As Leigh Montagna would say, “let the burning of the dwarves begin.” This time of year not only consists of finals footy and the glory that it creates, it also is a time when players are that the privileged chapter of their life they have led has now come to an end. Like a slow racing greyhound, these players will need to be re-wired to fit back into normal society. They will need a lot of attention, happily sleep on the lounge but may chase cats.
North Melbourne made the tough decision to forcibly retire some of their greats…and Michael Firrito. The biggest name of that group was games record holder Brent “Boomer” Harvey, Boomer’s form was good, still believing he has much to offer. However Coach Brad Scott has to put the club ahead of the individual, which is why the club didn’t cash in on individual milestones earlier in the year.
Some players would play forever if they were allowed, if Michael Tuck wasn’t forcibly retired after the 1991 flag, he would be trying to get a one year extension for 2017.
Dustin Fletcher would still be awkwardly tripping opposition players if not for James Hird’s obsession with unnatural tanning methods.
It’s hard for a player to know when to pull the pin, I retired more times than John Farnham. But I kept coming back for the same reasons as Whispering Jack; elderly groupies. I eventually did see the light though, in a near death experience when a player whose father had belted me twenty years before decided to do the same. Circle of life, Hakuna Matata.
International barista Jobe Watson flew back into the country and he would have been enthralled in fellow Brownlow medallist Adam Cooney letting the public in on his pre-game superstitions. From eating the same meals, specific colour energy drinks, shaving arms and legs, failure to brush teeth before a game, to leaving the house at the exact same time each week, Cooney confirmed what most people already knew; AFL players have too much time on their hands.
The one thing that did catch my eye was this quote, “The one superstition I kept throughout my career was strictly no lovemaking the day before a game. The cut-off point was exactly 24 hours before the first bounce. Which coincidently, was my wife’s happiest time of the week.”
Two things spring out at me, besides people who grew up in the 1920’s and the late great Barry White, who uses the term “making love”? And by my maths, there’s a good chance you would be making love to your wife without brushing your teeth for possibly 24 hours or more.
I don’t blame Mrs Cooney either, if his love making was anything like his footy career, it would start off full of excitement and promise, only to end with sore knees, disappointment and Brendan Goddard pointing at you.
Shane Mumford caused a stir when he over stepped the line in sledging Buddy Franklin over his battles with mental illness. There are somethings you steer clear of; race, religion and sexuality are the issues that are a no go zone. I have been known to chirp on the field, if I could get under an opponent’s skin through some well-chosen words I would. The only time it back fired on me was when I was up against a gun ruckman who had once been invited to train with every AFL club at one time or another but refused due to his love of ferreting. Being a keen student of the game I knew this fact, so just before the game I fashioned a realistic replica of his favourite ferret Will, out of a fake fur scarf, buttons, egg carton and straws. I thought before the first bounce I would strike fear into my rival by screaming, telling him that I would take from him what he most loves. I then held aloft fake Will only to drop him to the ground and stomp him into the centre square. I awoke from a medically induced coma three days later to learn we had missed out on the finals due to the match being abandoned.
Last week the Hawks, Isaac Smith had a kick after the siren to win the qualifying final against Geelong, unfortunately for Isaac the kick went wide and the Cats won a pulsating game. People will tell Smith that there were many moments and mistakes throughout the game that could have decided the game, there being kind of course, the Hawks lost because the Hawks winger wasn’t able to keep his cool and ice the game. Some of the chosen few like yours truly make the right decisions under immense pressure, 1999, a brave young ruckman resting in the forward pocket finds himself in the spotlight when a relayed free kick after the siren is awarded in the goal square. Kick a goal and the next week the Chooks are into a Grand Final. I stood metres from the goal line, deep breath, the opposition and supporters of both sides bellowing profanities at me. This was my time, this was when I could help my team when it counted. With that I simultaneously fainted and soiled myself allowing our teams best forward to take the kick and win us the game.
I was dropped for the Grand Final but people still speak in reverent tones about the day a player *some people referred to as country football’s Stefan Carey, selflessly sacrificed himself so his team could play in a premiership decider.
* I once compared myself to Stefan, like his career it didn't catch on.