Creating An AFL Champion

Creating An AFL Champion

I think it was American rapper Jay Z who said "It's 99% mental, 1% physical, never a truer phrase has been said, except it's not really correct and he didn't actual say that. I think his song focused on his troubles with the law whilst bragging about the amount of female company he kept.

My point is, Mr Z knows as much about elite Aussie Rules players as the surviving member of Kris Kross or Damian Barrett. If all it took was a strong mind, Steven Hawking would be rolling down the member’s wing of the MCG defying motionless limbs to put the footy lace out to a hard leading Bill Gates.

Mental toughness is essential though for AFL players if they want to make it to the top, and that's where I come in.

Those who have tracked my career are aware I never knew my parents, but with all my physical limitations I'd hypothesise that they were related, drug addicts or both.

For starters, I have literally no vertical leap, which is a challenge when you play in the ruck. My lack of spring can be attributed severely bowed legs, cankles and fallen arches.

I have the upper body strength slightly below an eight year old girl. I know this because a former coach's daughter slam tackled me once when I attempted to take some of her hot chips.
My aerobic fitness has never been a strength since I developed chronic foot pain in my teenage years, although doctors diagnosed it as gout, I point to the fact that my alcoholism only took hold after the onset of a hormone imbalance that caused me to develop permanently engorged nipples.

But I overcame all of these hurdles along with a severe body odour issue that caused me to tape car air fresheners around my torso like a drug mule so teammates would tolerate my presence to play over 300 games.

My way was sledging opponents or "metal disintegration" as former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh called it. If you could get inside a rivals head and get them thinking about causing you physical harm you were well on the way to victory and a concussion. I once got a former champion player who was renowned for his ice man persona to completely lose the plot when I did an Alex Fasolo and relieved myself in a plastic cup. I then gestured to throw it on him. The gesture did in fact result in the contents of the cup landing on the champ and him then landing multiple blows upon yours truly. Moral of the story, everyone has a tipping point.
As young players come into the AFL system, they have been lauded from a very young age.

They've been told how talented they are, that they are better than everyone around them and given more opportunities than others as they grow up. It's easy for these junior stars to believe the hype and get ahead of themselves.

Jack Watts

A few years ago I was lucky enough to have a bit to do with a star junior footballer by the name of Jack Watts, I offered myself as a sounding board; mentor if you will to the burgeoning super star. Jack in his laid back dry wit way said he would rather take advice from a tickle-me-Elmo doll than listen to a drunken hack. Ah Jack, always joking around, but if the lad had no direction; his destiny to become one of the all-time greats would be at risk.

Modern football seems to be dictated by social media, I'm no expert but I imagine it's all a big love in with well-meaning fans fawning over players only highlighting the highs and stroking their already healthy egos. My boy Jack does not need over the top praise, that is why after every one of his games I list all the clangers, errors and compile a sometimes cutting essay of his performance. To keep him grounded I sometimes have to be cruel to be kind and constructive criticism becomes a personal attack on his character.

Jack is a busy young man and is unable to take my weekly calls; I usually leave several voicemail messages for him after the game. The only regret I have is by the time the game is over and I have penned his critique, I'm about three quarters through a slab and become somewhat emotional. Or as his lawyers have claimed "conducting a never ending barrage of sadistic verbal assaults."

But I like to think because of my "tough love" I have in some small way shaped the way the footy world sees this complex football genius


- The Lone Ruckman