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Cases of unfulfilled potential in the AFL

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Roar Rookie
28th November, 2018
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1832 Reads

Occasionally there comes a player who makes you think to yourself “Wow, this kid is alright, I reckon he is going to make an impact”.

Unfortunately though, that isn’t always the case. Due to a combination of injuries, behavioural issues and/or plain simple bad luck, some potential superstar players just don’t quite make the grade.

The last ten years have been littered with such stories. Students of the game will tell you that a player can have all the talent and tools in the world to convince loyal fans that glory is on the way, yet while hard work and dedication play a role in competency at the highest level, often luck is a key component of success.

This article will not be dealing with stories of highly regarded junior players who don’t make it at a professional level. This article will deal with the hard luck tales of players who showed the capacity to be genuine superstars of the game but through the problems listed above were never able achieve the success that many of us thought they would achieve.

Harley Bennell
This is the very player for whom the idea for this article was originated. A former number two draft pick in 2010, Bennell had disciplinary issues from his very first year in the AFL, however rebounded in 2012 to play 22 games and come second in the Gold Coast best and fairest award.

With superstardom well and truly within his reach, a combination of further behavioural issues and chronic calf problems derailed what promised to be a dominant career. At his best Bennell was a smooth moving, exquisitely skilled goal kicking midfielder.

Currently playing for Fremantle, Bennell hasn’t been able to get on the park for three years and is on his last chance. For the sake of the game, fans hope Harley can get his body right and make the most of his undoubted talent.

Harley Bennell Fremantle Dockers AFL 2016

Harley Bennell of the Dockers. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Brad Crouch
A highly regarded young superstar, Crouch was taken a year earlier then expected in the 2011 mini draft designed to benefit the expansion clubs and spent his first year in the SANFL playing For West Adelaide.

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Injury problems began almost immediately for this incredibly talented youngster who was unable to string together continuous games until the latter half of 2013. Crouch showed so much talent in ten consecutive games that he finished runner up to Jaeger O’meara in the Rising Star Award.

Everybody thought the sky was the limit for Crouch especially once he was paired with his younger brother Matt, however injuries have prevented him from developing into the superstar that he is capable of being.

Fast, explosive and possessing game changing abilities, Crows fans hope that Crouch can get it together and form an elite combination with his brother. Hopefully 2019 is his year.

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Sam Reid
Young superstar Sam Reid debuted late in 2010 before breaking out as a player in 2011 as a Centre Half Forward.

A successful season also followed in 2012 with the high flying, strong marking Reid becoming a premiership player.

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Fans of the game drew a collective breath when a year further into the future, Reid was paired with the best forward of the modern era in Lance Franklin.

The prevailing thought at the time was surely these two players would grow to dominate teams for a number of years. Sadly though, injuries took their toll and what promised so much has yet to be fully realised.

At his best Reid marks almost everything that comes his way and is capable of bags of goals. An ageing Swans outfit hopes Sam gets his body right whilst they are still a chance for another premiership, however the clock is ticking.

Sam Reid Sydney Swans AFL 2017

Sam Reid of the Swans (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

Chris Yarran
One of the saddest stories of the last ten years is the story of the talented , highly skilled footballer Chris Yarran. Originally recruited as a forward with the number 6 pick in the 2008 draft, Yarran made a name for himself as part of a talented, three-pronged small forward set up with fellow Indigenous players Eddie Betts and Jeff Garlett.

In 2011 Yarran’s career took an interesting turn when then coach Brett Ratten moved him to the backline where Yarran developed into a premium rebounding defender, whose line-breaking ability and quality ball use made him one of the premier defenders in the AFL.

At the end of 2015 Yarran was traded to Richmond at a high price but unfortunately due to poor mental health was never able to continue his career. It got worse for Chris Yarran but that is something I would prefer not to touch on in this article.

Chris Yarran Carlton

Chris Yarran. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

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Mason Wood/Taylor Garner
And finally we have a pairing who are a source of utter frustration for all North Melbourne supporters. These are two players who have promised so much and tantalised so very briefly before succumbing to the dreaded injury curse.

After battling endless injuries in his early career, Garner came close to a full season in 2017 with his marking, tackling and x-factor showing fans why he was selected as a first round draft pick in 2012.

Garner provided many highlights in his coming out season, nearly winning mark of the year and looking dangerous whenever he was near the ball. Unfortunately in the following season, injuries struck again, and Garner was unable to play a single game.

Mason Wood has shown brief glimpses of the immense talent he possesses over the past three seasons. Wood has threatened to break out to the point where North were forced to raise his salary to ward off rival suitors.

With clean hands and elite endurance, Wood managed 13 games in 2018 which is his best return in an injury ravaged career thus far. At his best Wood provides a mobile tall target who is capable of making an impact close to goal and as a roaming target further up the ground.

Getting these two players fit and on the park will go along way to offsetting the loss of Jarrod Waite and combined with Ben Brown and Jack Ziebell provide a dangerous, vibrant forward line heading into season 2019.