Watching success from the bench

Although team sheets for this Saturday aren’t yet published, there’s already an omission that deserves the title of 2013 Grand Final Sob Story.

Hawk Brendan Whitecross will not be included in the team this Saturday, after the 23 year old ruptured his ACL in the Preliminary final last week against Geelong. This pain is all too familiar for Whitecross, who did the same injury one year ago. Two ruptures in two years is devastating for any player, but even moreso for the luckless backman. Both of his ACL injuries occurred during the year’s finals series, ruling him out of two successive Grand Finals. It’s bad luck you wouldn’t wish on anyone, let alone a 23 year old with much talent and promise.

I found myself in a similar situation two years ago. I had been selected for the Victorian Catholic U16’s netball team and was scheduled to play a week-long national tournament. Arriving a day early, we had a light session on the Friday night before our first game the following day. I’m still devastated to say I never even made it into the navy blue dress; I tore ligaments in my ankle during Friday’s session, ruling me out for the tournament and several months afterwards.

Watching my teammates play the game I love most was absolutely excruciating. That week was more painful than the injury in itself: trying to still be a part of it all yet knowing that these girls would forever have a bond that I couldn’t quite share; my mindset changing hourly from a state of denial, to frustration, anger, then acceptance; watching my team make it to the Grand Final and lose; feeling bad for leaving the team one short before the tournament even began; being bored and heartbroken as my teammates ran and swam and contrast-bathed and got massaged and analysed and laughed and compared bruises and shared All-Australian honours. I still remember that week fondly, but will forever wonder what could have been…

I feel for Brendan. Twice in two years, that’s beyond unfair.

But he isn’t the first, nor the last, to face such hardship. There have been plenty of stories of heartbreak at the final hurdle, when a last minute injury prevented an athlete from attaining that hard-chased victory. I’m sure fellow Almanackers have plenty of their own stories to share. Are there any more devastating than Brendan Whitecross’ though?

There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, we must remember. Death brings new life. Whitecross’ omission will signal someone else’s inclusion. The old make way for the new, or in this case the young will make room for the younger. Maybe in his newfound spare time Brendan can make a scrapbook of society’s sayings for the injured.
‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.
‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’.
Or the all time favourite:
‘You’ll be back in no time’.

About Hannah Kuhar

Netballer working in banking. Definitely unbiased Hawthorn supporter. Passionate about socio-emotional vulnerabilities and the behaviours of high performing teams. IG: Hannah Kuhar


  1. Peter Fuller says

    Your insightful reflection on your unhappy experience and your empathy for Brendan W. suggests that you are a pretty special person. I’m sure that with the kind of attitude you express in this post, your turn will come.
    Many years ago, David Parkin used a message from golfer Mike Clayton to emphasise to his players (at Carlton at the time) the imperative of never giving up. “I may not dazzle you with my briliance, but I’ll grind you to death with my persistence.”
    I hope as some-one who is young enough to play your chosen sport for a lot more years, that you get the opportunity to draw strength from your disappointment two years ago. I’m sure that when that future occasion arises, you will be a winner on the field, rather than a disappointed sideline supporter of the runners-up.

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