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Jake Neade is Port Adelaide's big heart

Harry Thring  April 28, 2013 10:43 AM

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Jake Neade has made a huge impact on Port Adelaide and the AFL

I can't speak highly enough of him, he's one of the most infectious, exciting, great people that I've ever played footy with
HOW does a heart so big fit into the tiny frame of Port Adelaide speedster Jake Neade?

At 170cm and 64kg, the 18-year-old is the smallest player in the AFL but judging by the way he plays the game you wouldn't think it true.

When his side was 41 points down 11 minutes into the third quarter against West Coast on Saturday night, of all the players on the ground it would have been easiest for Neade to concede defeat.

Instead, he was the catalyst for what proved a remarkable fight back.

His goal late in the third term and two goal assists for the match, combined with his now-trademark speed, courage in contested situations and intense forward pressure helped the Power boot eight of the last nine majors to edge home.

Neade said his young side's maturity to lift when required filtered down from a leadership group including Travis Boak, Hamish Hartlett and Brad Ebert.

Talking points: Power v Eagles

Of his own ability, he said he only knew how to play one way and that he was at ease with igniting his older and more experienced teammates if need be.

"When the game's on the line just keep trying and trying, grinding, and then if it's not coming your way, at least you walk off the field feeling like you've done everything," Neade told AFL.com.au.

"If I'm not doing well I'll take it upon myself and try and get my forward pressure up because all the boys look at me for forward pressure and tackling pressure.

"I just try and play my role and everyone else plays their role, we just try and lean on each other.

"Kenny (Hinkley) tells us to play one way and that's if it's your turn to go, to go, and if it's not, then leave it up to your teammates."

Neade's never-say-die philosophy has worked wonders for him throughout his football career.

I thought we were gone: Hinkley

Neade was a key figure in Northern Territory's win in last year's division two title at the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, taking out the Harrison Medal as the division's best player while he was at it.

He didn't lose a game in three seasons with Victoria's St Patrick's College.

Since joining the Power, Neade has drawn huge praise from his AFL teammates, including 250-game veteran Kane Cornes.

Cornes described the live wire as one of the best tacklers and team players he had seen, calling Neade an inspiration.

"I can't speak highly enough of him, he's one of the most infectious, exciting, great people that I've ever played footy with," Cornes said.

"To come in and do what he's done as an 18-year-old … is inspiring for the rest of the group.

"His ability to tackle, his ability to play pure team Port Adelaide football is as good as I've seen."  

Like all new players, Neade's string of consecutive games will eventually end to offer the teenager a well-deserved rest. Ken Hinkley and his coaching staff will have a job trying to get Neade to willingly give up his position in the Power's side.

He's loved his initiation into AFL football and, as if you'd have expected anything else from the crowd favourite, he said while he kept getting picked he'd keep giving everything he could.

"At the end of this game I was a bit tired," he laughed.

"'Burgo' (high performance manager Darren Burgess) and the coaching staff will decide [my selection] but if they put me in the team then I'll just give my 100 per cent, like always."

Harry Thring is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Harry.