Round 4 – GWS v Collingwood: Empathy for the Magpie



As fans, we like to think we share a lot with the footballers we watch; their moments of ecstasy after goals, hangers and wins, their frustration after misses and losses, and their pain when they’re injured.


When it comes to the last of these, that pain can take many forms for a fan.


Horror and nausea, as in the case of Nathan Brown. Outrage and fury, as in the case of Nick Reiwoldt and his treatment at the hands of the Scott brothers, or bereavement in the case of Chris Judd.


But what I haven’t shared until this year has been what happens after an injury – the months players have to put in to get back on the field.


That’s something I normally think about for about a minute after a player is stretchered/hobbles off, and for a further 30 seconds when the player’s coach or teammates are asked about the injury post-match.


I thought about it for longer on Friday night, in light of recent experiences.


In April, I was put on leave without pay from my newspaper, as the company that owned it entered self-preservation mode after a loss of advertising related to… well, you know.


Ineligible for JobKeeper, I returned to live with my parents. For three weeks, I was supported, got to cuddle my dogs, watch Netflix and play guitar, free of deadlines and responsibilities.


It sucked.


Though I woke up grateful to be living in Australia during this pandemic, and tried to remind myself that boredom is a privilege. There were many times where I felt unproductive, and more than that unsure of how to be productive now I couldn’t do the one thing I’d trained for.


I’ve since been lucky enough to find freelance work and then return to the paper, but when Jeremy Howe went down with a ruptured PCL, my mind went back to those few weeks. The loss of identity I felt must surely be nothing in comparison to what he will over the next month, starved not only of his livelihood but the independence of being able to walk freely.


There are some things I’m sure people will never fully appreciate about being an AFL player unless they are one – the constant criticism, micromanaged daily routines, how hard some players work to get there only to never play a game.


But after 2020, unfortunately, a few more supporters will find one aspect of their heroes’ highly unique lives a little more comprehensible.


As an aside, GWS’ recent Facebook documentary on Callan Ward’s recovery is another good resource for understanding what it takes to return to AFL after a serious injury.




Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Alex Darling

Melbourne-born, Horsham-based footy fan. Lover of the Saints, classic rock guitar and good writing on each of these topics.


  1. Daryl Schramm says

    Thank you for your story and insight Alex. The video was also enlightening, and inspirational.

  2. Nicole Kelly says

    Loved the piece, Alex. Glad to hear that you have started to get back on your feet. Hopefully Howe will be back on his before too long as well.

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