The new AFL season approaches. It’s a time for most to get excited.
Congratulations to Eddie Betts on playing 200 games in the AFL. Eddie’s achievement fits an emerging pattern among indigenous AFL footballers in the 21st century.
To extend his career, Betts seems to have chosen not to live in Victoria.
As you look at the following all-time 200-gamers, based on the list at Wikipedia, ask yourself how many played 200 games while living in Victoria.
1. Eddie Betts
2. Peter Burgoyne
3. Shaun Burgoyne
4. Jeff Farmer
5. Adam Goodes
6. Antoni Grover
7. Graham Johncock
8. Chris Johnson
9. Chris Lewis
10. Peter Matera
11. Ashley McGrath
12. Andrew MacLeod
13. Michael O’Loughlin
14. Byron Pickett
15. Gavin Wanganeen
16. Daniel Wells
17. Darryl White
18. Nicky Winmar
19. David Wirrpanda
My count is only three players (Wells, Winmar and Davis) in over a hundred years. A few more indigenous players managed almost 200 games while living in Victoria – Eddie Betts, Lance Franklin, Justin Murphy and Michael Long. Whatever the exact number, it’s not many.
It would seem that many indigenous players living outside Victoria can get to 200 games, whereas very few indigenous players have long careers if they stay in Victoria.
We could, for fear of being interpreted as racist, choose not to mention this pattern. I’m certainly not game enough to analyse the reasons for this pattern. Indigenous players themselves would be best placed to know the reasons.
But it’s becoming clearer that many indigenous players living outside Victoria have long careers while those choosing to stay in Victoria don’t get to 200.
It seems indigenous footballers themselves are aware of this pattern. Since 2012, we’ve seen Josh Hill transfer from Footscray to West Coast, Sharrod Wellingham from Collingwood to West Coast, Lance Franklin from Hawthorn to the Swans, and of course Eddie.
And what happens to those that don’t transfer out of Victoria? Since 2012, we have seen Leon Davis and Andrew Krakouer axed from Collingwood, Cruze Garlett axed from North Melbourne, Raph Clarke axed from St Kilda, Alwyn Davey and Nathan Lovett-Murray axed from Essendon, Dayle Garlett axed from Hawthorn, and Aaron Davey, Austin Woenamirri and Liam Jurrah depart from Melbourne.
Some of these players may have had longer careers if they had played outside Victoria.
You may argue it’s pure mathematics. The low number of indigenous footballers reaching 200 games in Victoria is partly because of the proportionately low population of indigenous people in Victoria. But even when indigenous players come to Victoria from other states, they don’t seem to have long careers in Victoria.
Contrast that with the many non-indigenous players who have come to Victoria and stayed to play 200 games. Some even stayed to play over 250 games while living in Victoria, like Craig Bradley, Steven Kernahan, Terry Daniher, James Hird, Nick Riewoldt, Craig Bradley, Steven Kernahan, Terry Daniher, James Hird, Wayne Richardson, Scott Burns, Nathan Buckley, John Platten, Jason Dunstall, Steven Febey, Jim Stynes, Joel Bowden, Joel Corey, Corey Enright, Lenny Hayes and Nick Riewoldt.
Ethnology is taught in schools and universities but discussing ethnological patterns related to indigenous footballers is almost taboo. If steps need to be taken to make Victoria more conducive to long careers for indigenous footballers, it would be a difficult discussion to have.
Meanwhile, as the careers of Daniel Wells, Terry Milera, Neville Jetta, Jeff Garlett, Andrew Walker and Chris Yarran in Victoria begin to splutter in 2014, they may look at the percentages. If they want a long AFL career, statistically they seem to have a better chance outside Victoria.