THIS time it was different, from the very first second. This time Jarrad McVeigh got to watch his wife hold their newborn daughter for more than a few minutes. This time the delivery room wasn’t swarming with doctors and nurses waiting to rush the baby away. This time Jarrad got to lift little Lolita into his car, to take his family home.

Now, he’s speaking on the phone from his Sydney home and she is in the background, screaming as loudly as she can. It’s nice noise. ”You know what?” says McVeigh, of his eight-week-old baby. ”It actually is. It’s a pretty good thing to come home to every day.”

It’s still hard. It probably always will be. At the end of July, Jarrad and Clementine celebrated what would have been the first birthday of their daughter, Luella. They took her ashes to the beach, walked together and talked about their little girl. Then, just four weeks later, they did it all again, this time to remember the day she died. These days, Jarrad doesn’t think so much about the serious heart problems Luella was born with, the hours on end they spent massaging her tiny limbs, all the operations she underwent. Instead, he wonders what would she be getting up to now?

”We talk about her all the time. We pretty much talk about her every day and the tears are there, but they’re starting to feel a little bit further away, a little bit less frequent,” McVeigh told the Herald this week. ”I find myself thinking: Would she be walking now? What sort of personality would she have? We had a lot of friends have babies around the time and we look at them and wonder whether Luella would be doing all the things they’re starting to do.

”Those feelings can be strange. They can be upsetting, but then you look over at Lolita and she’s smiling, she’s really alert at the moment and you can see the similarities with Luella. She’s like a smaller version of her, you can see it in her face already and we feel like she’s a little angel, like she’s given us something we missed out on. So we keep learning, learning how to cope. We’ll always remember Luella, what she brought to our lives. That’s something you don’t ever want to forget, which means it’s going to be hard at times, but now we have a new little one to focus on, and spoil, and just love and be grateful for.”

McVeigh knows last year changed him, or at least reshaped his perspective. What he can’t be sure of is whether he seems like a changed person to his teammates, particularly the younger members of the side he co-captains. He uses the world ”resilient” a lot and feels like he knew what that meant before last year – that he knew how to play through injuries, how to pick himself up when things weren’t going to plan.

He played 20 games in 2004, his second year on Sydney’s list, but just 13 the following season, missing out on a spot in the premiership side because he was injured, then not playing well enough. He swore he’d never play in another reserves match and hasn’t. ”I think I’ve always been determined to do well,” he said.

Still, football is a little bit different this year. McVeigh turned up, trained and played last year, though his mind was understandably elsewhere. ”Last year, it was just tough. Whatever was in front of me, I did the best I could. I really tried to be resilient, and not let things affect me, and carry myself to a high standard. I wanted people to let me know if I wasn’t doing that.”

McVeigh knows how important it is to not sweat the little things, to enjoy what is possible, to make the most of whatever is happening next. He’s enjoying the thought of what the Swans could do in the next few weeks. ”That’s what we’ve spoken about, all this week,” he said. ”You never know when your career might be over, when you might get a freak injury, when you might never get to play another game.”

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