Is there such thing as an intelligent footballer?


The term ‘intelligent footballer’ may appear to be an oxymoron, but contrary to popular belief not all AFL players conform to the perception that they are simpletons. To label someone as intelligent is probably too broad a statement. Obviously there are differing opinions on what it is exactly that makes a person intelligent – see Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory – and judging someone based on their ENTER score or tertiary qualifications would be inaccurate. Achieving a high ENTER score requires much more than smarts. Other factors such as time management and the individual’s dedication to studies are major factors in determining how students go in their final year of schooling. A high score is likely to correlate well with someone that has a driven personality, which incidentally is also a prerequisite for being successful in the AFL. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to describe the footballers mentioned in this article as ‘educated’, however it is clear that the players are far from pea-brains.

It is an unshakeable myth that the majority of footballers at the top level possess low intelligence. This view is often held by people with little to no involvement with football clubs, either locally or professionally. However this is simply not the case and for every Wayne Carey or Warwick Capper that graces the field, there are those that go against the trend of the stereotypical ‘dumb footballer’. Arguably the most notable academic is former Carlton ruckman Mike Fitzpatrick. It is not a figure of speech when Fitzpatrick is introduced as a Rhodes Scholar. Shortly after transferring to Carlton in 1975, Fitzpatrick was offered a prestigious Rhodes scholarship to study politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University in England. He would return to Australia to forge a successful playing career with the Blues and is now the current chairman of the AFL and has been a commissioner since 2003. Fitzpatrick is one of the lucky people in life that are gifted in more than one area. Dr Matthew Liptak is another that fits into that category.  Liptak was a more than capable footballer with the Adelaide Crows during the 90s but it was his achievements off the field that comes as a surprise to many. Liptak completed a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery at Flinders University in 1996, while also taking out the Crows’ Club Champion award – an extraordinary achievement. While Liptak’s playing days are over, he continues to practice as an orthopaedic surgeon in his hometown of Adelaide.

With the demands that are placed on current-day AFL footballers, it is increasingly harder for these full-time athletes to concentrate on their studies and other interests outside of football. However, many do make use of their limited time away from their clubs to prepare for a career after football. Geelong premiership player Harry Taylor is an interesting character. He is an avid military buff, a student of history and made a decision not to nominate for the draft as an 18-year-old in order to concentrate on his university studies as a physiotherapist. Another player who opted against nominating for the draft in order to focus on his studies was Fremantle midfielder Matt de Boer. After achieving high marks in his final year of school, the Docker is studying law, which is the same degree chosen by players such as Melbourne forward Chris Dawes and Richmond big man Ty Vickery. Western Bulldogs’ former ruck combination of Will Minson and Ben Hudson were perhaps the most intelligent ruck duo in the competition. Minson speaks fluent German and studies civil engineering while Hudson, who is currently at Collingwood, is a qualified physiotherapist. Another Bulldogs player Ayce Cordy is studying medicine, which is something former Geelong midfielder Simon Hogan is interested in pursuing after receiving a 98.20 ENTER score.

Ex West Coast player Tom Swift finished in the top 40 students in Western Australia with an entrance score in the high 98s and opted on retiring from the AFL to focus on becoming a doctor. Similarly, Demons utility Stefan Martin scored an amazing 99.75 to finish in the top 40 Victorian students and is studying a science/law double degree. Not only do Luke Ball and Chris Judd have a PhD in football smarts, both were high achievers in the classroom. Ball scored a 98.80 while attending Xavier College while Judd scored 96.20 at Caulfield Grammar. Coincidently, both players were high draft picks in the same year with Ball being selected by the Saints at selection two and Judd coming immediately after with selection three from the Eagles. Other footballers show their intelligence in different ways. Robert Murphy comes across as an articulate person in his self-penned newspaper columns, as does Tiger Daniel Jackson in the articles that he has written.

The aforementioned players are amongst many running around in the AFL that have achieved high scores in year 12 or have dedicated plenty of their time to further studies outside of the game. It must be a tough ask to juggle full-time professional sport with higher education and this article is proof that footballers are not just one-trick ponies.

Twitter – @JClark182

About Jackson Clark

Born and bred in Darwin, Northern Territory, I am a young, aspiring football writer that lives and breathes the game of Australian Football. I'm also a keen player and coach.


  1. Stephanie Holt says

    Mordy Bromberg!

    St Kilda veteran, judge of the Federal Court of Australia.

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