AFL Round 6 – St Kilda v Collingwood: Kosi fan Tutte

A part of loving someone is accepting their faults. For all he’s not, there is still enough of Justin Koschitzke to love. He is what he is. That’s why Saints fans love Kosi. It is by no means unconditional but when Scotty Watters deemed him surplus to requirements for most of last season, the faithful did begin to murmur.

Sure, we’ve all been through the frustration of wanting Kosi to be more. Constantly you get involved in conversations with outsiders who wonder why the Saints bother-

‘Surely he’s just too much hard work?’

The injuries. The suspensions for bone-headedness. The lowlight reel of uncoordinated gaffs. The pole-axing by Gia that he made a thousand times worse by never seeing it coming. The way he runs around with about as much grace as a wounded giraffe. The fact that he has about as much match awareness as an excitable Jack Russell puppy, searching for the ball you pretended to throw….. How is worth persisting with?

And yet, all of that is perversely why we love the big fella. Oh sure, we understand where you’re coming from. The ill-disciplined whack on Friday night sent groans across the red,white and black diaspora, but we have long since made our peace with Kosi.

You see, there are the three stages of Koschitzke appreciation we all must pass through-

It starts with-
1) Blind faith that he will some day get it all together. One magical day it will all slot into place and Kosi will be an unstoppable behemoth that dominates the game.
That shifts into-
2) Abject frustration that he keeps getting so close time and time again and then drops away, which fuels a conviction that he just has to go. Delist him, give up while we’re behind…
Which in turn leads to-
3) What Kosi does well is have a dip. He’s just a big-hearted bloke that doesn’t always do the right thing but sometimes pulls off the miraculous.

Saints fans know he hasn’t lived up to his top-of-the-draft billing but we are well past caring. We suspect that when his career is done there will always be that frantic month in ’05 when he came into the side late (due to injury of course) and went on a tear. He was played out of the goal square and kicked sixteen goals. It all clicked, the Kosi-Lego blocks snapping together with a satisfying click. He had it all- Leading up hard and fast, monstering opponents. His kicking for goal made David Neitz’s technique look flawed, his hands iron clamps and his confidence finally overflowing. This was the Kosi we thought we got on draft night. He was gone too soon but a moment in the sun is worth savouring. Forget the ordinary, remember Justin for the extraordinary. See, he had it in him all along.

Year one of Riewoldt and Kosi has been largely forgotten, mainly because of its inconvenience to the truth of their subsequent careers. Rooy got injured almost immediately and it was Kosi who impressed. We loved that he was boy with a man’s physique. Back then we assumed the moments of uncoordinated flailing were growth spurts. He just needed to grow into his body and he would be a champion. There was serious talk that perhaps Riewoldt was too slight, maybe he didn’t have the body to compete at the top table? It was that boy Koschitzke that was the real deal.

Kosi won the Rising Star and the dawn of greatness seemed blinding. Turns out we were all blinded by that hope. The injuries arrived for Kosi and suddenly Nick got going. The sliding doors turned Kosi into dowdy Gwyenth and Rooy became the superhuman running machine that has become one of club’s greatest.

What happens over a player’s career is indeed a series of sliding doors. There is our perception of we what they will become and the reality. They are never completely interlinked. We are constantly benchmarking- Comparing the kid who enters the game with the champion he reminds us of. It gives the game a sense of historical continuity. It’s certainly not fair on the 18 year old who is just trying to get a game but it does mean we can endless discuss why they might be the next Robert Harvey.

The greatest player I have witnessed is Gary Ablett Sr. The distinction between the abstract concept of watching grainy footage of a great player from another era and having a front row seat to the duration of a champion’s career is enormous. I know Barassi was great…. but I saw Ablett’s greatness unfold. The 1989 finals series became the moment my perception of Ablett was forever set in stone. His career was in flux until he stepped up in that season’s Grand Final. Imagine if he had left Hawthorn and simply played country footy in Myrtleford until his knees were shot? What we know of the career of Ablett is forged in that best-on-ground master class. Losing has never felt more like victory.

Perhaps that’s why the Saint’s faithful still love Kosi. The image of him, arm resting on Nick’s shoulders, sobbing uncontrollably post 2009 Grand Final stirs in us all that devastation. He wanted it so much, we all did. It wasn’t a day for flash skills and clinical disposal. What that soggy, miserable, rain swept, god forsaken day required was a big-hearted fella who’d have a crack. Kosi wasn’t amongst our best that day, and yet he could have been.

Frankly, that is the best definition of Kosi’s career- He just might be the best bloke on the park one day. It just hasn’t happened yet.

I genuinely hope that his last action on an AFL footy field isn’t a stupid whack behind play. I’ve never wanted a bloke to crack 200 games more than Kosi….But if he’s stranded on 197 games. Well that might just sum up the exasperation of his career perfectly.

Sometimes you don’t get want you want. But maybe, just maybe, Kosi is what we all need. His career has been a lesson in understanding that a footballer can only be true to himself. He did try to be what was expected- This IS him trying.

Comments

  1. David Downer says:

    Tom,

    Nicely done.

    You’ve perfectly captured from a Sainter’s perspective the full array of Kosi’s many wondrous (and not-so-wondrous) vista’s and angles – or perhaps in his case, straight lines.

    I still fondly recall his assured gazelle-like movement in that first season, plugging the hole at CHB in a team being poleaxed on the scoreboard each week.

    We’ve gotta get him to 200. For all his toil and love for the club, in a season slipping away from any ladder success, he deserves that accolade.

  2. I too would love to see Kosi get 200 games. No one else from Brocklesby has! I spoke to family in Albury over the summer, and the stories were that Kosi was tired of Melbourne. It would be fantastic to see him bring up the double ton, then return to a few more years in the nations best country league; Ovens and Murray.

    Glen!

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