Is there such thing as a good loss in AFL?
To some, a loss is a loss. No matter how well a certain player or team has performed during a game, there is no such thing as an honourable defeat. Professional athletes are paid to win – nothing else.
To others, a loss is just as valuable as a win. Sometimes you learn more about yourself and your team by losing.
Often when analysing your individual or team’s effort after going down, the regret or disappointment you feel can motivate you to improve in a certain area and come back stronger next time. Don’t get bitter, get better.
So is there such a thing as an honourable defeat? Does a loss have its positives? Or is it purely a negative connotation?
If you do believe in a good loss, then there was a match this past weekend that epitomised it.
The AFL had its own David and Goliath storyline on Saturday night, when a confidence-sapped Essendon shocked the footy community and knocked over the undefeated Geelong by four points.
Undoubtedly, it was the biggest upset of the season to date, particularly after the pasting the Bombers had received for their on-field performances over the past month.
What was most interesting to observe though was the body language of both sides after the game.
Understandably, Essendon players were ecstatic with their performance. Fans lifted their arms into the air in unison as the final siren went and players ran to their teammates to congratulate each other on a gutsy victory.
In the Geelong camp it was a different, yet strange, story. Players didn’t collapse to the ground in sheer frustration, which is what you’d normally see after a team’s suffered a narrow loss.
Instead, the Cats were calm – almost emotionless. They were in shock, as if they’d forgotten how to lose. They just stood there.
Sure, they would’ve been disappointed with the loss. After all, the Cats were soundly beaten statistically, accumulating less than 300 disposals for the first time since Round 20, 2006.
But was this the loss the Cats needed to have? After 13 consecutive victories, was it the wake-up call they needed? Will the loss benefit them in the long-term?
If it’s timely and done in the right spirit, there are certainly benefits to having a loss.
Geelong didn’t go into the game or play the game with an arrogant mindset, but Saturday night’s loss was a reminder that Geelong players are human after all.
It was a reminder that they’re not an invincible team. It was a reminder to them to never be complacent and to never take any team lightly, no matter how bad its recent form is or how low it is on the ladder.
Perhaps the occasional loss re-energises and motivates players and coaches.
When Port Adelaide defeated Geelong at Skilled Stadium in Round 21, 2007, it ended the home team’s 15-match winning streak. Four weeks later, the same teams met in the grand final, with the Cats producing a perfect premiership victory to the tune of 119 points.
In 2000, Western Bulldogs famously defeated Essendon in Round 21, cutting the Bombers’ undefeated run short at 20 games. However the Bombers went on to win the premiership a month later – convincingly too.
Were these losses perfectly timed? Did the two teams need to have them?
There are some who believe a loss has no benefits at all. In the end, a loss doesn’t get you anywhere. You don’t move any higher up the ladder or improve your percentage.
After a long run of wins, does one loss, or more likely a string of shock defeats, put doubt into the minds of players, coaches and supporters?
If so, plenty of nagging questions start to linger. Has the coach’s game plan gone stale? Have opposition teams finally figured it out? Are the players executing the game plan well enough?
Maybe Geelong’s recent loss has motivated other AFL clubs too and given them fresh hope of beating them.
Teams such as the in-form West Coast, who play the Cats at home this Friday night, will now go into games against the Cats with a little extra confidence.
It’ll be fascinating to see how the Cats respond on Friday night. The Eagles will certainly have some extra confidence, but they’ll also know their opposition is a class act and will be motivated to bounce back strongly.
So where do you stand?
Is there such a thing as a good loss? Or is a loss just that?