Were Richmond right to boot Connors and Martin?
In what has been dubbed “Tiger Turmoil” by the AFL’s website, we’ve seen a fringe player sacked and a young star suspended for taking sleeping pills, drinking alcohol, and failing to attend football training.
Seems a little harsh, right?
I thought surely taking sleeping pills, especially since one of those players was prescribed the medication, wouldn’t warrant that kind of punishment.
In this situation you have levels of unprofessionalism and lapses of judgement, but a sacking and a suspension? Surely Richmond has gone too far.
I pondered my initial thoughts, weighed up the players and their given situations, looked at the current landscape of world sport and came to the conclusion that although the punishments seemed harsh, Richmond’s decision was the correct one.
Look at it this way.
Players cop a hell of a lot. Superstars of the game are victims of an Australian epidemic called Tall Poppy Syndrome, run-of-the-mill players rarely receive accolades even if they have a good game here and there, and the players who aren’t well known are labelled “duds” and are presumed to have no skill or worth on a football field.
It seems that whether you’re Gary Ablett Jr or an anonymous rookie, ridicule will inevitably come your way.
As professional athletes, AFL players are constantly in the public eye, so for every off-field indiscretion, their club receives a blow to its reputation.
Every child who donned the number 25 on the back of a Carlton jumper was constantly let down by their idol and role model in Brendan Fevola.
As a kid, I looked up to players like Warren Tredrea and Andrew McLeod. And if those players stuffed up, I’d feel let down too.
It’s important to maintain an immense level of professionalism in professional sport, because the whole world is watching.
Taking sleeping pills, drinking alcohol, and failing to attend a training session may seem like a small deal in the grand scheme of things, however those players knew what they were doing was wrong and continued anyway.
Daniel Connors has been in trouble off field before. Quite a number of times. He was on his last chance. He knew that. But he continued to disobey direct orders from the club.
Only two weeks ago, as Connors played a significant role in the Tigers’ win over GWS, coach Damien Hardwick stated that Connors was starting to earn the respect of his teammates back.
And then he goes and does something as silly as this.
As for Dustin Martin, he needs to grow up. We don’t want another star of this competition succumbing to stupid behaviour and ruining such a promising career.
We’ve seen it happen so many times before. This is his first off-field indiscretion, sure, however Ben Cousins had his first stuff up, and then another, and then another.
I’m sure Dustin won’t follow in a similar vein to that of Cousins, however he needs to realise the seriousness of these damaging patterns of behaviour.
By suspending Dustin Martin and sacking Daniel Connors, Richmond has done what few have done before: they’ve sorted it out before it gets out of hand.
Brendan Fevola went through a bar fight in Ireland, several mad Monday incidents, and other drunken antics before finally being sacked after making an embarrassment of himself at the most prestigious and important night on the AFL calendar, the Brownlow Medal.
Richmond doesn’t want a similar thing to happen to any of its players. Connors was well aware of the situation. Martin knows his responsibilities. Both deserved their punishments.
But the question remains, what does it all mean?
It shows that clubs are growing intolerant of stupidity. They want to set the highest possible standards in sport. The fact that clubs act swiftly to ensure that those standards remain intact shows a high level of maturity and one which has become a welcome inclusion in sporting society.
I’ll sum up with this. If clubs, by acting in such a way, can prevent another superstar from being blasted into proverbial oblivion by their own selfish and immature ways, then it’s a fantastic thing to happen to our game and sport in general.
Well done, Richmond.