Greater Western Sydney unveiled their two biggest recruits yet when Fremantle’s Rhys Palmer and Western Bulldogs’ Callan Ward fronted the media on Wednesday as Giants players. However, rather than being a celebration, it was a press conference where the players were filled with nervous tension.
It’s easy to forget Palmer and Ward are only 22 and 21 years-old respectively, so you can understand their anxiety at fronting such a large media throng.
Their decisions to leave the clubs they were drafted by only a few years ago for a completely new franchise would have naturally been difficult calls to make.
However, the scrutiny and stigma attached to those who decide they want to take up the new challenge is something which needs to be relaxed.
Palmer and Ward’s nervous tension prior to the conference said it all.
Of course, the fact that Palmer and Ward were the first cabs off the rank in terms of joining the Giants (Adelaide’s Phil Davis hasn’t been officially announced by the Giants yet) made the occasion a bit more daunting as it attracted plenty of interest.
However, this notion of disloyalty, jumping ship and turning your back on your team-mates only for money is a bit over the top.
The players freely admitted money did play a part, but they also explained they had other reasons for making the move, such as getting out of their comfort zone.
Some people may argue that’s a token explanation but personally I don’t blame them for taking up GWS’s offer and rather congratulate them on having the mettle to make such a call and go through the arduous process.
Veterans Chad Cornes and Dean Brogan have this week been heavily rumoured to be set to link up with former Port Adelaide coach Mark Williams at the Giants and interestingly they haven’t attracted the same level of scrutiny.
That’s arguably because they’ve given their club several years’ service, whereas Ward or perhaps GWS’s other big target, Tom Scully of Melbourne, haven’t.
That’s an interesting reference point in regard to the AFL’s mooted free agency policy whereby players can move on after eight years’ service, but that’s a debate for another day.
The scrutiny, though, isn’t only external for these players, but perhaps more pertinently it involves their club mates and officials.
It was interesting to hear Ward discuss the possibility of not attending the Bulldogs’ Best and Fairest function later this year due to the way he might be received by his now former team-mates and officials.
“It’ll be interesting, I haven’t really spoken to them about whether I should actually attend the Best and Fairest or not,” he said. “I’m under the impression I should. I spent four years there, I played every game for them this year, so I’d like to go. It’ll be interesting to see how they take it.”
I hope that’s Ward just being a bit naïve, but of course he should attend the function.
Yes it is a bit unusual, but surely people at the club are mature enough to handle such a situation. If they can’t respect a player’s considered decision to move on, then that’s pretty disappointing in itself.
Experienced GWS coach Kevin Sheedy added: “I think it (players moving clubs) has been happening for awhile, every time we bring in a new franchise. When we’re trying to grow the game, we have to have an expansive mind as a group of footy fans and people who are running the clubs.”
Of course, Sheedy is going to say that, but it’s a pretty sensible attitude. And really that’s what this whole topic needs, a bit of common sense.