. However, he initially struggled with the training loads, something his teammates often had a chuckle about. “The training made him really sore,” Mackie explained. “After every big leg-weights session, he could hardly walk the day after. “He suffered a lot from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. He put DOMS on the map, and that’s how he got the nickname Domsy.” He played four games and kicked five goals that year, then struggled to get a look in during the first half of the 2006 season. The afore mentioned clash with the Demons was just his seventh appearance at the highest level. It was early in the last quarter when Lonergan ran back with the flight of the ball and collided with Melbourne’s Brad Miller. The incident looked serious at the time, and the then-22-year-old was rushed to hospital, but no one could have expected the complications that would arise after Lonergan was placed in an induced coma. Internal bleeding cost him one of his kidneys and almost his life. “The whole 24 to 48 hours after the incident were pretty scary,” Mackie said. “There are some things that pop up in your life that make you think about things a lot. That was definitely one for me, and I’d hate to think about what it was like for Domsy’s parents. “I suppose Domsy didn’t know what was going on at that time, which was probably a good thing for him.” Lonergan lost 17kgs during his stay in hospital, and few people expected him even think about playing football again. But once he had fully recovered, he decided he wanted to have another crack at making it in the AFL. The Cats subsequently redrafted him as a rookie and he began slowly building towards a return in the VFL. “I’ve spoken about it a lot over the journey, but it’s quite remarkable that he made it back onto a footy field when you consider it was touch and go that he’d live,” Mackie said. “He obviously felt that he had more to give, that it was his passion, and to his credit he’s gone and done what he wanted to do. Since then, he’s forged a really good career.” Lonergan returned to the field in the VFL midway through the 2007 season. Three months later he captured the imagination of the footy world by kicking six goals and winning the Norm Goss Medal as the Cats defeated Coburg in the VFL Grand Final. But Lonergan’s big break didn’t come until two-time premiership captain Tom Harley retired at the end of the 2009 season. The Cats now needed another key defender. Lonergan, who had struggled to make an impression as a forward in the AFL, was switched to the backline and his career suddenly took off. Yet it probably wasn’t until the 2011 Grand Final that his improvement was widely noticed. That day Collingwood’s Travis Cloke had started brilliantly, kicking two goals on Harry Taylor. But after Lonergan moved on to him, Cloke hardly touched the ball for the rest of the game and Geelong stormed away to win its third premiership in five seasons. “I think he was playing well before that, to be honest,” Mackie said. “He was already doing jobs that were earning him a lot of respect within the playing group. “But that game is the one that caught the eyes of the people outside the club and convinced them that he was a top-liner. “The 2011 Grand Final was a game where it was obvious that he was influential and played a big role in us winning the game. It was great reward for all the work he put in. “He spent so long working on his craft to get himself into a position where he could have a big impact in the biggest game of the year.” Since then, Lonergan has cemented his reputation as one of the best key defenders in the game. He has regularly held the upper hand in his battles against superstar forwards like Buddy Franklin, and continues to calmly set up attacking moves for the Cats. “Where he’s earned the most trust and respect among his teammates is being able to do jobs on big players,” Mackie said. “He’s been able to do those big jobs for a long time now. “His early days of chipping away and learning his craft in the VFL have really strengthened him up for what he’s become. He really had to fight pretty hard to keep developing. It didn’t come easily for him. “So, even nowadays, every AFL game he plays means a lot to him. Every day that he’s able to be a professional footballer is something that he holds dear. One thing Mackie never takes for granted is Lonergan’s courage. “For someone who’s lost an organ, he’s super-courageous,” Mackie said. “I don’t think people talk about his courage as much as they should. “Some of the acts he’s done since having his kidney taken out have been unbelievable. They’re things that are really inspiring. “He’s one of the most courageous players that I’ve seen.” Mackie is rapt that he will run out alongside Lonergan in his milestone game on Saturday night, and he hopes his old mate is proud of all he has achieved. “I suspect it will mean a fair bit to him, given what he’s gone through,” Mackie said. “We don’t play footy to accumulate games, but it is nice to pause when these milestones come around and celebrate an individual. “I think Domsy will look back on the milestone in years to come and be very, very proud of it. “I think his career has been one of the great stories.”