A tick over ten years since he made his debut in black and white, Jarrod Witts is in contention to run out for his 150th AFL match when the GC SUNS meet Melbourne in Saturday’s Round to RizeUp clash at Heritage Bank Stadium.
Saturday’s game will be his 110th in SUNS colours and the towering ruckman says he’s come a long way since putting pen to paper with Collingwood as a 15-year-old from New South Wales.
“It’s a nice milestone for myself. A lot of hard work has gone into it and it’ll be a good weekend with friends and family coming up,” Witts said.
“It’s been a long journey. I started playing footy when I was 15 just to play with mates and it’s ended up here. I’m extremely privileged and there’s been a lot of hard work too, so it’s nice to get here.
“I spoke to a few family members and my brother, who’s an accountant and is pretty good with numbers, reckons it was 10 years to the day that I made my debut, today.”
The math adds up. The 209cm ruck ran out for his first AFL game in a 26-point win for Collingwood on May 3, 2013 and has become not only one of the game’s finest ruckman, but more influential captains since those days as a young rugby union and cricket convert from Sydney.
“When I signed the contract with Collingwood when I was 15, the AFL had a really clear way for people in NSW to get to the AFL when other codes didn’t,” Witts continued.
“To be given that opportunity at such a young age I think it would have been remiss to not take it. As you get a taste for more, you want to keep improving and that’s where it’s led me to today.”
Senior Coach Stuart Dew, who appointed Witts as SUNS co-captain, then alongside David Swallow, for the first time back in 2019, shared nothing but praise for the milestone man.
“He’s a great story, coming through the pathways in New South Wales. He played a little bit of footy at Collingwood but came up here for opportunity. To end up where he is now… he’s just a fantastic leader for our football club,” Dew said.
“He’s a competitor, he loves winning and hates losing and that drives a lot of his conversations. Everyone knows he’s very genuine and everything he says is with a view of influencing positively.
“All the best captains and leaders are best at that.”
Almost fittingly, the skipper faces one of the toughest ruck challenges in the AFL in his milestone game, up against Demons duo Max Gawn and former Collingwood teammate Brodie Grundy.
“Brodie and I went at it in the early days at the Pies for a few years so we’ve played on each other a lot and clearly Max is in great form,” Witts continued.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for us as a team to try and work them out.
Saturday’s game marks the third annual Round to RizeUp in which the SUNS will join forces alongside Major Charity Partner RizeUp to raise funds and awareness for families afflicted by domestic and family violence.
The SUNS will wear special Round to RizeUp guernseys with the playing group leading donations with a $5,000 contribution to RizeUp. The guernseys will be auctioned following the match with further opportunities for SUNS members and supporters to donate on match day.
First bounce at Heritage Bank Stadium is at 4.35pm with a top-of-the-table VFL clash against Casey Demons as the curtain raiser from 12.05pm. Tickets are available through Ticketek.