Trade week: what place the ‘I’ in team?

“There’s no ‘I’ in team.”

“Bullshit. Mate, look at Hodgey.”

“What about him?”

“That’s an ‘I’ I’d like to have.”


There’s no ‘I’ in team.

Yet without ‘I’ there is no team.

Teams, clubs, communities, populations, are crudely mere amalgams of individuals.

But they’re more than that.


“Dad, how many players are in a footy team?”

“Eighteen on the field.”

“Who’s the most important player?”


Narrative around K Hinkley at Port includes the empty toilet roll speech. The idea that no one is too big to chip in.

Narrative around the 2014 Hawthorn premiership year is about the success of role-based culture. Everyone playing their role.

In this model, no individual stands above his/ her peers.

It’s nothing new.


“Do you ever wonder, mate?”


“Who am I?”

“Ahh, navel gazing.”

“No, who are you?”


“Better; who are we?”


As 2002 Runners-up, Collingwood featured not a single player in the All-Australian team.


“Monday morning’s father-son bidding meeting could prove crucial to a number of mooted trade deals, with James  Frawley to officially join Hawthorn as a free agent, the Demons and Geelong close to reaching a deal for Mitch Clark, Nick Malceski waiting to see whether Sydney will match Gold Coast’s three-year offer, and Levi Greenwood’s future at North Melbourne still up in the air.”

Emma Quayle, The Age, 6 October 2014.


The rise of the individual me-ism, the cult of celebrity; “all this points to the classic human quandary: we are individuals with a strong sense of our independent personal identity and we are members of families, groups and communities with an equally strong sense of social identity, fed by our intense desire to belong. This tension between the two sides of our nature explains why we sometimes act against the interests of the very communities we depend on.”

Hugh Mackay, The Age, 4 October 2014.


So what is recruiter looking for?

What is a club looking for?

Increasingly, it’s not individuals.

Rather, it’s citizens.

A temperamental genius is not valued as highly as a reliable cog in a machine.

Know your role, perform your role.

(Of course a role-playing citizen of super talent represents the Holy Grail – G Ablett, M Priddis, S Pendlebury, S Mitchell).

Against this backdrop the L Franklin trade rises as stark contrast.


“Trade week.”

“Pisses me off.”

“Yeah. It’s a circus.”

“Rumours, deals. What are they looking for?”

“A hidden gold nugget?”

“The Welcome bloody Stranger.”

“Ahh… These are people we’re talking about.”

“So many variables.”

“So many.”



CollingwoodFC is painfully midway along the citizen approach. Individuals of will and outspoken opinion are out. Citizens of the new republic are in.


“Who won the best and fairest?”

“Who cares? It’s a team game.”

“Yeah, but was it an old bloke or a young bloke?”

“Mate – it doesn’t matter. It’s a team game.”

“But you’d love a young bloke to win the B&F, mate. Shows you’re on the way up.”

“No, mate. I don’t care. Individual awards are mere decoration for lounge rooms and egos. They’re not the name of the game.”


As supporters, spectators, outsiders we love to see a win.

Fussily, we love to see a creative, offensive win.

In this light, individuals wearing the jumper are merely cattle.


“The rise of free agency in sport is reflective of how grossly overestimated loyalty in team sports is. Real loyalty is the province of fans that can cheer the jumper regardless of who wears it. But this idea is complicated for a player, who mostly loses his romance for the game when he’s drafted, and starts thinking about his own success.”

Timothy Boyle, The Age 5 October 2014


But we’re also tied by the human quandary: we value personal identity as well as community. All players are different. We relate. We admire. We have numbers on our back. We have favourites. We have badges on lapels. We barrack names.


“But mate, the Hawks win without Hodgey.”

“Yeah. Bloody Hawks.”

“That’s the team.”

“I know it. But the players matter.”

“Yeah, they matter. It matters that they can play their roles. But it doesn’t matter what they did last year, last week, or even yesterday.”


“Nor even what they think.”



“Collingwood has told the Lions it wants to sort out a trade for Beams by the end of this week, and that it wants the club’s No. 4 pick and a good young player for the contracted onballer.”

Emma Quayle, The Age, 6 October 2014.


Fantasy footy competitions and panel shows depend on the individual as central character. Frequently, newspapers and chat shows do, too.

Team sport, though, depends on individual sacrifice to a greater good.

Cogs in a machine.

Knowing the role; performing the role.


“And so it’s with hollow voices that any coach complains when one of his men leaves him. After all, he too is worried about himself.”

Timothy Boyle, The Age, 5 October 2014


“What are we chasing in Trade Week, anyway?”

“There’s no silver bullet.”

“No magic answer.”

“What is the answer?”


“Communities can be magical places, but the magic comes from us, not to us.”

Hugh Mackay, The Age, 4 October 2014

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Hmm. A bull market (or a premiership) makes fools into geniuses. A recession (or a bad season) makes geniuses into fools.
    We all want our share of the fairy dust, But then we proclaim that we don’t believe in fairies.
    Every man/woman is their own saviour and persecutor. Its just that we keep getting traded to the other side.
    Thanks for the perspective ER.

  2. Wowser PB – cracking comment.
    Bread and circuses.
    Cause and effect.
    It’s a swirling mystery, all of it.
    (It must be).

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    At a pre-season cricket training session a few years back, our new captain got up and declared “there is no ‘I’ in team”, to which a laid back yet mecurial player in the team replied “but there is in cricket”.
    Coaches hate individuals, fans love them. Really hope the citizen approach pays off for Collingwood.

  4. There is no I in team…but there’s plenty in ‘idiotic platitude’.

  5. G’day Luke,
    Cricket is a strange cross-over of the team sport for individuals, I guess.
    Less about collective team tactics, maybe, and more importance on individual performances.
    The trumpeting of young D Moore by Collingwood the other day was not out of the citizen playbook, at all. Mixed messages from the magpies.
    G’day Rick N:
    You’ve stumped me.

  6. Interpersonal team dynamics are another piece of the puzzle here.
    This week we’ve had:
    KP and the England bullying clique.
    The (seemingly) odd decision of R Griffen to leave an AFL captaincy role.

    It points to a transient expectation of relationships, I reckon.
    “Can’t be bothered with that bloke. I’ll leave.”
    “Can’t tolerate that bloke. I’ll make him leave.”

    Perhaps that’s a good thing.
    Perhaps relationships really should be temporary.
    But a successful team/family/workgroup/other collection of individuals I think would work together to help one another, rather than divide.

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