Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Bryce. Amen.

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1,000 words on a potential Bryce Gibbs trade

 

When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” — Genesis 25:29-31

 

Many songs have been sung about the thin line between love and hate. Bryce Gibbs’ time at Carlton takes that thin line and turns it into a blurry wilderness. With its sustained malaise and spasmodic moments of joy, Gibbs’ football career has been, up until now, something less than a fully realised one.

 

There were many seasons of the ten that Gibbs played at Carlton where he never got worse or better, he just found new ways of staying the same. The exceptions were 2011, the 2013 Elimination Final and 2014 (a year in which he accepted the Best & Fairest to the sound of Carlton supporters stampeding towards the exit). You can also add to that the best part of Season 20161, particularly Gibbs’ game in Round 10 against Geelong and his post-match vomit that figuratively doused whatever fire had been lit by so much maligning kindling laid stick by stick throughout the years.

 

While Gibbs bashing has (perhaps unfairly2) become a popular pastime with some Carlton fans – full disclosure, I have played this game – at best he has been held in a distant and wary embrace. The stock explanation for this is a potential unfulfilled. When Gibbs was drafted ten years ago, he arrived from Adelaide with a playful grin that seemed to promise things untold. Playing for Glenelg as a 17-year old he finished third in their Best & Fairest in a year that included a 37 possession, six goal game. Having the consensus number one pick in the draft meant that supporters focused on Gibbs months before he was drafted. Those who follow the club closely watched the 2006 SANFL Season like Boston Celtics fans watched Larry Bird’s last season at Indiana State. Carlton did nothing to dampen the hype, handing him Stephen Kernahan’s number four guernsey and appointed him to the leadership group before he’d even played a game. That’s a hell of an ego stroke for a 17-year-old.

 

Bryce


In his first five seasons, Gibbs missed just one game, and you sensed that if Brett Ratten rubbed the lamp a little harder, the superstar might be released. Instead, the shine was beaten dull as Gibbs became Carlton’s ‘Mr Fixit’. “Put simply, if we have a problem, we rely on Bryce to rectify it,” said Ratten. And more often than not, that problem involved taking a very good midfielder and playing him across half-back.

 

There is not much to recommend Mick Malthouse’s tenure at Carlton, but his release of Gibbs from his Mr Fixit role helped provide Carlton with two of its more memorable 21st Century moments. Needing to beat Port Adelaide in the last round of 2013 to secure a finals birth made vacant by a concrete-arsed Essendon, Gibbs’ lead the way in an inspired victory. The following week he was influential in Carlton’s comeback from 32 points down to beat the Richmond in front of 94,000 in the Elimination Final. The following year, Gibbs’ form was about the only thing that would’ve found it’s way on to Malthouse’s resume, and was recognised with a Best & Fairest trophy.

 

You don’t win Best & Fairests, even with the evilest dark breeze that blew through Carlton, if you can’t play a bit. If mediocrity is contextual, the vast majority of AFL footballers are innocuous citizens of the game, neither sublimely skilled nor smart. If there is something Bryce Gibbs is not, it’s mediocre. Strip away the teenage hype and he is a very good footballer and is coming off a 2016 that saw him average 26 disposals. The perception of Carlton fans remains tinged by the 37 possession, six goal performance they thought due and never got. To paraphrase Steve Martin, Gibbs’ career to this point as been akin to “Today I have decided to give the greatest performance of my life! Oh, wait, sorry. That’s next year.” A fresh start and a new environment back home in Adelaide may help him find the rhythm that elevates him to a performance close to that and into the game’s elite.

 

With that promise should come a decent return for Carlton. Supply and demand. While famished is perhaps over selling it, Adelaide is hungry for the A-grade midfielder they believe they need to be a contender. Carlton is rebuilding its list around the cavernous hole of 21-24-year-olds after years of wasted trips to the draft table.  A Gibbs trade will help fill this hole. Despite this, take away Gibbs’ desire to return for family reasons and it’s doubtful a trade would’ve been considered. The former Washington Post editor Bill Bradlee famously vetoed the hiring of a reporter who’d already been vetted and all but hired, because “nothing clanks when he walks.” As good as Carlton’s recruiting’s been during Stephen Silvagni’s short tenure, none of the moves have “clanked”. Trading Gibbs clanks.

 

By now Carlton fans are well-versed in the art of self-pity, but this is not a time for pessimism — certainly not under the celebrated eternal optimist, Brendon Bolton. That Gibbs would someday return to Adelaide has been stalking Carlton like a Senecan ghost. That he should return at what appears to be approaching the peak of his powers — when Carlton is hardly at theirs — is a blessing. This is what Carlton fans should be thankful for. Not so much for what we received, but for what we are about to receive. Amen.

 

1. Gibbs’ win in Fox Footy’s Longest Kick gave Carlton fans something to cheer about on Grand Final Day for the first time since 1999.

2. Some stuff I’ve heard would give lesser men the impulse to flee the house and check into a rented room under an assumed name.

 

About Craig Little

"Faith without works is dead" -- James 2:17

Comments

  1. Thank you for this homily, Father Rooster.
    Most enjoyable…and familiar???

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    I reckon a straight swap with (ex-GWS) Curtly Hampton should get it over the line.

  3. Dave Brown says:

    Very good, Father Rooster! Even if the trade doesn’t eventuate – does either club want him/fear losing him enough to agree to what the other one considers fair?

  4. Very entertaining,Father Rooster has Gordon Agars started a trend ?

  5. Witty, perceptive, knowledgeable. Strangely familiar.
    “Is this an elbow which I see before me?
    Come, let me clutch thee.
    I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
    Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
    To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
    An elbow of the mind, a false creation,
    Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?”

  6. Father Rooster, or the artist formerly known as: As a Glenelg supporter I was at the match during which Bryce kicked six. He’s under-achieved since.

    Unless he transforms over the weekend from pretty man-bun to unhinged kickboxer Carlton can keep him. We’ve plenty of this already.

    Great to read you again.

  7. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Good to see you have repented ‘Father’.
    May the self pity and gnashing of teeth among Blue brethren continue for eternity.

  8. Crow hunger for Gibbs has seemed somewhat similar to that for Pavlich over the years. Players regarded as rightfully theirs who were somehow cheated away from them become targets each time their contract came up for renewal. In general I would be with Micky above, wide receiver of great skill, but how many wide receivers do you need?

  9. Tony Robb says:

    My thoughts on Bryce are like his approach to football\. Ambivalent. Games like the Geelong one only serve to frustrate supporters of what could have been. He has been good this year but he wild not be part of any potential premiership side and therefore the trade make sense. Not sure what we get in return but it can’t be a fringe player and a late pick. Wonder if Eddie wants to come back

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