JACK Ginnivan had never even heard the word ‘polarising’ before this year.
But the 19-year-old knows he isn’t opposition fans’ favourite player, not that he cares.
“The people that hate me and doubt me, it really doesn’t faze me and it really makes me want to show how good I am,” Ginnivan told AFL.com.au.
It’s an attitude that’s earned him a shot at the highest level, but also marked him as a target for dissection every time he steps out onto the field.
His now infamous GoPro saga in round one thrust the relative unknown into the spotlight, and it’s there he’s stayed, and thrived.
He doesn’t worry about who he’s up against, whether it be opponents or those commenting from the rafters, he can’t control that, but what is in his control is how he goes about his football.
“(Being an antagonistic player) comes with a lot of responsibility; I’m just trying to be myself and play to the best of my ability,” he said.
“And if people like it around me, it brings a smile to my face.”
His goal against Gold Coast, where he broke four tackles and converted in the goalsquare, is the focus of the next instalment of Monster Energy moments for the AFL’s TikTok channels, a platform where the young gun has racked up just under 200,000 likes on his posts.
But as he comes in for filming at AFL House and he politely greets the crew and demurely asks for instructions, it’s easy to forget that arguably the current biggest name at the biggest club in the land is just a kid.
Not many second-year players command the attention Ginnivan gets, albeit somewhat self-inflicted by his choice of peroxide blonde hair inspired by Essendon’s Matt Guelfi, but the hotter the contest gets, somehow the cooler he seems to stay.
His sparring match with Cats skipper Joel Selwood in just his eighth game alerted the football world that the kid has some moxie, able to ruffle one of the game’s greats and earn a goal in the process.
He was widely criticised for the act, but never one to shy away from the spotlight, backed it up with a best-on-ground performance on Anzac Day in front of 85,000 people.
The piece de resistance? The ‘shushing’ of the Essendon cheer squad after slotting a miraculous goal from the pocket. Not even the most experienced of players would be so daring.
It’s just in his nature to antagonise.
“I’ve done it since I was a little kid, even playing different sports, basketball, cricket, whether it’s a little sledge, just being in your face,” he said.
Ginnivan is riding the wave of a resurgent Collingwood outfit, and he’s leading the charge through his dare and flair.
But it wasn’t always smooth sailing. His 18th birthday was a torrid one.
One of hundreds of hopeful draftees looking to live out their boyhood dream, Ginnivan sat and watched 59 other names called out ahead of his.
With a bunch of his close mates around watching as Gillon McLachlan delivered the news to loungerooms across the country, the feeling of deflation washed over Ginnivan.
But 12 hours later when Collingwood finally said the words he wanted to hear via the 2021 NAB AFL Rookie Draft, it was complete euphoria.
“We were at my house and with all my mates and they were all asleep. I remember just waking up all my mates and telling everyone I was a Collingwood player,” Ginnivan said.
The belated birthday gift of a rookie spot on the Magpies’ list was celebrated for a short time only, replaced with an intense desire to prove himself, to both his new club that handed him a chance and the 17 others that refused.
“There’s obviously a lot of doubters out there … there were 17 clubs that didn’t pick me up before Collingwood,” he said.
“I just have a point to prove.”
And under both Nathan Buckley and Craig McRae, the directive to Ginnivan has been to use the attributes that got him drafted in the first place.
Play with confidence. Play with flair. Simple.
It’s a page out of the book of his childhood idol Dustin Martin, who, like Ginnivan, grew up in Castlemaine in Victoria.
“I love Dusty and he was one of my favourite players growing up, it’s pretty special when you can play and see your childhood hero,” he said of the round eight match where Martin made his return.
Wanting to emulate the Tigers superstar but without direct access to him, Ginnivan approached Pies raging bull Taylor Adams for a helping hand.
“I moved in with (Taylor) for a week and that was really a good experience, you come to the club, and with food and all those little things, waking up early, he’s really helped,” Ginnivan said.
It’s a move that’s paid off for Ginnivan, with 19 goals in nine matches propelling him into the conversation for this year’s NAB AFL Rising Star race.
Pretty good for a kid who had lost faith in his draft prospects just two years ago.
From relative obscurity to a household name, forcing even the toughest of critics in Kane Cornes to tip his hat through his football acts alone, his on-field demeanour will continue to garner him plenty of friends and foes alike.
One thing’s for sure though, Ginnivan knows what polarising means now. And he still doesn’t care.