Pressure getting to some AFL stars
Nick Duigan and Chris Judd head to the rooms (Photo: Darrian Traynor/AFL Media)
The last few weeks of the AFL season have reached a feverish level of intensity normally kept till the race for the finals.
The race is well and truly on now, with no less than six teams desperate to squeeze into the last two spots.
I often wonder what separates the sides that have what it takes to play in September from the ones that fall short, and no it’s not just your win and loss ratio for those playing at home.
They say AFL is a mental game and recently the footy world has seen some vivid examples of this being the case. AFL stars Brendon Goddard and Chris Judd, despite the fact they are well known as leaders amongst men, have both had the proverbial brain snap in the last few weeks.
Goddard let his frustrations get the better of him when against North two weeks ago he felled Sam Wright behind the play after the 22-year-old had his measure all day.
The very next week, Judd was cited by the field umpire for ‘wrenching’ Leigh Adams’ arm while he was pinned in a tackle and subsequently caused the Roos hard nut off the field for treatment to his already sore right shoulder.
It is easy to wallpaper over these issues as a one off, but the fact is both of these decorated players have had a history of letting their emotions beat them in the heat of the moment.
Opposition coaches and players are no doubt wise to the players who have a ‘short fuse’ and as the pointy end of the season approaches, we will begin to see that extra step be taken to ensure everything is done to put the stars off their game.
Unfortunately for Goddard and Judd, they don’t seem likely to make their mark on September action this year. Mental demons and pressures have been the Achilles heel of both in 2012.
Pressure is a term commonly thrown around in our game. Unfortunately we see it piled on as much outside the white line as it is in a game these days, with social and public expectation a huge responsibility to shoulder for the players.
You could imagine an 18-year-old kid getting drafted by a side like GWS, a Toby Greene or Stephen Coniglio, for example, that have moved interstate, earmarked as being the best 18 year olds in the country and then automatically labeled as role models for every aspiring kid that wants to play footy.
Yes, $150,000 a year for a rookie makes it an easier ride on that front but it’s still a big task none-the-less.
The question I pose is simple, does the pressure and expectations of AFL players match up to the royalties and general adulation they receive from the fans?
I believe it does but wonder if there is enough done at club level to keep them grounded and aware that every single thing they do, even off-field, will be scrutinised their whole career.
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