Melbourne’s Harley Bennell has been suspended for four matches for breaching the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
As Brisbane approach their first finals campaign after years of rebuild – and after a 15th place finish last season – it seems like the perfect time to look at Luke Hodge’s 2017 decision to come out of retirement and join Brisbane, and why more players and clubs should follow suit.
Hodge announced his retirement after playing 305 games with Hawthorn during the 2017 season. However, during the 2017 trade period Hodge decided to take his talents to the Brisbane Lions to help mentor their young players and help the development of the team as a player and later as a coach when he retires from playing.
Hodge has been serviceable for the Lions – playing in 19 games last season and 20 games so far this season – averaging around 16 disposals for the 2019 home and away season. He has also provided great leadership on and off the field.
His tenure with the Lions has set him up for his post AFL career, with a coaching position guaranteed from the deal. It has also given him the opportunity to prolong his career and mentor some younger players, while being in the prime position to learn about the coaching process.
Other players have followed suit in the past, with Hodge’s former teammate Sam Mitchell spending a year with the West Coast Eagles before retiring into a coaching position with the team. There are also rumours that Shaun Burgoyne – another Hawthorn player – is nearing a deal to take his talents to Gold Coast, with a possible coaching position involved in the deal.
More clubs and players should follow this mould, as we have seen – with Luke Hodge’s situation especially – that the presence of a veteran player can help a young team thrive and develop under the leadership and experience that they provide.
Clubs such as the Gold Coast Suns, Carlton, Brisbane and St Kilda can benefit from veteran players coming into the club to mentor the younger players and help them grow. Big name veteran players can also bring in extra revenue from fans who would come to see these players play.
This continued experiment would also give players who have been disregarded by their current clubs the opportunity to prolong their careers, while bringing something to a team that needs help.
We have seen examples of players retiring or not being picked up by their teams for the 2020 season who could provide a service for many of the developing AFL teams. Names such as Jarryd Roughead, Dale Thomas and David Armitage come to mind.
Both Roughead and Armitage played some solid football in the VFL, but were out of favour with their AFL clubs due to other players being selected in their place. However, both players could still provide something to another club.
Armitage is still a solid midfielder who can provide mentorship and leadership for young developing midfielders and provide a club that would sign him with a solid contributor on a weekly basis.
Roughead can still be a contributor on the scoreboard – as seen in his farewell game where he kicked six goals against Gold Coast – and he could provide mentorship for the young forwards of the game. He is also a great locker room presence, which is required from a leader on any team.
Dale ‘Daisy’ Thomas is also another player who can provide leadership and contributions for a team. He played in 20 of Carlton’s 22 games this season – averaging just over 19 disposals – with his best game being against Richmond in Round 21 where he racked up 32 disposals and was a top player for the Blues that day.
Daisy can still contribute at a sound level, and has been terrific this past season. He could provide a solid veteran presence for a young team like Gold Coast who desperately need some guidance.
As more players continue to edge towards the ends of their careers – and teams being willing to dump veteran talent in place for younger players – it would be wise for the veterans of the game to follow in Luke Hodge’s and Sam Mitchell’s footsteps and prolong their career in a mentoring role, which can help set them up in their post playing days in a coaching position as well as help a young club by providing a mentor for their rising stars.