Collingwood should have cut Cloke talks sooner
Travis Cloke marks in the 2011 AFL Grand Final (Slattery Images)
Collingwood did the footy world a favour yesterday in announcing it was putting contract talks with Travis Cloke on hold until the end of the season.
It’s a favour because, well, let’s face it, we all want this over and done with.
While the Pies can’t control when Travis makes a decision, they do have the power to put all the pointless discussion on hold for a bit by calling him out and, more importantly, standing up for themselves.
And that’s exactly what they did yesterday.
The way Cloke has conducted himself of late, including that bizarre interview on The Footy Show, hasn’t reflected well on the club and hasn’t helped their campaign for the 2012 premiership.
While Cloke most definitely has a right to seek out the best possible offer for his services, there simply isn’t a need for him to do so in such a public manner. Especially when it creates unnecessary pressure for the club that he is currently contracted to.
He confirmed to the world on primetime television he had an offer from Fremantle in the vicinity of $1 million.
He confirmed to the world on primetime television he agrees that his contact demands mean either the Pies must let him go or lose another player of decent quality.
These two admissions, both from that famous interview, beg so many questions: What do his team mates think of it all? Would his club approve of him doing this? Is it really possible him and Nathan Buckley are seeing eye to eye right now? Is he really much of a team player? Is there a reason this couldn’t this be kept private?
And because of these questions, the media circle and the issue becomes even bigger. Collingwood suffers.
Put simply, Cloke was dumb for agreeing to sit down with Garry Lyon. But for mine, his biggest mistake lied in what wasn’t said.
There was no, “My number one priority is Collingwood’s 2012 campaign.”
Yes, that line would’ve sounded cheesy. Yes, it can be interpreted as spin. But by failing to emphasise — or even mention — that one basic point, Cloke gave a very good reason for the Magpie faithful to turn on him.
The one thing supporters demand of players above all else — regardless of the size of their pay — is that they are committed to the team and on helping that team achieve premiership glory.
They go to the football on the weekend expecting “their boys” to be unwaveringly dedicated to that elusive goal.
Sadly, Cloke’s public persona has reflected a man more interested in what he’s earning five years from now than lifting the premiership cup alongside his team mates on the last Saturday in September.
You’d like to think that’s not true, but you certainly can’t blame any Magpie fans for believing that.
Lastly, there’s the issue of his form, which has been underwhelming this season, very ordinary the past month and downright terrible the past two weeks.
He’s scoring less goals this year, with just 35 to his name. He’s seeing less of the ball too, with his 15.6 disposals per game last season reduced to 13.1 this season. In the area that is arguably his greatest strength, marks, he’s down from 7.7 per game to 5.9.
There are also signs his forward pressure has dropped off. This is his worst tackling season since 2008 and he’s dropped from 2.8 per game last year down to just 1.8.
When you remember we’re talking about a man who’s only once surpassed the 50-goal mark in a season, you can be forgiven for asking, “is he worth it?”
To that, though, some perspective is needed. Collingwood would much rather have Travis Cloke on their team than on the team of a rival premiership contender. That much cannot be debated.
When Cloke is at his peak, he’s incredibly hard to contain. That, too, must be conceded by all.
He’s also cured that terrible case of the yips he had (he’s on track to kick more goals than behinds two consecutive years for the first time in his career, and do it comfortably).
So yes, Travis Cloke deserves a big contract. And Collingwood appear to have offered him that (things would’ve wrapped up far sooner if they hadn’t).
The problem, though, is that Travis Cloke doesn’t want a big contract. He wants a big, fat, juicy one. For five years, at that.
So much does he want this, he’s been prepared to put unnecessary pressure on his current club — in the heat of a campaign to win the premiership — to get exactly that. He’s also allowed supporters, and anyone else for that matter, to question his commitment to the current season.
As soon as these lines were crossed, Collingwood should’ve called his bluff. “See you at the end of the season,” should’ve been the response.
Better late than never.
Michael DiFabrizio is completing his journalism degree. As an AFL writer, he has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, and appeared in The Age and on ABC television and radio. Follow Michael on twitter @mdifabrizio
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