Zen and the Art of Football

I recently bought a copy of ‘Skills of Australian Football’. It’s a good looking book, full of photos and useful advice for budding players on how to work on key aspects of their game, such as marking, kicking and hand skills, evasive tactics – even how to spoil, shepherd and smother.

Each section features a well known player demonstrating a given skill. Looking through it, however, I was struck by the large number of players whose fortunes had changed in the two seasons since it was published. Matthew Richardson, Anthony Rocca, Brett Burton, Tyson Edwards and Matthew Lloyd have all retired, some too early or unwillingly. Gary Ablett Jnr, Jared Brennan and Daniel Bradshaw have changed clubs. Daniel Motlop is currently out of favour at Port Adelaide and Sam Mitchell relinquished the Hawthorn captaincy after last season. And Brendan Fevola – well, we all know his recent story.

Part of me mourns these changes. Another part of me says that none of this is new. Football, like life, rarely stands still. Every year new players arrive on the scene, good players burn out or retire and great players swap clubs. After all, it’s 46 years now since Ron Barassi shocked football by leaving Melbourne to captain coach Carlton, causing untold numbers of Melbourne supporters to burn their no. 31 jerseys in protest.

Players come and go, but footy goes on. I bought my son his first Sherrin the other day. The circle of life, and all that …

About Robert Allen

Robert is a football history tragic who lives in Brisbane with his three children and a ginger cat named Thomas O’Malley. He recently completed a biography of Roy Cazaly, in which he endeavoured to avoid what Gideon Haigh has called the two facets of most Australian sports biographies: cut-and-paste and tongue-in-bum.

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