Even Heroes Make Mistakes



We’re a Collingwood family. You’ll either love or hate that statement.


Last year, I sat next to my five-year-old son on Friday night, rugged up in black and white. His excitement was palpable, even before the players had run onto the ground. We were amont more than 93,000 people who streamed into the MCG to watch Collingwood and Geelong face-off on that Friday night qualifying final.


The night was not only Collingwood’s first finals appearance for 2019, but heralded Jaidyn Stephenson’s return to AFL football after his ten-match suspension for placing bets on games involving Collingwood.


Like countless Aussie kids, my son lives and breathes football. He’s got the Magpies’ doona cover, a bedroom wall covered with posters and memorabilia and he spends every spare minute kicking his footy around the backyard. He marks like Jeremy Howe, ducks and weaves like Pendles and kicks any number of amazing goals each day, like Jaidyn.


Earlier in the year, Jack had met Stephenson at a supporter day; waited for hours to get his autograph and a photo together. He was thrilled to tell the Collingwood young-gun he held the mantle of favourite player. Jaidyn looked him in the eye, gave him a smile and told him how awesome that was. Jaidyn won’t remember my son. He won’t remember the photo that he took with him, or the way he genuinely spoke to him. But my son does. It was a pivotal moment in his short life – meeting his hero. It’s the kind of moment, that as a parent, you store away as one of those ‘best days’.


It was a different type of day when I had to explain to Jack that his hero would be sitting out the next ten matches. That perhaps Stephenson wouldn’t be playing in the finals, even if the Pies made it. How to explain that the second year player had done the wrong thing and was now having to take the consequences. He’d let himself down and his team down, not to mention the countless number of kids who admired him.


My son’s five year old face was serious as he nodded, clearly disappointed but thinking deeply about the situation. His response surprised me, ‘I think he was pretty brave to tell the truth, even though he knew he’d get in trouble.’ I had to agree with him. Yes, that must have been a tough decision, but the right one.


No doubt Stephenson learnt from his mistake. It was a lesson learnt in my household too. On more than one occasion since then, Jack’s spoken about ‘telling the truth like Jaidyn’. A real life example of having to stand up and take the consequences of your behaviour. Even heroes make mistakes, but you can come back from them.


Friday night, finals footy didn’t disappoint. Not only did Collingwood get the win, but Jaidyn was back and kicking goals. Judging by the roar from the Collingwood fans that night each time Stephenson got the ball, I’d say most supporters felt the same way as Jack.


Fast forward to this covid-crazy season we are in, Jaidyn has been hit and miss in the team. But tonight he was back in the white and black and kicking goals, though we didn’t get the win. Jack’s still his biggest fan. So thank you Jaidyn, and welcome back.







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About Nicole Kelly

Is a teacher, mother, writer and all-round lover of words!


  1. Kevin Densley says

    Fine, good-hearted piece, Nicole! Enjoyed It!

  2. Nicole Kelly says

    Thanks, Kevin! Much appreciated.

  3. Welcome Nicole. Somewhat tricky parenting moment. Thanks for the insight into Jack’s fanaticism. And your family’s Collingwood-ness. A deep well to dip into.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Nicole, welcome to the Almanac, fantastic to have another Pie contributor.

    Was tough to talk my boys through that suspension too. I emphasised to them that everyone makes mistakes, that you need to learn from that and come back a better person.

    Wonderful talent is J.Stephenson. Collingwood are certainly a far better team with him in it.

  5. Rulebook says

    Well done,Nicole welcome to the almanac and sounds like,Jack is a thoughtful youngster and mature beyond his years

  6. Nicole Kelly says

    Thanks for the warm welcome! I’m looking forward to being a part of the community.

  7. Shane Reid says

    Thanks Nicole, really appreciated your warm hearted piece. What wonderful wisdom in your son’s evaluation of this tricky moment. He’s got a long a great career to look forward to as a fan. Looking forward to your next piece!

  8. E.regnans says

    G’day Nicole.
    Thanks for your story.
    Actions, reactions.
    Transgressions, punishments.
    Simple but complicated at the same time.
    I guess children (and adults too) like to know where the boundary is.

  9. Jim Kesselschmidt says

    Gorgeous story. Jaiydn is my hero too and I’m an unabashed fan (just a coupla years older).

  10. Frank Taylor says

    Lovely Nicole
    Football and sport in general is so important to society.
    It is so often a reflection of society, both good and not-so-good.
    Doing the right thing, navigating a moral pathway in life – our club’s actions and individual deeds have profound effects. As a lifelong Collingwood supporter I am extremely proud of our club’s commitment against gambling and poverty.
    Your son is a thoughtful young chap, who has tackled a hard emotional situation and come away with a fine life lesson. You are to be congratulated.
    Thanks for your story, it’s a gem.
    Floreat Pica

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