Ryan O'Keefe

Ryan O'Keefe (born 24 January 1981) is a former professional Australian rules footballer with the Sydney Swans in the Australian Football League (AFL), and was part of the Swans' 2005 and 2012 premiership-winning sides.

Ryan O'Keefe
Ryan O'Keefe playing for Sydney
during the 2006 AFL season
Personal information
Full name Ryan O'Keefe
Date of birth (1981-01-24) 24 January 1981
Original team(s) Calder Cannons (TAC Cup)
Draft No. 56, 1999 National Draft, Sydney
Height 188 cm (6 ft 2 in)
Weight 88 kg (194 lb)
Position(s) Midfielder
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
2000–2014 Sydney 286 (261)
Representative team honours
Years Team Games (Goals)
2008 Victoria 1 (1)
International team honours
2005–2006 Australia 4 (0)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of Round 4, 2014.
Career highlights
Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com

O'Keefe was a member of the 2006 All-Australian side and is one of Sydney's key forwards. He is known for his superb fitness and running ability, as well as his strong marking overhead. He is among the very best in the AFL in terms of ground coverage. It is these abilities that have made up for his slight lack of height and speed, which were obstacles early in his career. He is also a terrific left-foot kick, which has served him well since he transformed from a defender to a forward early in his career with the Swans.

In 2015 Ryan began his coaching career as a midfield development coach with Adelaide.

Early life

Ryan O'Keefe was educated at St Kevin's College in Melbourne, where he was the football team captain. He played for the Calder Cannons in the TAC Cup. In 1999, Ezra Bray lived with O'Keefe's family whilst on an AFL scholarship to attend Essendon Keilor College.

AFL career

O'Keefe was drafted in the 1999 AFL Draft with the 56th selection.[1]

In 2002, O'Keefe's younger brother Aaron died in a car accident. His family had lost another son at nine months of age to sudden infant death syndrome when Ryan was 5 years old.[1] He also has a younger sister and brother. His father Brian played football for Fitzroy reserves and his grandfather Lionel Ryan played for Footscray in the 1950s.[2]

O'Keefe struggled to maintain his place in the Sydney side in his first few years at the club, but his form improved when he concentrated more on running and less on weight training. He also shifted from defence to a midfield and attack role.[1]


O'Keefe played all 26 games in Sydney's premiership year of 2005, having a particularly brilliant finals series, and played one of the best games of his career in the Preliminary Final against the Saints. In the same year, he represented Australia in the International Rules series.


In 2006, he made All-Australian selection,[3] and was once again selected to represent Australia in the International Rules series. He had a highly successful series, scoring more points than any other player. He was awarded the Jim Stynes medal for the best Australian player in the series.[4]

O'Keefe played his 100th AFL game in Round 7 against Richmond. In what was also Paul Williams' 300th game, Sydney defeated Richmond by 118 points.

He came equal second in the running for the Bob Skilton Medal, which is annually awarded to the Best and Fairest player at the Sydney Swans, to one of the three Co-Captains, Brett Kirk.


O'Keefe backed up his All-Australian form of 2006 with a memorable performance through the 07 season, once again finishing second in the votes for the Bob Skilton medal behind Brett Kirk who also was one of shining lights for the Swans.


After a strong start to the season, increased pressure was placed on O'Keefe following the suspension of troubled forward target Barry Hall. O'Keefe also played for the Victorian team for the one-off match in May, but instead of wearing his normal #5, he wore #1.

Following the 2008 Grand Final, O'Keefe signalled his intentions to continue his career elsewhere, specifically in Victoria - his place of birth, after knocking back an initial three-year contract offer by the Swans. After a suitable swap was not able to be arranged during the AFL's "trade week," however, O'Keefe decided against entering a pre-season draft where three teams outside Victoria had picks before any other Victorian teams. He then signed a 4-year contract with the Sydney Swans.[5]

O'Keefe attracted press criticism after making a slow start to the 2009 season, but after moving into a midfield role he performed strongly through the majority of the 2009 season, and was rewarded by being selected as the Bob Skilton medallist for the season.[5]

After a very impressive first month of play in 2010, O'Keefe suffered a concussion against the Brisbane Lions at the SCG which somewhat stalled his season. He also sustained a groin injury later in the year which severely hampered his ability to cover the ground with his elite endurance. Accordingly, he was prevented from spending whole games in the midfield and towards the end of the year he spent more and more time in the forward line. O'Keefe did manage to play some impressive football however, particularly against Hawthorn at the SCG when he blanketed the dangerous Luke Hodge while kicking 4 goals himself (he was awarded 3 Brownlow votes for his game). Since the end of the season, O'Keefe has had groin surgery and will be able to participate in pre-season training.

Having recovered from his debilitating groin injury in 2010, O'Keefe returned to very strong and consistent form in 2011. He spent most of his time in the midfield, though did play some meaningful roles up forward late in the year, kicking 4 goals in the Elimination Final against St.Kilda at Etihad Stadium in a BOG performance and then kicking 3 the next week against Hawthorn in the Swans' Semi Final Loss at the MCG. O'Keefe finished 4th in the Bob Skilton Medal count for season 2011.

O'Keefe won the Norm Smith Medal after his side the Sydney Swans beat Hawthorn by 10 points in the 2012 AFL Grand Final, the first Swans player to do so since the medal's inception in 1979.[6] O'Keefe finished 3rd in the 2012 Bob Skilton Medal after a superb season. He combined magnificently with the likes of Skilton Medal winner Josh Kennedy, Jarrad McVeigh, Kieren Jack, Lewis Jetta, Dan Hannebery and Craig Bird to become one of the best midfields in the competition. In August 2014, O'Keefe quit the Swans due to limited opportunities and was hoping to be picked up by another club next year. However, he announced his retirement a month later on in September, stating his intention to finish his career as a one-club player for Sydney.

Coaching career

In October 2014, O'Keefe was appointed as a midfield development coach at Adelaide to begin his coaching career. In November 2016, he was appointed as coach of the club's SANFL team.[7] After two years with Adelaide, O'Keefe replaced Torin Baker in December 2018 as coach of the Western Jets in the TAC Cup.[8]

Career highlights


 G  Goals  B  Behinds  K  Kicks  H  Handballs  D  Disposals  M  Marks  T  Tackles
Season Team No. Games G B K H D M T G B K H D M T
Totals Averages (per game)
2000 Sydney 39510141024940.
2001 Sydney 5136478209820140.
2002 Sydney 5912862329433141.
2003 Sydney 516175743510941221.
2004 Sydney 5243317244103347124561.40.710.24.314.55.22.3
2005 Sydney 5263133280105385128651.21.310.
2006 Sydney 5253222356119475178641.30.914.24.819.07.12.6
2007 Sydney 5232318282122404122831.00.812.35.317.65.33.6
2008 Sydney 5232326303149452113681.
2009 Sydney 522137287238525951170.60.313.010.823.94.35.3
2010 Sydney 523171526921047998980.70.711.
2011 Sydney 5242020317226543751390.80.813.29.422.63.15.8
2012 Sydney 524207329271600721560.80.313.711.325.03.06.5
2013 Sydney 5251211308267575961640.50.412.310.723.03.86.6
2014 Sydney 541024204411110.
Career 286 261 193 3227 1927 5154 1215 1075 0.9 0.7 11.3 6.7 18.0 4.2 3.8

Personal life

In January 2008 O'Keefe married Tara Duggan[10] and together they have a son Levi born September 2009[11] and a second child, Savannah, born in April 2012.[12]

He was nominated for the Cleo Bachelor of the Year in 2005 and once dated Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark.[13]


  1. Wilson, Caroline (19 July 2003). "Swan plays on in shadow of grief".
  2. Wilson, Caroline (31 October 1999). "Dreams don't come in black or white". The Sunday Age.
  3. "Bolton, O'Keefe bolters in Swans' All-Australian quartet". 12 September 2006.
  4. "Gilbee a late casualty". Herald Sun. 7 November 2006.
  5. Wilson, Caroline (13 September 2009). "O'Keefe now content in Swans' nest".
  6. "Reborn O'Keefe wins Norm Smith Medal". 29 September 2012.
  7. "O'Keefe To Coach Crows SANFL Team". Triple M. 16 November 2016. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  8. "Former Swan appointed coach of Western Jets in TAC Cup". afl.com.au. 5 December 2018. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  9. "Ryan O'Keefe". AFL Tables. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  10. "The big wrap". Sydney Morning Herald. 2 June 2008.
  11. McAsey, Jenny (28 December 2009). "Swans on the rise - O'Keefe".
  12. "O'Keefe wants a sleeper hold off the field". 3 May 2012.
  13. Hinds, Richard (20 August 2005). "O'Keefe puts grief to side".
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