Jack Macrae is many things to many people.
As a footballer, he’s as solid and dependable a player as they come.
At 25 years of age, he’s a premiership player and an All Australian midfielder.
He’s an elite accumulator of the ball, as his career average of almost 28 disposals per game – across soon to be 150 games at the highest level – makes crystal clear.
An influential distributor with a steely competitiveness and thirst for a contest.
In the public eye of the AFL spotlight, he’s unassuming.
He’s the bass player in the Bulldog band, going about his business with minimal fuss, often flying under the radar.
When you’ve got a front man in Marcus Bontempelli, a young tyro in Bailey Smith on lead guitar, Josh Dunkley supporting on rhythm guitar and the heartbeat, Tom Liberatore, beating the drums, that might be just the way he likes it.
But behind closed doors, there’s a different side to the milestone man.
To his mates, he’s Nator. Or, The Nator.
“He gave the nickname Nator to himself,” teammate Toby McLean says with a laugh.
“It comes from the nickname Macrae-a-nator…. I don’t know what it even means, but it’s stuck.
“Now he’s The Nator. It rolls off the tongue pretty easily. The coaches call him it… everyone calls him The Nator. He calls himself The Nator. He loves talking in third person.”
Lin Jong knows exactly where it came from.
He experienced the evolution of the nickname first-hand.
“It’s not a great story. It’s come from Fortnite… me and a few others play with him, and he kept calling himself the Macrae-a-nator,” Jong said.
“It’s a self-given nickname that just stuck, because he kept saying it over and over. I think Bevo said it one day and it’s there for good now.”
The Nator has done just that since earning an AFL debut in 2013.
He’s missed just ten games in the past seven years, establishing himself among the competition’s elite midfielders.
Macrae loves getting his hands on the ball. And his teammates love it when the ball is in his hands.
“He hasn’t missed many, has he?” McLean said.
“It’s a pretty fair effort, and he’s achieved quite a lot in that 150 as well.
“He’s quite a reliable player, he’ll get his 30 each week and most of them are pretty effective.”
He’s evolved into much more than just a gatherer, according to his teammates.
“He’s a tough, inside midfielder now, whereas early days he was seen more as an outside player, a winger, and the coaches have helped mould him into that role,” Jong said.
“The defensive stuff he does for the team really goes unnoticed because he’s always getting possessions and is known as someone who finds the ball easily.
“But the things he does off the ball have become equally important.”
As a person, Jong described Macrae as a bit of an enigma.
“He’s a bit of a nerd, first of all,” he laughs.
“He’s unassuming and under all those layers he’s a really nice person and he’s actually a very caring person when you get to know him.
“He’s also very humorous. As much as it pains me to say it, he’s an all-round good person.”
McLean is almost happy that players aren’t allowed into each other’s rooms in the hub anymore.
“I’ve probably seen too much of him in the hub,” he says.
“He can get on the annoying side. He loves getting under your skin, he loves winding you up.
“On the other side, he loves his alone time where he gets to play Fortnite and COD, or whatever it is. And he’ll tell you he’s good at it too.”
Macrae has often been the victim of player profile stitch-ups – that it’s a privilege when he acknowledges you and that he struggles to shout a coffee.
There’s truth to one part of it.
“The coffees… I’ve definitely bought him more coffees than he’s bought me,” Jong says with a laugh.
For all the stitch-ups, and behind all the layers, there’s no doubt Macrae is a man loved by his mates, for reasons on and off the footy field.
“I’m lucky enough to call him a really, really good friend of mine beyond football,” Jong says.
“That’s just his personality, quiet and unassuming. He doesn’t need the spotlight for anything.
“In these four walls, we know how important he is to us… and he tells us how important he is, so that’s good enough for him.”
Macrae loves footy.
And for the laidback character he is to his mates, his competitiveness is never lacking.
“He loves talking about footy. He loves talking about how good he is at footy,” McLean laughs.
“He loves touching the footy and he’ll do anything to do that. He wants to influence games; he wants to help the team as much as he can.
“Off the field, he’s very laidback.
“But as soon as he crosses that white line, you know he’s going to give his 100 per cent… as soon as it gets to game day, that’s where he turns it on.”
That’s exactly what the red, white and blue faithful will be looking forward to on Wednesday night.
Nick Vlastuin would have played his 150th today too if not injured. He and Macrae both debuted in Rd 1 2013.Arguably all 3 having career best seasons as well (Macrae on a par with other years, Daniel and Williams their best year to date).
Also along with Crozier and Smith, our most consistent players this year.
Be great to get over the line in this one!