Buddy Hello, Goodbye

Buddy Hello, Goodbye

So the Buddy question has been answered (and surprised one and all). I do marvel how, with the blanket coverage of footy across all media platforms, that Buddy’s story wasn’t uncovered by even one footy journalist. That in itself warrants investigation.

Buddy is off to Sydney on a deal that seems improbable, fantastical. I’ll get to that in a moment. I, for one, wish him well. Even though my stomach will turn every time he ‘beats’ an ex-teammate in a contest (which he will), or kicks another spectacular goal (which he will) on his way to another Coleman (which he’ll achieve or come close to, subject to how Longmire plays Tippett and Buddy).

On an emotional level, I wanted Buddy to stay at Hawthorn forever. He was part of the Hawks chain that pulled two Premierships to our harbour and for that he will stay in my Hawthorn heart wherever he travels. I wish him well as he embarks on his next big adventure.

When the bombshell announcement that he was heading to Sydney dropped, but rather than to the great desolate plains of western Sydney, he would be a Swan I shook my head in puzzlement and confusion, then gulped as my mind raced through the mathematical probabilities (my elementary grasp on maths suggests the Swans just improved their 2014 Premiership chances by a shitload) and then I laughed. I laughed loud.

Good on Buddy (and his management – I suspect a player of his magnitude needs management rather than a mere manager) and the Swans. If Free Agency is the next step for players to determine their value and fate then this deal just laid out what Free Agency looks like. Get used to it.

What did surprise me was the immediate hostile reaction to this deal. I’ve spent most of this season fielding questions about Buddy and the likelihood of him becoming a GWS Giant. More often than not, the person inquiring about Buddy barely hid their delight that Buddy might be leaving the Hawks. That’s cool. I get it. Change one  detail  such as that he’s not going to a struggling club but a powerhouse in the competition and it’s outrageous, an affront.

There is a whole other essay (or book/s) that could and should be devoted to player trading. That paper should context the issue in a historical setting. So transactions such as the Buddy deal are seen in light of the numerous questionable deals that have been given the green light through the last century of our great game. In that light the Buddy deal might make more sense. Certainly it would drain the protestations of Collingwood and their ilk of their logic.

A more invigorating and, dare I add, relevant discussion than the ‘fairness’ of the Buddy deal, for me, at least, is the fact that an Indigenous player is now the highest paid player in the game.  I think this is a powerful moment. The AFL has claimed, since the Winmar incident that it has taken the lead in improving community understanding and appreciation of our Indigenous brothers and sisters. I think it has done a lot of great things in this complex and sensitive area.

Buddy has, with this deal, held a torch up to Indigenous communities and kids across the length and breadth of this absurdly large country as to how far your skills and attributes can take you. I’m not trying to make a simplistic argument for the capitalist state but you are kidding yourself if you dismiss the dollar as an illegitimate sign of value and achievement.

For Indigenous people so trapped in a seemingly subjugated state, (mortality rates; education levels; incarceration rates, to name a few indicators) this moment is profound. It doesn’t open a gate to improved lives but it does open minds to possibilities and that is one small step. The first modern AFL mega deal (Abblett to Gold Coast Sun) was a historical marker (the son of the game’s greatest player) but the Buddy deal should be considered as even more historical. In what other field in Australian life (today or ever) has an Indigenous person been the highest paid person in that field?

So, good on you Buddy. We (the Hawks) say goodbye, the Swans say hello and the game grows one centimetre taller in its small place in the greater fabric of what is Australia. Buddy should wear this deal proudly, as should his Indigenous brothers and sisters, as should we, brothers and sisters of our Indigenous family. It doesn’t solve the multiple deep rooted problems that continue to persist but it does give us pause to reflect and imagine that with similar support, encouragement and resources to develop skills  and attributes across any and every field every one of us, including those furtherest from the market and opportunities can and will make it. That is the torch Buddy shines. Shine on.



  1. Pete Granger says

    I think this article misses the point completely.

    1. The Swans could only pull it off because they have a most unfair advantage – a salary cap with an extra $1million pa. Without this silly anomaly, Buddy would still be at Hawthorn.

    2. The extra $1million pa was intended to protect the Swans from losing players to other clubs – not raiding superstar players from immediate competitors . Too much theory and not enough practice in that poor decision.

    3. The system as it stands provides totally inadequate compensation to the team losing star players. Buddy was pick three when drafted as an unproven player, and Hawthorn only received pick 17 for him as a PROVEN champion.

    4. The purpose of the ‘inadequate’ compensation is to protect the DEVELOPING clubs, not the DEVELOPED clubs. The Swans have shamelessly exploited this loophole.

    This is a complete AFL clusterfk – which they will (far too late) correct. Demetriou should be held responsible – and I expect he will.

  2. Fantastic insight from a one-eyed Hawks with an open mind, Ricky. I think you actually missed the point Pete:The HIGHEST payed AFL player is INDIGENOUS! Now that is really something for football to be proud of. Cheers

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Well written piece Rick and yes the significance to the Indigenous community is HUGE but I do think Sydney have exploited the extra salary cap bit let’s face it the AFL should have reacted last year re Tippett I personally think it is a shocking stupid decision by
    Sydney to have so much of there salary cap re two players and that the extra salary will go and they will be paying a player long gone is appalling business and just incomprehensible from previously a brilliant administration baffling to say the least

  4. Pete Granger says

    I agree Matty. It is commendable at a lot of levels. But am I supposed to celebrate Buddy departing the Hawks – in this shabby manner – simply because he is indigenous? Not likely.
    For what its worth, I think Buddy is a flawed genius. Hopeless overhead, but brilliant when the ball hits the ground – with amazing agility, skill, speed, and endurance for a tall man. A unique footballer, who has become less effective as teams have (collectively) starved him of space and time and forced him to contest in the air – where he is vulnerable. He will find this even more of a problem on the small Sydney oval. However, there has never been a footballer who can draw the crowds through the turnstiles like Buddy. He is truly the most commercially valuable footballer in the competition – regardless of his on-field effectiveness. I am happy for him, and Hawthorn will survive – although it will never be quite the same. More importantly, the club has not been adequately compensated for its loss. This is completely the fault of the AFL – which has been real dim-wits on this issue.

  5. Rick: Buddy was (very) well paid before he went to Sydney. Do you think his achievements at Hawthorn weren’t enough to inspire?

    Pete: Footy has been going for a long time and many players have drawn crowds through the turnstiles… John Coleman, Graham & Ken Farmer, Gary & Gary Ablett, Albert “The Great” Thurgood, Stephen Michael, Tony Lockett, Bob Pratt, Tom Swift…

    Buddy will get a shock when he gets to Sydney and finds he can’t afford a house with enough bedrooms to put up all those poor underpaid players he’ll need to take on as borders.

  6. Thanks for responses and different, varying perspectives.

    First, the essay was not trying to dismiss or ignore the very significant concerns about the fairness and other matters related to player trading. I think that subject, as I indicated, warrants deeper scrutiny. However, as things stand, the Buddy deal has been approved.

    My focus and interest is on the subject of Indigenous achievement. In that sense, Malcolm, I think the significance is not just huge to Indigenous people but to us all. Indigenous football players make up something like 10% of the AFL playing list, while the Indigenous population is about 2.5% of the Australian population. That tells us that football (right up to the highest level) is already an important pathway for Indigenous males. Every achievement for an Indigenous person involved in footy is another marker for others to follow, whether it be Michael Long post football achievements, The Marngrook Footy Show or, indeed, the scintillating exploits with ball, time and movement by the likes of Buddy and Cyril and so on.

    So, Les, of course I value Buddy’s achievements at the mighty Hawks and believe they have inspired (Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike) beyond what bean-counters could quantify.

    This achievement, or milestone, is the next frontier, if you like. As Free Agency kicks off, the player that matters most is Indigenous. That’s what I wanted to highlight. To celebrate. And I believe it is the most interesting aspect of what has occurred.


  7. Malcolm Ashwood says

    V Well put Rick, and purely the percentages show how remarkable the impact of the
    Indigenous is upon our game

  8. Rick

    Putting aside, as you point out, any discussion on the various merits or salary caps and free agency as a concept, I hadn’t given any though to the fact that an Indigenous player would top the salaries, and I agree, that is momentous.

    The fact that he is talented, valuable to the team and a marketing asset adds to this. That our national game has an Indigenous man at its healm is pretty good, so I applaud that.

    It is also good that, despite free agency creating at times some artificial salaries that don’t match ability (eg. Scully) I do think that (and we can argue this for ages) the best paid players in our game are now more likley to be the best playsr (Ablett and Franklin ) rather than the Falou and Hunt experiments in recent years

    I think the Hawks will do just fine without him and Buddy may struggle on the smaller confines of the SCG. But for the reason you highlight, it’s a good thing


  9. This was a merger more than a player signing and great for football.

    In the period from 31BD* to 2BD* (my first 29 years as a Cats man), it frustrated me that we could never land a big fish whilst a number of the Melbourne clubs could. Then we got Ottens. Yeah, he was not in the same league as Buddy, Junior or Lockett but it was still exciting that we finally won over a high profile player.

    Good on the Swans. I’m jealous it wasn’t the Cats. But before anyone mentions the COLA, even if your club had the extra money, would they in all likelihood have offered a 9-year deal? Very unlikely. Got to hand it to the Swans. They have a serious pair.

  10. Oh, forgot..

    *BD – Before Domination

  11. daniel flesch says

    Rick : this fellow Hawk supporter agrees with you c. 99%. Just a bit naughty of Buddy to go to a strong rich club rather than help the lowly young one both on and off -field. (Actually i think the GWS experiment is arrogant expansion into Rugby League and Soccer territory and will fail ; but that’s another story. Or maybe had Buddy gone to GWS things would have been different.) Yes , it’s good an indigenous player is now the League’s highest paid (or overpaid ? another ” another story,”) Wonder when we’ll next see an indigenous player captaining an AFL side . Wikipedia tells me the great “Polly” Farmer captained Geelong for 3 years , then West Perth as capt./coach. Any others , Almanackers ? Why we give indigenous stars baby nicknames like Buddy and Polly is another question , but i won’t ask it.

  12. DBalassone says

    Enjoyed the article Rick. To try an answer Daniel Flesh’s question above re indigenous captains other than Polly Farmer:
    Gavin Wanganeen captained Port Adelaide for their first 3 or 4 years.
    Chris Johnson was co-captain of Brisbane one year – he also captained Australia in international Rules vs. Ireland.
    Michael Long co-captained Essendong with James Hird for a season.
    Adam Goodes co-captained Sydney in their Premiership year of 2012. Goodes was also an Australian International Rules captain.
    Also, Barry Cable coached North Melbourne in 1981 after playing-coach Blight stood down. I think Cable coached until the end of ’84.
    I’m sure our WA correspondents can give us numerous examples of indigenous captains in the WAFL, certainly Stephen Michael springs to mind, he was All-Australian captain one year too.
    Another interesting % to go with some of the % Rick mentions above is the percentage of indigenous Norm Smith Medalists (awarded 1979-2013). By my quick calc, 6 out of the 35 winners have been indigenous, equating to 17.1%.

  13. Paul Campbell says

    Hi Rick,
    Very well written, mate. Before this, I had not read anything commending and celebrating that an Indigenous player is now the highest paid player in the game.
    The difficulty, for me, is the emotional relationship with team and player is pretty mutually exclusive from commercial reality… and sometimes just reality.
    We don’t cry in our pie because he’s gone, we smile because we had him.


  14. Peter Fuller says

    Daniel and Others,
    Polly also coached Geelong, for three seasons, but without conspicuous success (he’s not on his Pat Malone there, of course, after Peter Pianto until Malcolm Blight was a particular period of drought for the Cats which taxed the capacity, and I dare say the patience of several competent coaches).
    DB, Perhaps 7?
    Maurice Rioli, Peter Matera, Michael Long, Greg Williams, Andrew McLeod (x2), Byron Pickett.

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