AFL: The Answer Lies With Sly

By Daniel O’Sullivan

If the first five minutes of last Friday night’s game didn’t set the pulses racing it is clear evidence that you were either stone-cold dead or simply just stoned.  And if it was the latter, you’ve probably spent the last week at IMAX 3-D screenings of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ so you can be forgiven for shrugging your shoulders at the exploits of mere humans. But for the rest of us, it was difficult to know where to look, with spotfires erupting all over the place and the crowd revelling in the blood-lust like a bunch of drunk Romans.

It was footy from another era and it was electric.

The Mick Malthouse-Stephen Milne ‘rapist’ saga has since proven that there is genuine dislike between Collingwood and St Kilda; add to that the Luke Ball defection and you’ve got the presence of a factor too often overlooked in modern footy: emotion.

Of course for the average supporter, emotion is everything. That primal link to our club is the reason we settle for mid-strength beer on Friday nights. It’s the reason why we’re happy to high-five a complete stranger with dubious dental work. It’s the reason why anyone in their right mind would have ever travelled to Waverly Park.

But it’s a different scenario for coaches. For them, it’s a matter of executing the processes and maintaining the structures. If a player is to become emotionally invested in a particular game then it will only unnecessarily clutter their minds and cloud their judgement. Ideally they’re shooting for an Ivan Drago scenario. Or better yet, Rosie from ‘Point Break’ ‘…he’s like a machine, he’s got this gift of blankness. Once you set him in motion he will not stop.’

But it’s not possible, well, not yet anyway, not until the AFLPA finally relent and the league begins to subject every draftee to the same frontal lobotomy procedure made famous by Adrian Anderson. It’s something worth thinking about, not only would the number of sexual assaults involving professional footballers drop dramatically but Lloydy would finally have some humans he can relate to.

So, are coaches missing a trick in dismissing the advantages of an emotionally charged player?

If you happened to see Boomer Harvey’s game against West Coast on Saturday, then you could hardly deny he was pumped up for that one. It wasn’t just the amount he touched the footy (44 times), but it was his capacity to feverishly celebrate every North goal that was most impressive. In the latter stages of the match, Boomer jumped into the arms of every North goalkicker as though it was a chorus line finale in ‘Moulin Rouge’. This wasn’t just a skipper rejoicing in the first win of the season, it was a champion shaking the monkey off his back.  And it took a serious charge of emotion to get the job done. Sure, the argument from sports scientists will always be that he shouldn’t need to get fired up to perform at an optimum level. But these same sports scientists have also probably never seen ‘Rudy’. 

So hopefully, before all coaches go Drago-crazy they’ll realise that despite being built like a round-a-bout, he had the emotional response of a brick. And it cost him. That thick midget with the speech impediment triumphed because he was always fighting passionately for someone – whether it was Apollo Creed or Adrian or Mickey. Emotion gave Rocky a clear edge over a superior Russian opponent who only had the faceless men of the Politburo and his militant missus in his corner. And as we all know, there is nothing as close to reality as a movie written, produced and directed by Sylvester Stallone.


  1. John Butler says


    Totally agree with you about last Friday night. Although proceedings suggested coaches weren’t immune from emotion themselves.

    As to Sly, I think I’d prefer Alice.

    Great stuff.

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