Magpies player Jarrod Witts (left) competes with Suns player Gary Ablett during the Round 16 AFL match between the Gold Coast Suns and the Collingwood Magpies at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast, Saturday, July 5, 2014.
Magpies player Jarrod Witts (left) competes with Suns player Gary Ablett during the Round 16 AFL match between the Gold Coast Suns and the Collingwood Magpies at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast, Saturday, July 5, 2014. AAP Image - Dave Hunt

Witts speaks up about incident with Magpies coach

JARROD Witts didn't know what all the fuss was about.

The mild-mannered Collingwood ruckman found himself thrust into the spotlight two weeks ago when a certain "jumper grab" grabbed the headlines.

After being sent to the bench just before three-quarter time of the Magpies' round-14 clash with Hawthorn at the MCG, Witts was met by an angry coach Nathan Buckley.

In full view of the 70,000 fans at the "G", and the hundreds of thousands watching at home, Buckley did what is seldom seen in this modern-day, sanitised version of AFL - pulled at the jumper of the 209cm, 113kg giant while making a point.

"There was a couple of incidences where the ball was coming in long (to the Hawks' defence) and I didn't give a good enough contest," Witts, 21, recalled to APN this week.

"I let myself down and let the team down - a goal or two were scored off the back of my mistakes.

"Bucks was reiterating that to me, but at the same time he wanted me to go out in the last quarter and make an impact.

"It got the media coverage, but I didn't read too much into it ... coaches give out sprays all the time.

"I copped it on the chin and just tried my best to come out and make an impact."

While the Magpies went on to suffer a five-goal loss, Witts did use his ample frame to good effect in that final term, going forward and taking a couple of contested marks and kicking two goals.

He said he knew he needed to lift, adding that Buckley's words "just gave me the extra drive to go out and prove to him and prove to the team that I could do it".

Since then the former Sydneysider hasn't looked back, producing the best of his 19 games last week against Carlton (26 hitouts, 17 disposals, six marks and a goal).

That performance means Witts will again be given the number-one rucking duties for the Magpies' crucial clash with Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium this afternoon, despite  the recalled Brodie Grundy joining him in the side.

The pair will do battle with Zac Smith and Charlie Dixon in the ruck, or defender Rory Thompson when stationed forward.

"Ideally, for us to be playing in the same team one of us needs to be going pretty well forward," Witts explained, "making a contest and creating pressure and stuff like that."

The league's second tallest player behind Fremantle's Aaron Sandilands (211cm), Witts has become an overnight sensation - six years in the making.

A former rugby union player in Sydney's north, he  took up Aussie rules only after being persuaded to have a go by mates at St Ives.

"I enjoyed the game and used to go and watch the Swans a fair bit with my family," he said. "So I gave it a go.
"It just went from there."

After being noticed by eagle-eyed talent scouts, he was initially signed by the Magpies as a New South Wales scholarship-holder, before being placed on the senior list in 2011 and then making his debut last year.

"I didn't have an appreciation of how big AFL was down in Melbourne," he said. "When I saw the coverage that it gets, it kind of took me by surprise.

"I'm really glad I made the decision to play AFL."

While his game and his physique is still a work in progress, Witts says his relationship with Buckley has never been stronger.

"He cares about us off the field as much as he does on it," he said.


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