AFL Football- A game of moments

by Poppy Penny


Football is a game of moments – a goal after the siren, a perfectly timed specky or a snap around the body from the boundary line. But footy can be a cruel mistress and not all defining moments are great. A missed opportunity, a poorly timed leap or a wrong turn in a tackle can have devastating consequences.


Footy taunts those that adore it. The highs are so high but so few enjoy them with the lure of success pushing players to play beyond their limits. Seemingly defying age, players throw themselves into contest after contest, often for little reward. On the other hand, the lows are so low and they are felt by almost everyone.


As a footy lover, I had been looking forward to the round three clash between Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs all week but as the clock counted down into the closing minutes I was absolutely speechless. Not because a young player had kept a cool head and slotted what would be a match-winning goal for the Hawks, but because Bob Murphy was laying on the ground clutching his knee.


Cameron Ling spoke for us all when he muttered ‘Get up Bob’. There surely isn’t a football person who doesn’t love Murphy and that rascalish grin. The Bulldogs were in turmoil after losing their captain and their coach in the offseason of 2014, when Bob stepped up and lead his club into the finals. He led them with the humility and self-assured nature that was needed, but at 33 he lay on the turf at the MCG with a badly torn ACL and his career in the balance.


From the sidelines, Bob now faces the toughest decision of his footballing life. The Bulldogs are a young team on the rise so no one would blame him for wanting to make a come back to be part of the success this team appears to be on the cusp of. Although, at 33 no one would think any less of him for wanting to throw in the towel and enjoy life as a father, husband and football lover. One wrong step has left a great man with a lot to think about.


About a year ago, we watched as another champion of the game faced the same dilemma as Bob. Round 10 2015, Chris Judd twisted the wrong way and left the MCG on a stretcher for what would be the last time. There was a feeling that the 31-year-old would call it a day, as he sat up on the cart and acknowledged the crowd who stood in appreciation for the duel Brownlow Medalist’s contribution to the game. One moment he was in the contest, and the next it was curtains for a legend of the game.


Murphy isn’t the only high profile victim to be claimed by the 2016 season – 2011 Brownlow Medalist, Dane Swan is also facing a career defining decision. In the opening minutes of Collingwood’s season Swan broke 3 bones in his right foot putting a big question mark over his playing future.


Love him or hate him, Swan is another of football’s great characters. His nonchalant attitude off-field is in stark contrast to his first class on-field performances. After a grueling pre-season the Collingwood superstar lasted less than ten minutes of the 2016 season.


Whilst Swan has publically said he hopes to play again, aiming to return in late 2016, at 32 years old he is facing an uphill battle to maintain his fitness and keep up with the pace of the modern game. It would be a crying shame for one second, one tackle to end the career of one of the game’s greats.


Career ending injuries aren’t just for players in their thirties. 22-year-old Justin Clarke was forced to retire due to an innocuous head knock at training. The Brisbane youngster suffered a concussion and was told if he were to play another contact sport he would be putting his life in danger. His emotional retirement announcement rocked the footy community as he was forced to give up his dream of becoming an AFL star. With the world at his feet, one moment has changed the course of the young man’s life.


Bob Murphy spoke at the 2016 AFL Season Launch and quoted the great Mike Brady song ‘Up There Cazaly’.

“There are days when you could give it up, there are days when you could fly”. This lyric might be running around the heads of those players weighing up their futures on the field. Whilst it’s going to be a tough road back for Bob and Swanny, I have a feeling that giving up isn’t in their nature. If we’re lucky enough we will see them fly once more.


  1. A very enjoyable and thought-provoking read, Poppy.
    Indeed, a player’s career can change in an instant, with Chris Judd deserving a far better sendoff than being carted off on a stretcher.
    If they can recover from their injuries, Bob Murphy and Dane Swan can draw inspiration from “Boomer” Harvey still running around at age 38.
    But as you say, “footy can be a cruel mistress” (and I’ve known a few cruel mistresses in my time).

  2. G’day Poppy,

    It’s sad to see injuries end some players’ career suddenly like Juddy and Clarke. The Lion finished his playing in the AFL too young.

    I can feel Bob will return on the field next year as he has positive attitudes. Not only his on field performances but also his column in the Age make me feeling.

    Footy is a tough sport but it’s the reason I am so attracted with the sport. I love footy a lot and watch games as many as possible from Japan.

    Your story is so great. Thanks for sharing your story here.



Leave a Comment