Halt the hysteria, Tex Walker was just being honest

Andrew Hurrell Roar Rookie

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    If entertainment was the purpose of the AFL trade period, the line that it should be far, far shorter might hold. Because with the current, 11-day window, desperate journalists are forced to rehash the same tired stories over and over.

    AFL Trade Radio replayed Tex Walker’s Tuesday morning interview with Triple M almost hourly this week, as though we might hear something new each time.

    “I give full credit to Jake because he rocked up every day,” Walker said. “He bought into our program, he trained hard, he set high standards. That’s all I can ask of a player. Right to the end, he gave us all he had.

    “I didn’t have a crack at him, I was pretty honest because I don’t like people leaving our footy club.”

    Sounded like the same message all day to me, yet some only heard Tex’s other quote:

    “It was pretty much to do with money. He said he had decided to leave the footy club and I said, ‘mate if that’s the decision you want to make two days out from losing a grand final, I think our footy club is going in the right direction’. I pretty much said to him he’s choosing money over success.”

    Walker earns far less at the Crows than he would on the open market. Set to become a free agent in 2018, in June he extended his contract until the end of 2021, again for well under his market value.

    The Age quoted him saying four years ago, “I’m not a big fan of free agency. I think it takes a lot of loyalty out of the game.”

    Despite personally walking the talk, Tex woke on Wednesday morning to reports he was a hypocrite, a goose and a buffoon who maybe shouldn’t be captain.

    But let’s reflect on what happened. Walker was asked to share what he’d said to Lever over the phone when informed the latter wanted to leave. In answering that question, the skipper aired his views on Lever’s motives. It is fair to question Walker’s judgement in being so forthright, yet no one could doubt that he was expressing his heartfelt opinion.

    It is irrelevant how Jimmy Bartel chooses to define ‘success’, what matters to Walker is that his team are on a premiership journey. If it takes financial sacrifice to get there, he believes in making that sacrifice. Given this deeply held faith, Walker can only see Lever’s departure as choosing money over success.

    That Melbourne may win a premiership before the Crows is not the point – Walker believes they won’t and, feeling as he does, expressing his view on the matter is not buffoonery, it’s honesty.

    He did not say anything to the media that he had not said directly to Lever himself, he did not ask more of Lever than he gave of himself, and he did not say anything he did not believe to be true.

    That said, Walker is a goose – for trusting the footy media to handle his forthrightness without hysteria.

    Would we get such overreaction if we did not have so many AFL commentators on high alert, with Trade Radio broadcasting from dawn to dusk, along with the major sports radio shows, despite very little visible progress each day?

    Glaciers move quicker and even the Socceroos look exciting compared wall-to-wall coverage of a trade-free trade day. Unsurprisingly, the news vacuum gets filled with opinion, conjecture, click bait and fake news released to sway trade debate.

    Wouldn’t it be better to knock it off in three days?

    Imagine the excitement, every day chock-a-block with trades! And if this were the main game and the AFL rules committee got their hands on it, no doubt we’d see a tighter schedule.

    However, as much as we try and turn this into compulsory viewing, listening and reading, and as obsessed as fans are by the outcomes, the purpose of trade period remains to facilitate the transfer of players from clubs they don’t want to be at to ones they do, and from clubs that don’t need them to ones that do.

    The stakes are high, affecting careers and livelihoods, families’ welfare, and teams’ competitiveness.

    Trades involve contracts, medical testing, negotiations between 18 clubs spread over five states, countless players – many overseas – and their managers. Inconvenient and boring as this may be for press and fans alike, this takes time.

    Should we really rush it for our own entertainment to the detriment of the process itself and the purpose it serves?