Any time a rookie draft selection hits a milestone someone in footy media trots out the term ‘Moneyball’.
The fact that the career of Hawthorn defender Trent Croad is now in doubt – due to a serious foot injury – has raised a number of questions about the way AFL clubs try and hide the true story in relation to injured players.
Croad’s future has been on the agenda for the past two months, after he broke his foot in last year’s Grand Final.
He has not played a senior game this season, and has been ruled out of the final three rounds of the home-and-away season.
This week it was revealed that Croad may not play again.
On MMM radio in early June, Hawthorn director Jason Dunstall threw a bucket of rice over caller Steven Quartermain during a pre-match broadcast.
Dunstall had grown frustrated at Quartermain’s belief that Croad’s career was in doubt.
Whether throwing a bucket of rice at Quartermain was warranted or not is an argument for another day.
But, why do AFL clubs try and play hard-ball with the public/media on injuries?
Who does it serve? Does it boost a club’s ego to keep information, which the public/punters deserve to know, in the inner-sanctum? I doubt it.
All season, Hawthorn has communicated the message to its members/fans that Croad would play this season. It has proven false and many ruled Croad out weeks ago, despite the message from the Hawks.
Why not simply tell the truth?
Why not tell supporters that Croad’s injury is not responding to treatment and, while he is unlikely to play in 2009, every effort will be made to get him back fit and firing?
Supporters deserve to know what the situation is. They pay money for their memberships and club merchandise and, in many ways, a club’s success is determined by its fans.
Why do clubs cover the truth? It can’t be due to the opposition. If an injured player is on the sidelines, he can’t influence the outcome, anyway.
I can understand a club wanting to keep possible game-day match-ups away from public consumption, because that can influence a result.
There needs to be more appropriate transparency and club stakeholders deserve better.
Geelong ruckman Brad Ottens was also at the centre of another injury charade this season. He injured his knee in Round 2 against Richmond and only returned to the VFL recently.
In the meantime, the club, more than once, went down the predictable line: “he is only one or two weeks away”.
Fans are left to wonder because football clubs are treating them as fools.
Dunstall’s frustration was due to the fact that he knew Quartermain was correct. Perhaps in future, clubs would be best served to communicate the truth about injury complications.
Football clubs are entitled to keep certain things in-house. But when the career of a key player is on the line, fans have a right to know.
The truth does not have to be sugar-coated.
And, there is no point looking at the team injury lists anymore. There is sure to be some inaccurate information.
It came to a head last week when, between Tuesday and Friday afternoon, eight star St.Kilda players were ruled out, suddenly, with a range of questionable injury concerns.