The Peerless Joel Selwood

 

 

 

Picture this for a moment.

It’s sometime in the late 90’s and its dinner time in the Selwood household. The four Selwood children have been called in by their mother Maree, having been playing footy in their Bendigo backyard since they returned from school.

The boys come in, cut, bruised and famished. They destroy the delicious bog standard meal of chops and vegetables, but there’s one chop left on the serving dish.

Four brothers Adam, Scott, Troy and Joel who would all go on to play AFL, spot the chop simultaneously. Only one possesses the peripheral vision, desire and rat cunning to grab it. Joel.

My good friend ‘The Senator’ and I are in mourning today with the news that Joel’s career has ended. In 2007 we both texted each other all year regarding the emergence of this amazing eighteen year old we nicknamed, ‘Our Bloke’.

‘The Senator’ and I come from neutral clubs but for the past fifteen years we haven’t witnessed a more complete player like Joel. He had the brain of Greg Williams, competitiveness of Michael Voss, the desperation of Lenny Hayes and the courage of Paul Kelly.

His kicking accuracy and composure was phenomenal and equalled probably by the performance of Nick Daicos this year. The only variable Joel added was his kamikaze attack on the ball.

It wasn’t like he developed all this with age. He literally demonstrated it his entire career from 2007 till now.

Never the one to enjoy the limelight like his teammate Patrick Dangerfield, he was forced into centre stage today at his press conference in Geelong.

I turned on the radio like it was Winston Churchill announcing an update on Dunkirk, such is the respect I have for him. It was like an enormous build-up of tension was released for him and it sounded like a lot of grown men were bawling their eyes out.

Tributes to Joel will continue for some time. His coach Chris Scott and CEO Steven Hocking were emotional and authentic in their praise. The theme was very much about Joel’s selflessness.

“Joel prioritises others before himself” –  Scott

“What he has done to overcome injuries, defies logic” – Scott

“Forget about everything he has done on the football field, we would be happy with whatever’s left” – Scott and Hocking

“He has been underpaid what he’s worth. He’s always been about what’s best for the club” – Hocking

“ He’s the best player I’ve ever seen” – Scott

In addition, I picked up a couple of quotes from a nervous Joel, this being a rare time he’s been out of his comfort zone.

“I play every game like it’s my last”

“It’s the people you play with that I love the most”

“I hope I’ve helped to set up the club for the next generation”

Joel was awarded the Jim Stynes Medal by the AFL for community service this year, but the locals in Geelong are aware of his many years of commitment to causes that are many and varied.

Along with his family, he has had a close association with the Seeing Eye Dogs Association, been a long-time ambassador for Auskick and since 2010 was the club’s community ambassador for various charitable community activities.

For me its Joel’s leadership that sets him apart. He always demonstrates that beautiful balance of manic competitiveness with his humility and empathy for others.

As is the way of the world these days I’m hearing comparisons with Voss, Hodge, Cotchin etc in regards to who is the greatest leader.

It’s simply unfair to do these, but if you’re of a detailed nature this is a small snapshot of Joel’s career:

  • Four time premiership player
  • Premiership captain
  • AFL Rising Star
  • Six time All Australian
  • Three time best and fairest
  • Most number of games as captain in AFL history
  • Most Brownlow Medal votes for a Geelong player
  • Four time Robert Rose Medal winner for AFLPA Most Courageous
  • Three time All Australian Captain
  • Most tackles by an AFL player in history

And it goes on. Joel’s standards are high and he demanded similar effort from his team mates.

A sign of greatness is performing against the odds and it was always when it was wet, windy and uncomfortable for others that Joel would shine.

The man that most reminds me of Joel is the former All Blacks legend Richie McCaw, who captained The All Blacks for 110 of his 148 matches.

There is a fantastic documentary called Chasing Great with an inside look at McCaw’s life and the 2015 World Cup where he played with a stress fracture in his foot.

The similarities with Joel are uncanny, even down to their looks. Both raised in close knit regional families, thrown into the fold very young (McCaw played his first test match at 20), fearless, selfless and an insatiable desire to be the best despite lacking pace,.

McCaw’s position as flanker can be rather terrifying. Briefly, it requires stamina and an innate ability to extract the football from a breakdown standing up, bent over, whilst hundreds of kilograms of murderous opposition charge at your now exposed head and shoulders.

McCaw was able to survive all that for fifteen years and become arguably the greatest rugby player ever. These days he is a pilot and philanthropist.

Joel is in that company from an AFL perspective.

I’ll miss that tension on his frustrated, bandaged face when he just wanted to grip and throw someone just for the fun of it and I’ll always remember when his brother Scott tried to take him out at Subiaco Oval one day and came off second best.

After picking himself up after the collision and walking past a now doubled over and winded brother gasping for air, Joel couldn’t help himself and pushed Scott over like a corpse in one last act of defiance.

I doubt ‘The Senator’ and I will see another Joel Selwood in whatever years we have left.

He’s been an ornament to the game and the Geelong community. For us neutral observers, no matter how annoying Geelong have been with their success, we’ve always loved Joel.

May you have as many chops as you like in retirement Joel. You’ve well and truly earned it.

 

 

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About Ian Wilson

Former army aircraft mechanic, sales manager, VFA footballer and coach. Now mental health worker and blogger. Lifelong St Kilda FC tragic and father to 2 x girls.

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