The Eagle on the edge
Patrick McGinnity. Picture: Lincoln Baker.

Play the game. Name the Eagle.

The clues; he's nondescript, a foot soldier and a single Brownlow vote would be cause for celebration. His kicks clear a jam tin, though he hasn't booted more than one goal in a game. But he has a big heart, a willing temperament and is the archetypal team player.

Listed as Patrick, Paddy fits the playing persona a lot better.

Patrick is far too formal for this blue-collar West Coast utility player who is as honest as the game is long.

Adam Selwood calls him the Junk Yard Dog.

Of course it's Patrick McGinnity, the 23-year-old Eagle and probably the least recognisable on the street of the regular players at the club.

That, though, is the least of his problems.

McGinnity's face will never be on a billboard, but he is just happy to be out there and feels every week he gets named in the team it's like a golfer surviving the cut.

Preparing for his 62nd game tonight at the MCG against Hawthorn, McGinnity said he had spent his career being motivated to perform at his absolute maximum to push his case for re-selection the following week.

"Every week I'm the guy that's just missing out or just getting a game, I think," McGinnity said.

"For me that's a good thing, a good way for me to keep myself motivated. I work pretty hard during the week and in games just to keep my spot."

The self-effacing battler downplays his season somewhat because he has played every game in 2012 since round six, though he has suffered corrugations at the selection table in previous seasons.

Still, come the end of any week, McGinnity starts to get a little edgy because his spot in the team doesn't come with any gilt-edged security.

"I'm never safe," he said.

"I consider myself always on the verge. Every week I'm out there I consider myself pretty lucky and I have to work hard for my spot.

"But over the last three seasons, I've definitely played more games than I thought I would have three years ago. I'm definitely proud of what I've got out of myself so far but there is still a long way to go. So much of my game I need to improve and I need to do it quick."

Selwood said the "outside world" was ignorant to the benefits that McGinnity brought to the team.

"I call him the Junk Yard Dog," Selwood said. "He does the little things, I guess, that the outside world doesn't really know about, especially defensive pressure and playing that accountable role that we need up forward and through the midfield.

"He's probably best suited to be a back man but understands in terms of the fit of the side at the moment he needs to play a different role. And he's adapted really well."

McGinnity, a product of Marist Football Club and Claremont, has played most of the season up forward, primarily because of the loss of Mark LeCras, Mark Nicoski and Brad Sheppard.

For him, it's a matter of following orders.

"Beggars can't be choosers," McGinnity said. "I like the challenge of playing back but I've really enjoyed playing forward this year because it is so new to me to be up there around goals, setting up goals. I've really enjoyed the challenge of breaking my man offensively rather than breaking him defensively."

McGinnity's reputation has been built around a dogged approach to the defensive side of the game, but he understands the need to broaden his portfolio.

"I'm in the team no matter where I'm playing for my defensive skills, my ability I guess to pressure the opposition," he said.

"And my offensive side of the game is the work in progress.

"I work on my kicking non-stop during the week, and I'm working at taking the game on and being able to hurt the opposition the other way. Once I master that I will be a lot better for it.

"It's what I spoke with the coaches about after last season and I think it's obvious to everybody what my strengths are and what aspects of the game that I need to work on. They are open about it and so am I. Kicking and offensive skills are the ones I need to work on."

In another life, McGinnity was a free-wheeling midfielder "getting my own ball", but he realised that his pathway to the AFL could run into roadblocks if he continued along that track.

The penny dropped during the 2007 under-18 championships in a game between Vic Metro and WA in Perth when McGinnity had a day out in a lockdown role on Trent Cotchin, now an elite midfielder and regarded by many as a future Richmond captain.

"Before then I was just another midfielder running around getting my own footy," McGinnity said.

"That was the day I realised maybe if I pushed this side of the game I might make it in the big league. After that, clubs started showing a little bit of interest in me and I thought if I play this role I might as well do it well."

Selwood believes the best of McGinnity is yet to come.

"His skills are improving, you can see in his game that he's evolving and developing," Selwood said.

"He's probably never going to kick like Shannon Hurn but he knows his limitations and works extremely hard to try to broaden them as much as he can.

"I guess to see him where he was three or four years ago to where he is now, he's just one of those players who keeps ticking over, gets it done, and you probably look back in 10 years time and go, he was a really good player for the Eagles.

"There's definitely a role for him going forward. He'll keep playing this role for a while and then there are guys who will move on and you know he's a ready replacement for positions all over the ground."

"Every week I'm the guy that's just missing out or just getting a game, I think. I work pretty hard during the week and in games just to keep my spot."" *Patrick McGinnity *

The West Australian

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