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The double life of Ryan

Swans Media - Tanya Paolucci  February 5, 2013 11:53 AM

SwansTV: O'Keefe the professional Swans veteran Ryan O'Keefe speaks to SwansTV about his rigorous preparation
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After 13 years at the Sydney Swans, Ryan O'Keefe still has a hunger for the competitiveness of the AFL

When it comes to football, Sydney Swans midfielder Ryan O’Keefe admits he has a split personality.

While many on the outside would not see the difference, the midfielder’s team mates, coaches and family know all too well the ‘in-season Ryan’ and the ‘off-season Ryan’.

The in-season Ryan is a non-stop training machine - he works harder and longer and follows a strict routine and diet. By contrast the off-season Ryan is much more relaxed both at home and at the club and even affords himself the odd round of golf.

The club veteran, who took part in last week’s four-day Coffs Harbour training camp, took time out to talk to SwansTV about the re-emergence of ‘in-season Ryan’ ahead of the 2013 AFL season.

“I probably am a little bit extreme,” O’Keefe admits.

“My wife says I’ve got two Ryans at home – in-footy Ryan and off-footy Ryan – and I think she likes the off-footy one a little bit better because he’s probably a little bit more calm and relaxed.”

In-season, O’Keefe’s attention to detail is hard to mistake. In the gym he methodically executes his weights program and on the track he attacks the ball as if it was game day, while in the lunch room, he meticulously monitors his diet to efficiently fuel his body.

O’Keefe says his fanatical in-season approach is what keeps him in top shape from February to September.

“I’m fanatical on my diet and what goes in my mouth – I’m really fussy over that and it probably drives a couple of people up the wall at home,” he said.

“When you’re young you’re not sure about a few things and have to learn the ropes, but I’ve found over time that it doesn’t matter what you do, whether it be playing our game or another professional sport, what you do outside your training hours can affect the way you perform.

“It could be the amount of sleep you get and the quality of your sleep and what activities you’re doing. It’s all these little things that people sort of take for granted that have to be in the back of your mind.”

The 32-year-old produced a sensational 2012 campaign, which culminated in being awarded the Norm Smith Medal in last year’s Grand Final victory over Hawthorn.

In addition to his exceptional finals’ campaign, which saw the midfielder average 33 possessions and over 11 tackles per game, O’Keefe also played all but one game for the Swans in a premiership year.

The 257-gamer said his strict routines are in place to ensure his body can go the distance when crunch-time comes.

“I know my body and I know I can push the envelope extra, and I think that is something you have to learn in how far you can take your body,” O’Keefe said.

“If you constantly keep pushing the envelope you know in a game, in that final quarter, you can keep going.

“I’m probably a bit of a closet trainer when it comes to extra bits of training, but I’ve learnt over time what I can take to make a difference.”

And after 13 seasons of an intense schedule of training, lifestyle, and diet, O’Keefe said he still can’t get enough of playing AFL for the Swans and won’t be changing his routines any time soon.

“I just love playing footy and I just thrive on the competitiveness and the whole thing, and it’s the best job in the world and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else,” he said.

“Two things keep you playing: your body and your mind, and at the moment my body, touch wood, is pretty sound and I keep myself super fit so I can take the rigours of the season, and then obviously the mind needs to stay sharp and you need to enjoy what you’re doing, and I love what I’m doing.”