Mature-age Cats recruit Shaun Mannagh couldn't believe his luck as the ball rebounded straight off Jye Caldwell's noggin and into his hands in front…
The story of Mason Cox is a wonderful narrative that will eventually be part of footy folklore – as is the creation of the Gold Coast Suns and the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
I have no doubt that their introduction has made some inroads into growing the game in their parts of the world. Development is important, of course, the more people that are interested in Australian rules football the better.
The thing is though, none of them should have happened – at least not in the way that they have, at the financial cost to the game. I do not know the exact numbers, but I suspect that millions of dollars have been pumped into the two latest expansion clubs – in fact, millions upon millions. One wonders how much the AFL actually has in the bank.
There is another goal, however, another way some of those millions could be spent.
Let us take Western Australia for starters. A true footy state; the state of Buddy, Nic Nat, and Bobby Hill.
In Western Australia alone there are roughly 240 country footy clubs, who fight and scratch to make things happen.
The AFL do a lot of good for the game in the bush, no doubt, but imagine if they did something else. Something they could easily afford. What if they just bought some new footballs? It is something they would only have to do every five years or so.
Clubs would not need brand new ones every year, rather they would probably only really need them every six or seven years, but gee, they would definitely make a difference at some clubs. For a large national organisation that reportedly has hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank this would be a drop in the ocean.
Making these purchases for the length and breadth of WA would only cost roughly a quarter of a million dollars, probably less. The most western state is obviously on the smaller end of things, but when you extrapolate that number out, it will not come to more than a few million dollars, every six or seven years.
New footies at country and community clubs can have such an effect. They are also often the last thing that money gets spent on, simply because old balls do not last.
Everyone changes up a gear when they get a new pill at training. The little boy or girl comes out again because it is fun to kick a new one.
Then the obvious extension of that is that training improves. Players are keener to training, keener to have fun, keener to get better, all because of the new footies.
Telstra and the AFL have got together this year and put together a grants package for country footy clubs which is extensive and far-reaching – but it does not cover the most basic of equipment: footies.
Sustainability and growth are what it all comes down to; should the game be trying to create more players like Mason Cox, or should the AFL be trying to give us more players like Buddy Franklin?
Instead of creating new paths to the top, we should first solidify the ones that already exist. Players that make it always have stories of players that they left at home who were better than them.
Maybe a simple gift of a few more new footies would be the first step to making it easier for them to make it there too.