Spurned: Daniel Wells

Daniels Wells left North last year. We’d all seen it coming, more inevitable by the day as the free agency period loomed. Collingwood had a 3 year deal on the table for good money. The club had a very good offer in front of him. The club wanted him to stay. The club knew that Daniel’s future was up to him. The club was heading in the right direction and they wanted Daniel to be part of it.


Behind the scenes the club was most likely only too happy to see him take Collingwood’s money. He probably only had one good year left and while you don’t mind paying for two years to get one good one out of a champion and favourite son, three might be stretching the friendship. The club’s “very good offer” that was reputed to have been worth “up to” a million-plus over two years, undoubtedly included match payments, incentives and Additional Services Agreements to pad out the numbers, not the guaranteed $550-600K base on offer elsewhere. And the club, presumably, figured that the Free Agency compo pick would be band 2 – end of first round rather than a late second. Daniel, by delivering said compo pick, would continue the unbroken legacy back to Ron Joseph lifting Carey from under the Swans’ noses, then Carey’s and Carlton’s indiscretions landing us with pick 2 in the 2002 draft. Truth be told, I couldn’t begrudge him one last payday myself.


I had planned to write a paean to the sublime but ultimately flawed and unfulfilled career of Wellsy when the day finally came. But when it happened for real all I could feel was numb and the drafts sat there, disjointed grab-bags of flowery and maudlin prose not fit for humans to read.


He glided over the turf, sliced through congestion, broke opponents’ ankles with an extravagant sidestep, hit up options in his peripheral vision that he had no right to even see. Nobody moved quite like him …


… for 18 possessions a game. Followed by an injury. And what injuries. There was the osteitis pubis, the pulmonary embolism, the Lisfranc. He couldn’t even have normal injuries; had to get freak ones to go with his freak talent.


You never seemed to leave a game marvelling at a dominant Wells masterpiece. It was always a cameo. It was always “that might have been the greatest 18-possession game I’ve ever seen”. But it was enough. He was worth the price of admission in the dark days when Laidley had them hitting up short options along the boundary and holding up play with the ball held over their heads.


I didn’t pay much attention to his progress at Collingwood other than to smirk a little at him turning up to preseason out of shape and missing games with calf problems. Old man injury, calves. And maybe to be a little peeved when, at age 32, the rest of the football world suddenly noticed how good he was because of the jumper he had on. No malice, no sniffy “dead to me”, just numb. His career was finished and I didn’t get to enjoy how it ended. As messed up as the handling of the Boomer Situation was, at least we got to say goodbye.


The compo pick came through. Turned out to be band 3 – after our second round selection – and we used it on Josh Williams, a skinny, lightning quick kid from the Gold Coast academy. The Gold Coast that we didn’t go to in ’07. He was a late in to play his second game of the season, and thus all has come full circle.


Wells did nothing on Saturday night. Barely got near the ball. North’s plan for him and knowledge of his game must have worked. Williams outplayed him. Didn’t matter; we were terrible and the Pies had plenty of other ways to kill us.


But then in the 3rd quarter he swooped on a loose ball around the front of goal and snapped truly. And finally, deep in my heart of hearts I knew how I really felt.


I booed. Threw my head back and booed. Took a deep breath and booed again. Booooooooo. Remembered all the walking laps at training and playing half-hearted kick-to kick and taking his time declaring himself ready to play. Remembered the club looking after him, getting him to the dentist when he missed games with toothache. Remembered him, a life member and 2 time winner, skipping the B&F days before the free agency period was due to start. Slinking out the back way without saying farewell. I thought of how I had wanted one of this year’s incoming  indigenous kids, Paul Ahern or Jy Simpkin, to get number 8 to follow on from Daniel and Phil Krakouer, and how Wellsy’s ignominious exit turned that into a non-issue. I took out frustrations of the worst game I’ve seen North play in a long time, at Ben Brown getting poleaxed by an imperfect tackle. Asked aloud how his calves felt, and what he would say about this game at the Collingwood B&F this year. And then I booed again.


It was petty and I’m not proud of myself. But damn, it was cathartic.


It’ll be over before we know it. He’ll finish up there, return to the fold and we’ll love him again.



  1. Earl O'Neill says

    Good piece, Rob. There’s a certain type of player who we find deeply frustrating, you caught that nicely.

  2. Fair play to you Rob, but there’s no way I could boo Wells. Even in a Collingwood jumper.

    Yes, a gun player, but I supported North’s decision to let him go. I feel he will play less games as the contract rolls on.

  3. Smokie,

    yeah in truth I’m fine with it as well. Apart from the bad taste in the mouth of him not being honest about his intentions and slinking off without saying goodbye, I think it was probably in everyone’s best interests. Him leaving is almost the tipping point from “reset” to “rebuild”, which is ok. It’s 16 or so games that we’ve been able to get into kids this year and I don’t begrudge him getting paid.

    Heat of the moment tho, and it was as much frustration about that game as him. Thought he might have over-celebrated a bit too given the state of the scores.

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