Before heading to the South Sydney-St George Illawarra game last night, I received a tweet from someone I’d heard little from in two decades, one Juno Roxas.
If you are of a certain age and like a certain type of music, that name will ring a bell. Juno used to be a rock star with band Roxus, several members of which went on to form Chocolate Starfish.
Like a lot of musos, Juno loves his football. Can’t get enough of talking about it. In his case, it’s AFL but when I scrolled down his timeline, I was intrigued by this tweet.
"He's a real confidence player" What the fuck does that even mean? Is there a player who plays well, unconfidently? #MoreFootyShitTalk.
— Juno Roxas (@Juno_Roxas) May 15, 2016
I can see why someone would baulk at the expression ‘confidence player’. So your correspondent attempted to deconstruct the term and figure out what sportswriters really mean when they use it.
And, in a rugby league context, I began to draw up a mental list of who was a confidence player and who wasn’t.
The term refers to players who play poorly when they are down on confidence. Clearly, there is a large group of players to whom this does not apply – Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, Corey Parker, Josh Hodgson, Simon Mannering, James Maloney, Paul Gallen, Greg Bird, James Graham, Cooper Cronk…
These fellows don’t even seem to stop and consider if they are playing well or not in any particular game. They just get on with it. But the other things these players all have in common is that they’re good. Very good. So is a ‘confidence player’ just a not-so-good player?
Is the phrase just a euphemism for an inconsistent athlete?
It can be. It can be a polite way of saying that a player could be good, has the ability to be good, but needs to get his head right. It’s a put-down that you can attribute to the target, a bit of smarmy double-think.
But it can also apply to players who wear their hearts on their sleeves. Guys who kick the dirt when they make a mistake and punch the air when they do something heroic or miraculous.
A confidence player can be an emotional player.
Jamie Soward comes to mind. For some reason, there are fans who don’t like his transparency, the fact we can see what’s going on in his head by what’s occurring on his face.
The young Wests Tigers halves, Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks, would be called confidence players. If they do something that comes off, we feel they’ll try to do more.
If it doesn’t work, because of their age, we sense they will go into their shells. But age and experience doesn’t spare you from uncertainty.
But Tony ‘T-Rex’ Williams is a confidence player. He’s got that size and that skill and that strength but he seems to need to be in the right mood to use it.
The Warriors’ Tuimoala Lolohea should be a confidence player, given his age and the number of positions he is asked to play, but he’s not. His confidence seems unshakeable.
Shark Chad Townsend, on the other hand, gives you the feeling he responds well to praise. Melbourne’s Blake Green, whose career has covered a similar trajectory, also falls into this category.
‘Confidence players’ are often our favourite players because unlike the cool and calm professionals at the top of this story, we can see ourselves in them.