James Podsiadly – Fairytales do come true

By Susie Giese

Once upon a time, there was an 18-year-old boy with a dream of playing AFL football…

He trained and studied and observed and trained some more for many years, before finally it was his chance to be drafted by an AFL club.

Eighteen-year-old boys all over the country were waiting, on the edge of their seats. Please, please pick me, they begged the coaches telepathically. If I can just get one game of AFL, then it’s all been worthwhile. All those early morning starts, the training, the travel. All that work over the years. Please, say I’m good enough.

The National Draft came and went, and this 18-year-old was not chosen. He waited and prayed for a lifeline. He got it. Essendon had chosen him in the Rookie Draft. He had one toe in the door – albeit the little toe. He played 19 games with the Bombers’ VFL affiliate, before they gave him the flick. Two years, and the dream was yet to be realised – just that one senior game, please!

The football gods were listening, and they granted the now 20-year-old a second chance. The mighty Collingwood Magpies would give this young man an opportunity, picking him up in the 2001 Rookie Draft. With the Mighty Pies, this young man played three pre-season games. He never had the chance to play a senior game, though. At the end of the season, the Pies closed the door on him, and told him not to come back.

Not even the luckiest of men are given three chances at AFL level, not without playing a single senior game. Our young man knew this was the end of the road. He went about his study and work, but his love of and passion for football remained.

So he came to play with the VFL’s Werribee Tigers. Six wonderful years were spent at the club. They respected and valued him. During his time with the Tigers, he won a JJ Liston Trophy, two club Best & Fairest awards and a Frosty Miller Medal. These Tigers even made him their captain.

Then, before the 2009 VFL season, the young man received an offer he couldn’t refuse. He knew he was getting on in years, and that he wouldn’t go on playing football forever. He needed to start thinking about his ‘career’. A VFL side by the name of “Geelong Cats” were offering him a position not only as a player, but as a conditioning coach. It was perfect. It was ideal. He would be sad to leave the Werribee Tigers behind, but he had his future to think about.

And so it came to be that, in season 2009 the young man would play with the Geelong Cats VFL club. He was made their captain immediately, and all the young men looked up to him as a wonderful, kind, honest and talented leader. The fans adored him, as he was the epitome of a hard-worker, who could win a game off his own boot. His goals were beautiful and frequent. His marking ability was unrivalled. He had strength and brains and skill, and everyone at the club adored him.

The man worked closely and frequently with the Geelong Cats AFL side’s forwards, building a rapport with them. He loved being involved at the club, but knew his destiny lay in being a coach, not a player.

Then, at the end of that season, a murmur started. Surely, surely the AFL side would pick up this talented forward as a rookie. How many years had they been desperate for a key forward? There were those who did the job well enough, but had never starred. Could this man be the answers to all their prayers? Could he prevent them from hitting the seemingly inevitable form slump?

On the morning of the 2009 Rookie Draft, this man passed a girl on her way to the Cats Shop to buy some premiership merchandise. She observed him as he walked towards training. Did he seem nervous?  Had the club already told him one way or the other whether he would be drafted? It was impossible to tell.

She hoped and prayed he would be picked up – she was a big fan. When the VFL were playing appallingly, he was what drew her through those gates every week. He is a star and should be proud of himself, she thought, whatever may happen today.

The man was drafted that day, and a door that had seemed welded shut was creeping open. Now, a man of 28 years, would he finally be given his one game of AFL football? His constant mantra was one of humility: I am only insurance, in case one of the big guns is injured for the long term. Preseason went on as preseason always does, and once more rumblings started emerging. A three-pronged attack? Really? It couldn’t be.

There was much hype in the media about the man, this star forward whose body was nearing the twilight years of football suitability, who had already been passed up by two clubs. Surely he wasn’t much of a ‘star’—far from it—if two clubs had already tried him and found him wanting.

During his preseason games, it was clear the pressure and his nerves were getting the better of him. It had been eight years since he had been on a similar stage. Eight whole years—they seemed an eternity to him now. The game had changed so much—it was so much faster these days. What had he been thinking? He wasn’t good enough to play at AFL level! He was too old, too untalented.

The club persisted, however, showing patience.

Then the season proper arrived, and the man was grateful to rejoin his VFL teammates. He still held the dream of one day playing AFL football, but where would the opportunity come at a club like Geelong? He was a mere rookie, and many a senior-listed player went discontent at the Cattery.

Rounds 1, 2 and 3 came and went. Every week, there was that desperate, hushed hope – please, pick me. I’m ready – I can do it now. Don’t forget me like the others did! Don’t cast me away.

Round 4 loomed, and the Cats side was struck with a wave of injury and suspension. Then came the call:

You’re in.

… in? He was in?

At nearly 29 years of age, the man was finally—FINALLY—going to make his debut. Ten long years on from that boyish fantasy, his dream was about to be realised.

The game was interstate, at an unfriendly venue, but it was a game! A couple of goals and much promise later, the final siren blew. The Cats were behind, they’d lost. It was not the perfect ending to his fairytale, but he had done it. He had played his game of AFL.

The next week, the Cats were to play at home. The man was given the chance to play at Centre Half Forward. Another of the key forwards was back, and finally the Cats would play their three-pronged attack.

In front of an adoring crowd, the man kicked five goals, and set up others. He marked beautifully, showed his footy brain, and played the perfect home debut. So humble and unassuming was this man that he did not at first believe the rapturous ovation that greeted him as he left the ground, with five minutes remaining at the end of the game, was for him. But indeed it was—the Geelong fans were welcoming their new hero with open arms.

He was part of the family.

It may be tradition to end the story with: and so they lived happily ever after, but I cannot do this. James Podsiadly’s story is just beginning. He has several (hopefully) prosperous seasons ahead of him at the Geelong Football Club. I wish this wonderful man all the very best. CARN THE MIGHTY CATTAS!!!

About Susie Giese

Born into the worship of the mighty Hoops, Susie has turned to adopting a Zen-like state during games in recent years to preserve her heart. The Cats of 2015 have the ol' ticker a-racing, though!

Comments

  1. Susie, great article. I wish ‘Pods’ all the best in his long, illustrious AFL career, even if it’ll only be for another four or five years. I know its a long shot, but..

    Is a Coleman Medal ready to be around his neck by the time he retires?

  2. Spot on, Josh. Great piece, Susie.

    I said for years that we (the Dogs) should pick him up. Now he’s going to haunt us…

  3. Nice one Susie.

    I remember a comment on the blog after the pre season loss to the Roos. I don’t know who it was but they are now walking around with their foor in their mouth.

    People laughed at Harry Taylor in 2008. He is in All Australian form even at this early stage of the season.

    Cats recruiters are a class act. They realise that in order to stay in the mix they just need to replace their losses incrementally.

    After the 2008 GF debacle they were smart enough to go out and get a pinch hitting forward.

    I have not written off the Christiansen and Drum boys yet. Watch those spots.

    Go Cats.

    Phantom

  4. Dave Nadel says:

    Beautifully written piece, Susie.

    Over the last few years quality full forwards have been hard to come by. Would Carlton have put up with Fevola’s behaviour or Collingwood with Tarrant’s as long as they did if there had been more class full forwards around? Would the Bulldogs have recruited Barry Hall at his age? Now Geelong are going to show us that there has been a top full forward around for the last decade that all the Victorian clubs ignored!

  5. Peter Schumacher says:

    Hi Susie,

    I have read and re read your post a couple of times and just think that it is a magnificent piece of writing which captures perfectly the background to this bloke’s ultimate success. Like everyone else, I wish him all the best for the future. As a matter of interest, but the story and background is totally different, I wish Bradshaw the same success in Sydney.

  6. Thank-you all so much for the positive feedback :)

    Josh: Just the one? ;) I’m kidding, of course. I really, REALLY hope he does win a Coleman – he’d be the most deserving winner in a long time if he did. What I love about Pods is he is just such an honest, reliable player. His form is consistent, and he doesn’t go out there to rough up opponents or show off. He just loves football and is only interested in football. He is the purest footy enthusiast in our team.

    Gigs: In doing my research, I discovered the Pods actually trained with the Doggies when they were affiliated with Werribee. Do not rue their decision not to pick him up – maybe he’s like wine, and he’s just improved so much as the years went on.

    Phantom: I know exactly what you mean. Everyone had written him off after one game – more fool them. And dear Harry – I’ve loved him since the first VFL practice match of 2008, when I only knew him as “number 7”. Our boys were thoroughly thumped that day, but he looked ten classes above. Everytime the ball came into our defensive 50, there he was. He always found a way to break off his man and get to the ball to win it. He’s been my equal favourite player since that day, but so many people called him the “weak link”. Apparently one of the newspapers called him “THE premier full back” recently. I’d have to agree with them. He’s playing the same role as Harley, all those beautiful competitive marks, but he has a bigger body and different skills. He is a beauty to watch.

    Dave: The best thing is, he’s the classic full forward. He’s the same height as the great FFs of the past (being what we today would call a “medium” tall – who can play both tall and small). He is just such a clean, neat, beautiful player. I loved him in the VFL, and can’t wait for a season of showing him off on the AFL stage :-D

    Peter: Thank-you! And yes, all the best to Bradshaw. Sydney look fantastic this year, I actually look forward to seeing their games for the first time! :p

  7. Susie,

    Harry also is on record saying he would take a pay cut to keep number 29.

    How’s his luck really. How would he feel if he had been picked up by Collywood or Carrt’n. Two years with the Cats, two grand finals and one flag already.

    Cheers Phantom.

  8. Danielle says:

    Susie, why can i see you reading this piece as a bedtime story to your future kids! ;) lol
    Great work.

    Danni

  9. Phantom – I remember reading that. H is a star. Getting over Ablett and his money-hungry ways, though – shame he’s such a good player ;) What bugs me is that H would be on a much smaller pay packet than Gary, with fewer sponsorship deals – yet he is willing to take even less so that Gary can have more. Harry is the TRUE epitome of a team man, the Geelong spirit.

    Luck for him, skill for Wellsy. He continues to astound with his recruiting ability. Selwood, Harry – now Duncan is looking like a rising star, and Menzel – our first round draft pick – starred in the VFL on the weekend.

    Danni – HAHAHA. Nice ;) It does lend itself to a story about the merit of perserverence and humility. Some great morals in there ;)

  10. Susie – very enjoyable read, because it is a very enjoyable story. Yes, a fairytale in the making. I hope he keeps his body well because he can really play.

    The Cats have made some good decisions over the last few years:

    Mackie, Harry Taylor, Corey Enright, even Cam Mooney. But if Pods cuts loose and the Cats challenge again for a flag it would be the stuff of movies.

    Well done.

  11. Not just movies, Dips – EPIC movies ;)

    We need to erect a Stephen Wells Statue at Skilled Stadium, I have decided. He is the TRUE hero of the current dynasty.

  12. Susie,

    No 29 has not gone yet but it is obvious in Demetrio’s dream that we are in danger of loosing one great player this year. It could be Joel Selwood.

    The Cats have done well to recently stand up to the modern day Zeus (as did his siblings)when he tried to boss them around.

    Having two extra round one draft picks in 2012 after the Johnny come lately(s) queue jumping gold grab (plus the one they will get anyway, making three) will be a good time to get the benefits that the tankers of the past have received.

    In fact it may prove that tanking was the wrong way to go. The Cats certainly didn’t, they have won two flags (I am a bit of a lateral thinker and believe flags out rank spoons) thus far and look likely to get some good draft picks in timely fashion.

    The merits, or other wise, of tanking will be soon known to the football propetariat (working class Cats et al).

    After years in the doldrums with the premiership songs violating our ears as did the sweet serenades of the Sirens to Ulysses it is a very good time to be a stray cat.

    Here endeth the lesson. Phantom.

  13. Excellent work, Susie. You know, that story has a lot of parallels to the tale of James Podsiadly. He was rookied by Essendon and Collingwood without getting a game and drafted by Geelong, playing his first game at 29 and kicking 5 goals in his second. The only difference between Podders and this bloke is that Podders made his debut in round 3 :P

  14. 13 – LOL! My bad – last time I write a story just before bedtime and don’t edit :p

    Next time I’ll run it by you or Steve first ;-p

  15. Steve Healy says:

    wow, susie, truly wonderful piece.

    It is a great story, hopefully will complete the fairytale with a premiership medallion around his neck come season’s end.

    And it’s all right about the mistake haha

  16. Beautiful piece Susie. Thanks very much.

    I hope Pods has much success too, and stays as humble as he is.

  17. Hi Susie:

    Nice piece, but:

    “Getting over Ablett and his money-hungry ways” …

    Bit catty, dontcha think, especially given our boy’s incredible efforts for 3 of the 4 games (the other 1 wasn’t so great, but GA acknowledged that, trained, and went troppo against PA).

    Give Pods a go. He’s pretty old, and there’s a bit riding on him right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if he shited himself next week. It’s a big load, and he’s probably trying to adjust to the fact that after years in the wilderness he is now something of a star. If he does put in a good day on Monday, there may be a few significant nods flying around.

    Pods, if you are any good, may the Tomahawk spend a bit of time in the Wiffel

    Go you Catters.

  18. True, Edward. That was a more than a bit catty – it was pretty mean and uncalled for. I’m a girl, though, so you have to expect my mood/opinion to jump pole to ploe :-p Sometimes, there I am, defending him like there’s no tomorrow:
    “No one else is asked to make a decision ahead of time, give him a break!”
    But then I myself get frustrated:
    “Hurry up already!”
    Speaking logically, though, without the bias of emotion, I think Gary Ablett is handling the situation marvellously – very professionally. He hasn’t freaked out or gone into “perceived damage” control mode. And his game on the weekend – back to some of his brilliant best after that flat game against Hawthorn (if you can call a 37-possession game “flat” ;) )
    And very good point about Pods – we’ve seen before that he might not handle the pressure so well. His game against North in the preseason was forgettable. But I really hope he does very well, even if he doesn’t become a star, he’s just a top bloke and I’m very proud for him.

  19. Richard Naco says:

    You’ve done it again, Suze.

    Rich, evocative and so highly readable. It’s becoming such a habit of your’s that I’m thinking of just cutting & pasting my responses, as they always seem to be heading down the same hyperbolic path anyway.

    Like you, I love the story of Pods (I wonder who “the girl” was??? ;)), and am rapt that Harry Taylor has gone from being “the weak link” to such a widely respected future captain of the club. I also agree with your appreciation of Stephen Wells’ awesome track record, but I also think that enormous kudos should go to Mark Thompson for allowing Wells to have his head, and for being so patient & supportive of these wildcards as they develop in to future club legends. A coach with a lesser ego would be looking to assert himself on that process far more than Bomber ever does.

    Speaking of which: I would be even more surprised if either #14 or #29 are playing their home games anywhere but Kardinia Park after this year. I think this is all a media beat up to the nth degree, and the play of both of them so far this season has hardly been that of blokes taking soft options in order to exploit a future cash cow.

  20. Aw, thank-you Richard! Absolutely made my day :-) (which is good, it’s been a rough week, LoL)

    Gosh, will we ever solve the mystery of the mystery girl? Who knows? ;-)

    Thompson is the best thing that has ever happened to our club. As a leader, there is no one I admire more (except perhaps Harley, but they worked in different capacities).

    Most of the time I feel fairly confident on both Gaz and Woody staying. Really – money is all well and good, but what is the different between an obscene amount of money and an even more obscene amount of money?

    More than perhaps any other team, there is a sense of family, camaraderie and loyalty at Geelong. It must be such a buzz, such a good feeling, just being around the place. Unless a person is insane, or perhaps not as sentimental as your average footy enthusiast, I don’t see why anyone would willingly leave – regardless of the inducement.

    I mean really, for what amount of money would you give up the safety of having Mooney and Dasher on your side? Willingly go head to head with the Pink Pig? Give up having Stevie J there to pull you out of a fight by the scruff of your neck, then subsequently take on two or even three opponents by himself – all just to make sure you don’t screw up your chances of winning the Brownlow?

    There is too much love at Geelong. In fact, in typing this response, I have now irrevocably convinced myself they will both stay. Good :) This is a happy state of mind to be in :-)

  21. Peter Flynn says:

    Susie,

    The Geelong Ablettiser is now known as the Geelong Podsi-addy.

  22. I saw that on their facebook status – bandwagoners ;-p LOL

    Love the Addy :-) Where would we be without them?

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