Baulking the truth

There is no place for failure in football. I understand this. I’d make a terrible footballer, despite the fact I once kept Justin Murphy to 4.7 in an HDJFL game

circa 1986…..

However, I would like to know if the elite champion footballer ever hits a wall they can’t break through?

Juddy, Browny, Hirdy, Buckley…you know the list.

According to experts in our game when they hit a wall – they crash through. If they can’t do that they pull it down brick by brick.

It’s what makes them champions.

I need to know something. Is this definitely true? Is this what defines a champion and sets them apart from us or is someone telling furfies here? So much footy, so many cliches, so many hungry fanatics yet such little insight when it comes to defining the role of a champion, their effort, successes and failures. Are we baulking the truth?

I know what happens on the footy field isn’t the same as real life but you can’t just suspend real life can you? It seeps through every crack.

Allan Jeans and Denis Pagan said our game is 10% physical and 90% mental or thereabouts. That’s a bloody big discrepancy. They ain’t sayin it’s 50/50 or even 40/60….the inference here is it’s nearly all between the ears. So how is it possible that what happens on the footy field isn’t transpiring in life? How are these champions able to tear down walls time and time again when these same metaphorical walls in real life are bringing down the sturdiest of men and women?

Hands up if you know someone in life brave, intelligent, wealthy or successful perhaps, who after breaking through so many walls and hanging their hat on their ability to do so crumbled at one in particular and everything had to be reassessed? I don’t have to think hard. Life gets us eventually.

In life away from sport we are allowing science to do away with the notion of purely pulling up one’s socks to gain success where failure lurks. We now know better than to solely attribute failure to not working hard enough. Things defeat us and science provides insight into the obstacles that pose limits as to what we can achieve. Not exactly a winning culture but for those of us failing, we now have a new dialogue whilst we pull up our socks.

Cut to Mick Malthouse’s 2011 post grand final address to his players and you’re in no doubt as to where he stands on this issue. It’s work ethic.

Did some of you not come out of the trenches? he asks his troops. But he’s not asking. He goes on, looking them in the eye…

Pieces of the jigsaw are still missing and they’re going to be missing until you do something about it.

Warriors such as Malthouse (and our game is peppered with them) are convinced that if you lose it’s because you did not pull your socks up high enough. I love it. Im inspired by it, I can do something about it for god’s sake!! But Im conflicted too, because I dont believe life away from footy abides by the same principle all of the time, and for me, well it has too or I’m done for. Years of lying in bed tying my own fortunes to that of my club… and Juddy….we might as well have been the same person at times… but I digress.

Point being. In footy there’s still no room for failure. You can always succeed.

These champions on the footy field must be a different breed to the rest of us and all the cliches are right. Right?

I’m just going to sit in quiet appreciation of them and wonder at their ability to work harder than you and how it gets things done. Every time.


Jonathan Brown turns around one day and says in that thick Colacian growl of his,

I was asked to climb a mountain, crash through a wall, lead by example but I didn’t.

And Ill be listening….


  1. Alovesupreme says

    I think that the reason the coaches can make the assertion (10%-90% physical/mental) is that by the time the players reach the elite level, there is a comparatively small gap between the ability of the best and the not-quite best. So then the factors of belief and determination come to define the difference. Further down the pyramid in any sport, the ability gap is wider, and the “champion” can coast on the basis of the differential.

    It’s true both at the individual and the team level. How many times do we see a less fancied team defeat a more talented combination, because the favourites bring slightly less than total commitment to the match.

    Your vision of JB some time soon (if not already) confronting that reality is something that comes to all as age and physical decline compromises whatever natural ability they have had.

    I’m fresh from a rather disappointing performance in a marathon, so more than ever conscious of the boxing mantra, “his mind’s making appointments his body can’t keep”.

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