Almanac Short Story: Pre-season Blues

by Barry Mitchell


“It’s a warm one there’s no way I’m going to preseason training tonight.”


Billy, last year’s best and fairest winner grins at his mate . His mate, Terry, of the talented unemployed set giggles and winks back. They’re on their way to the beach where they’ll lie around , perve and then get on the drink that night.


Billy rings the coach holding his hand up telling Terry  to keep the noise down.


The phone starts to ring so Billy swallows hard.


As soon as the coach sees the number come up on his phone he knows what’s coming. Firstly it’s hot, secondly the three kilometre time trial is on tonight.


“Ah Billy boy.”


He feigns enthusiasm.


“How’s the best player at the club traveling today?” he asks trying to make him feel more uncomfortable for the excuse he’s about to make.


“Oh good coach,” came Billy’s reply.


He was hoping to get voicemail.


“I should have texted.” He remonstrates with himself.


“Sorry coach but I can’t make it tonight,” he starts.


“Surprise, surprise,” the coach thinks, rolling his eyes.


Although a good player Billy is far from a leader. In fact he’s a bad example: he gets the job done match day but on minimal sessions and effort within them.


The coach pauses. He  knows he can’t go Billy because he’ll sook up and that will probably lose him for good. At the same time he can’t have his best players picking and choosing. He decides to suck it up and cop it. As most local senior coaches have to for players that can’t be bothered  or could take it or leave it. In the end the coach steps away from his values what he knows to be right, the foundations of his coaching and life. That’s where the player really compromises both the coach themselves in fact the whole club.


“How come?” the coach asks after processing.


“Got to work back . Big project on the go.”


It’s a straight lie.


“He’s a bloody sales rep for Coca Cola. Respect me enough to come up with a better one than that.” The coach is grimacing.


He’s had his warning from the new aged board of directors. It’s about engagement. They’ve had feedback that the coach is too aloof, not understanding of the players’ needs, living in the past. It swirls around in his mind.


They hang up Billy and Terry laugh madly as Billy guns his clapped out Cortina.


The coach’s phone rings again. He doesn’t recognise the number.


“Hey coach, it’s Callum here, you know Callum Urquhart from the colts.”


Callum is a talented indigenous player who is an outside chance for the AFL draft such is his skill.


“Ahh, Callum, nice to speak to you,” the coach responds.


“I’m looking forward to seeing what you can do this summer I’m very keen to get you started in the seniors next year.”


“Yeah coach, great.” Callum replies. “But I can’t make it tonight.”


The coach’s heart skips a beat.


This is the kid from the bush that they got a scholarship, put up in free accommodation and will probably go home in a week or two . His Mum would then put a post on Facebook saying how disappointed she was in the club.


“I think I’ll just do my own fitness work before the draft.”


He’s made his mind up.


The coach shifts his weight from one foot to the other.


The coach grabs his bag and heads off to the local ground. There’s preparation to be done. He’s got to pick up the dog doo-doo, fill the potholes with sand, pump up the balls and measure the running course. On the way the phone rings and dings, texts and calls. He applies his sunscreen and peers into the afternoon sun. Reggie the old trainer is there sucking on his durry waiting for an ankle or two to strap . The clock ticks past six and nobody is there. His fate is decided.



  1. Mick Jeffrey says

    When sitting the coaching course last year we had a speaker who reminded us of how it all had changed. As long as the player came up with an excuse as to why they weren’t training (as long as it sounded plausible) then it would be acceptable to the club. Knowing that someone was at least keeping the lines of communication open was the key.

  2. Cat from the Country says

    I still find it unaccep6tible for young people to lie.
    Where is there integrity?
    Tell the truth.
    It may get you into trouble but your integrity will be intact.

  3. Billy is like the type of Jake Stringer and Gary Ablett Jr, I sense.

    I agree with Mick that the open communication is the key. The club needs a coach like Paul Roos or Bomber Thompson.

    Cat’s points of integrity are great and what I agree too. The mentors need to teach players importance of integrity. And integrity should be implement to the establishment too.

    My suggestions to young players are 1) they should see a counsellor or psychotherapist if they are not motivated or have mental health issues, and 2) they are ecoursged to read inspiring books especially written by AFL coaches and champions.

    It’s a good read by the way!



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