Choices, choices.

Recently I found a videotape of a Richmond v Brisbane Bears game from early 1993 (yeah – tragic, I know!).

The game was rubbish.  The Tigers and the Bears were at their respective rock bottoms and the players were mostly young, raw and struggling.  Richmond won easily enough, but a glance through the teams with 20/20 hindsight shows the Brisbane line-up as the fascinating beginning of a mighty work in progress.  A surprising number of familiar names from the Brisbane Lions premiership sides of 2001-02-03 are running around looking rather lost.  But every now and then the latent ability of a Voss, Leppitsch or White shines through.

But the most interesting curio is that this is one of those rare games where two of the greats of the 1990s – Michael Voss and Nathan Buckley – are playing in the same team.  When you think about the team that Brisbane would become and imagine if Buckley had stayed to be a part of it, it’s a daunting thought.  Equally, when you think about the choice Buckley so decisively and rather impudently made to leave Brisbane for Collingwood at the end of that 1993 season, it’s also rather daunting in that “what was he thinking” kind of way.

But there’s that 20/20 hindsight again.  The Brisbane Bears were a joke in 1993.  Collingwood was only three years out from their drought-breaking 1990 premiership.  They still had a pretty strong list.  The competition was still effectively the VFL with appendages and Melbourne was where any decent player wanted to be.  Buckley copped some flak for being so up-front in his ambitions, but no-one could really question his thinking.

We now know that Buckley would have realised his dreams of ultimate team success had he stayed in Brisbane, or had he chosen to move to North Melbourne, as had also been mooted, just as the Kangaroos were embarking on their glorious 1990s era.  For these reasons his decision can be said to have been the wrong one.  His career, whilst individually superb, was played in a side that was largely mediocre.  He and Voss were worthy adversaries over many years. But nowhere were the consequences of Buckley’s fork-in-the-road choice shown more starkly than in the 2002 Grand Final where his gallant Norm Smith Medal-winning performance just failed to produce a monumental upset.  It was Buckley’s consolation prize to the premiership triumph of Voss’s Lions.  The Magpies were thrashed by the Lions in the 2003 decider.  Buckley never got another shot at a flag.

Two decades on, Adam Treloar’s departure from the Giants to join Collingwood wasn’t accompanied by the barely disguised disdain that Buckley displayed for being at a fledgling club on the periphery of football civilisation.  But his desire to leave was equally unequivocal.  Just as clear was his stated choice of new club – Collingwood – accompanied by the stinging comment directed at the other main contender – Richmond – that he believed the Magpies to have the stronger list.

As with Buckley, we won’t know the wisdom of Treloar’s decision for sure until his career finishes.  But simple maths shows that he’s set himself up for just a one in three chance of making the right choice.  Both the Tigers and the Giants will watch his progress with interest and won’t cease to remind him of his decision should it be looking like the wrong one.

The early signs aren’t great.  Collingwood has been hugely disappointing in 2016.  Treloar should win their Best and Fairest by a street, testimony both to his quality and the mediocrity of the list he is now part of.  Obviously, Richmond has been no better and can hardly argue that Treloar’s call between the two clubs has been the wrong one.  However, the clear conclusion from Friday night’s scrappy encounter is that the poor standard of Treloar’s two suitor clubs is in stark contrast with the enormous progress of the young Giants.  As Treloar strove valiantly but unsuccessfully in a sloppy losing performance by the Pies, one wonders if the thought crossed his mind that perhaps his choice is looking like being a present day replica of Buckley’s?

Time will tell.

About Sam Steele

50 years a Richmond supporter. Enjoying a bounteous time after 37 years of drought. Should've been a farmer!


  1. kath presdee says

    There’s a few big differences between the choice that Treloar made and the choice that Buckley made.

    The first is that Treloar had been with the Giants for five years before he left to go to Collingwood. Leaving aside the 2011 season, when the Giants were only playing NEAFL, Treloar had been a fixture in the senior side for most of that time; barring injury. Buckley was a first year player and part of “the future”, Treloar was part of the key group of “past, present and future” kids.

    The second is that, unlike Buckley, there’s nothing to suggest that Treloar never wanted to come to the Giants. He was an underage selection as part of the Giants’ concessions. If he’d said “no” then, it’s very likely that he would have been drafted elsewhere when he entered the 2011 draft (like Chad Wingard). Finally, his contract with the Giants had already been renewed once and I find it difficult to believe that no Victorian club would have not made offers to him when his first contract was up.

    Finally, it’s probably likely that Treloar’s decision to choose Collingwood over Richmond had everything to do with Nathan Buckley. The choice to leave the Giants probably had everything to do with recognition that he wouldn’t get in Sydney – both in terms of remuneration as well as playing in front of big crowds, media coverage etc. Sydney is viewed by many as a backwater when it comes to Aussie Rules (as was Brisbane in 1993) and it is, in terms of sustained coverage and crowds; no matter how well its teams may perform. So go home for more money and exposure is not that hard a choice to make – yes, you’re not playing finals but how many kids want to wear your number on their Guernsey?

    But if Treloar is making a comparison about whether the deal he did last season is, in hindsight, not the best step he could have taken, he’d only need to look at another ex-Giant and think “at least I’m not in the same situation as Tom Boyd”. He’s with a coach he likes and appears to be enjoying his footy. Surely that’s where it’s at right now.

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