Only one player can kick the goal, but it is a team that scores it

by | Jul 26, 2019

I often joke that AFL clubs recruit the most selfish human beings known to mankind. The eighteen-year-old male. Yet, the first value we seek to teach is selflessness.

The player’s career will be defined by their capacity to make this transition. It is wonderful to watch it happen as young men grow. They become role players; recognising their value is not what they bring to the team, it is what they’re prepared to do for the team.

They learn that only one player can kick the goal, but it is a team that scores it.

For many, the transition is beyond them.

In recent years, a personal favourite is Adelaide champ is Eddie Betts. He is just about the most watchable player in the game’s history. A highlights reel like no other.

Eddie was dropped from Adelaide’s senior team this weekend. It is big news.

Eddie would be the first to admit his form hasn’t been up to his usual standard, yet he has still scored more goals than any other Adelaide player this season. He has kicked, 32, a reasonable return for a small forward in a year where scoring for all clubs has been low. Only seven players in the competition have kicked more goals than him.

It is a decision that can put the club, coach and player under enormous pressure. I am sure it is an intense topic of conversation in a city that loves its footy, and Eddie is a hero.

Adelaide FC came into the season with high expectations. But they have been inconsistent. And they are aging. Still, they remain in finals contention, sitting in eighth place.

The club is now in that challenging phase of trying to get the best from its current playing list to remain in the mix in season 2019, while having a keen eye on the next generation of Adelaide players. I call this the ‘future-now’ phase and a difficult balance for club decision-makers.

Eddie understands this. He is thirty-two and knows his time is nearing the end. The game has been good for him, as he’s been good for it, but he also recognises the need for his club to invest games in young players, to see if they have what it takes at this level, and someone has to make way.

Eddie was the beneficiary of this same system fifteen years ago when Carlton took a chance on him. They elevated him from their Rookie list and played him in the senior team. A tiny, under conditioned, enigmatic but inconsistent goal kicker. Now, 300 games and 595 goals later, he is a great of the game, in the very highest echelon of small forwards.

But he also knows the pressure the club and his coach, Don Pyke, will be under as a result of their decision to omit him from the team.

Eddie could be forgiven for some indulgence at this challenging stage of life, facing into his football mortality, but instead, he puts his club and teammates first, using his own popularity and standing to diffuse the situation via his personal social media platform.

He has made it personal, heartfelt and real. With a smiling photo taken in the Adelaide changerooms with the young man who has taken his place in the team, 20-year-old Tyson Stengle, selected to play just his second game for Adelaide, Eddie writes:

“Yes a bit disappointed to be dropped but at the same time super excited that this kid gets another run at AFL level, turn it on little brother”.

Tyson is also Indigenous, and a small forward.

One of my favourite leadership quotes is from TD Jakes:

“Your words tell others what you think. Your actions tell them what you believe.”

Eddie has left us in no doubt what he thinks, and what he believes.


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