The 2021 AFL season is just around the corner. With that, comes expectation.
Every year the expectation around footy clubs revolves around the new players. Be they mature players or young prospects, the likelihood of them making difference to the A-grade is of great significance to everyone.
It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a suburban or country club, a major city interstate, or a small town.
Footy clubs are special places.
The shared experience of coaches, players and supporters who sacrifice time and blood creates a bond in communities. The local hero who is a legend because he kicked goals when they counted, stopped a visiting champ or went well when the biffs were handed out.
A cold beer and a barbecued sausage have a tendency to animate feats on the field while earning a respect where no further interest is due. Memories of the public bar argument with old mates over footy and over whose round it was have never left me.
Is there a greater role in sport than the critical performance of athletes? Experts in residence, the clueless trying to fit in, a cable broadcast provocateur, or the water cooler mandarin working out weekly highest and lowest league scores.
Everybody has an opinion.
But what do they look for in a footballer?
My answer might be taken as cryptic, but I expect some would see something in it. I’ll explain it as best I can: it’s how they move.
Balance when running and kicking. Poise under pressure.
The toughness on a football field that the off-field toughs often can’t replicate.
Some are great marks, some great kicks, some can run all day, some blokes never give in.
Some just look like a likely fullback.
The difference is when they move to do all these things well. Sometimes they are naturals from an early early age and dominate the other kids and then fade from the game as they mature.
Or perhaps a big-boned kid who just makes it all look a fait accompli when they walk comfortably among men.
Football today has a structure (a word I am beginning to hate) that young men (boys) can identify. Every facet of footy seems to be covered.
Whether it be diet, injuries or mental health, they get feedback and instructions verbal and written; so much for turning up with your boots and asking for a game.
But is all this analysis producing footballers who tick all the boxes for the administration of football development, to the detriment of footballers?
No amount of assessment could avoid seeing a young Jonathon Brown as a presence on the football field.
How many footballers are out there who didn’t fit between the parameters?
I claim no expertise. I thought Jason Dunstall was too fat when he played in Brisbane prior to joining Hawthorn. What a dill – I’ll never live it down.
You know what I mean.
There are obvious players whose temperament and hubris failed them in the big-time, regardless of their super abilities. They probably exist at all levels of sport.
What do you look for in a footballer?