SEASON’S end must be an absolute nightmare for some blokes.
I mean, imagine you’re at your day job right now. You love what you do, the pay is pretty good and you get to work side-by-side with your best mates every day.
But as part of the deal, you’re only allowed to take one week of annual leave each season, you have to work every weekend, and your work is not only intensely scrutinised by your bosses, but by every single bloody person in southern Australia, including shitkickers who write crappy footy blogs that nobody reads.
You’re told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, even when you’re at home.
When your boss says run, you run. When your boss says eat less, you eat less. When your boss says inject this questionable substance, you inject the questionable substance – even when it’s obvious you shouldn’t.
You’d be desperate for the working season to end so you could bugger off to Europe for a few weeks just to escape prying eyes.
Then trade week starts.
Not only do you not know which city you’ll be working from in about month, you don’t even know if you’ll have the same job next year.
Fuck that. Being a footballer sounds like a shitty job.
That is unless you can name your price. You’re so goddamn good at your job that every workplace wants you. You’re the golden boy.
It happens more often now than it ever has thanks to free agency, but the big man on campus buggering off elsewhere has been going on from the earliest days of Australian Rules football.
From Barassi to Dangerfield, it’s a part of the game that has been around for decades and will hang around for as long as the game exists.
REMEMBER when Gary Ablett Jr left Geelong and Sleepy Hollow mourned for 29 days and nights as the inhabitants came to terms with the prodigal son leaving?
OK that didn’t happen, but the Barassi decision to leave the Demons for the Blues was similar, if not worse.
Barassi’s veins ran red and blue. Which is a shit analogy because all of our veins run red and blue, but you get the point I’m trying to make.
His dad, Ron Sr, had played 58 games for the Demons before he was killed at Tobruk in World War II. As a result, the club gathered around little Ron and his widowed mum, Elza, and raised the lad as one of their own.
Zoned to Collingwood or Carlton, the club lobbied to introduce a father-son rule that would allow Ron to play for the Demons like his dad, and the league relented, creating the rule that still stands today (although with several tweaks).
Barassi Jr would eventually move into the home of legendary Melbourne coach Norm Smith, playing 204 games and winning six flags for the Dees.
And then Carlton fucked it all up.
Desperate to get their hands on a player that would become an inaugural member of the AFL Hall of Fame, the Blues offered Barassi a massive paycheck and the opportunity to not only play for the Blues, but coach them as well.
Barassi – seeing an opportunity to quit his day job and play footy full time – said yes, and the biggest player movement in the history of the game was complete.
When asked what he would say to crying kids wearing the number 31 Demons guernsey, Carlton president George Harris said “well we’ll give them a number 31 Carlton guernsey”.
BARRY DAVIS/JOHN RANTALL/DOUG WADE
IMAGINE if like, Brian Lake, Josh Gibson, Jack Gunston and Shaun Burgoyne all left their original clubs to chase a premiership elsewhere.
It’s just unfathomable isn’t it?
Well that’s what happened for North Melbourne in 1973.
To be fair, unlike Hawthorn’s consistent haul of good players from other teams, Davis, Rantall and Wade were all well-established stars at their respective clubs and only left after the 10-year rule was introduced – a form of free agency that basically allowed them to play wherever they wanted.
Wade, a Geelong legend and one of only five players in history to kick 1000 goals, booted 73 majors in his first year at Arden St, followed by 103 the next season.
Davis, a three time Essendon best and fairest winner and Bombers captain, would win the Kangaroos best and fairest in his first season.
And Rantall, a solid and reliable defender for South Melbourne, would see his dream of winning a premiership realised in 1975, as the all-star Kangaroos broke a 50-year premiership drought led by the brilliant coaching – and obviously recruiting – of one Ronald Dale Barassi.
THE FOOTBALL SCHISM
IT’S a bit of a forgotten story in the history of Australian Rules, but the football schism of 1938 threatened to tear the game apart.
A battle between the VFL and the VFA that lasted 11 seasons, the schism came about after the VFA introduced the “throw-pass” rule, which allowed players to throw the ball instead of handball it in an attempt to speed the game up.
I won’t bore you with the details of the how the VFA rules changed the game for the better or why the Association didn’t succeed in the long run, but the player movements at the time were big news.
South Melbourne superstar full-forward Bob Pratt walked out on the Bloods in 1939 in an attempt to get to Carlton. When he wasn’t given a clearance, he decided to join Coburg in the VFA instead.
Pratt – who still holds the record for most goals in a season with 150 – would go on to kick 263 goals from 40 games with Coburg.
And he wasn’t the only massive name to leave the VFL.
Collingwood’s 1940 Brownlow Medallist Des Fothergill moved to Williamstown at the age of 20, setting a record for the most votes in the VFA Medal.
Laurie Nash, famous for playing VFL footy for South Melbourne and Test cricket for Australia, moved the Camberwell, where he would play 74 games and kick 418 goals despite moving between full-forward and full-back.
Ron Todd, Collingwood’s star forward and dual VFL leading goalkicker, buggered off to Williamstown as well, booting 672 goals in 141 matches while becoming the highest paid footballer in Australia at the time, earning 10 times as much as he would have received at the Magpies.
Then there were names like Harry Vallence (Carlton to Williamstown), Jack Titus (Richmond to Coburg), Herbie Matthews (South Melbourne to Oakleigh) and Albert Collier (Collingwood to Camberwell) amongst a list of about 20 of the best players going around to ditch the VFL in favour of the new – and short-lived – throw-pass game.
PETER MOORE/KELVIN TEMPLETON
IF Nat Fyfe and Patrick Dangerfield both decided today that they were leaving their clubs and joining Melbourne, you’d get close to how big the Moore/Templeton move was.
Moore, a star ruckman for Collingwood and the 1979 Brownlow Medallist, and Templeton, a goalkicking superstar for Footscray and Brownlow winner in 1980, both moved to Melbourne in 1982 on massive money. Oh, and they were the respective captains of their teams as well.
In what was a package deal worth $1.2 million, the Demons didn’t get much bang for their buck. Templeton would play just 34 games for the Dees as his career was cut short by injury, while Moore would only get to 77 games as their new club failed to make finals.
IAN STEWART/BILL BARROT
DUAL (and soon to be triple) Brownlow Medallist Ian Stewart played the long con on St Kilda in 1971.
A star for the Saints, Stewart felt like he needed a change after the 1970 season and gave Richmond administrator Allan Schwab a wink and a nod, indicating he was interested in moving to Punt Rd.
At the same time, he told St Kilda he was thinking about giving the game up and moving to Perth to pursue coaching.
While Stewart was playing silly buggers at Moorabbin, the Tigers convinced the Saints that they should take the incredibly talented but sometimes volatile Bill Barrot of their hands. A dual-premiership player and Victorian representative on 11 occasions, Barrot was an explosive player but also had an explosive temperament off the field.
The Saints agreed. It wasn’t every day that a star midfielder was handed to you on a plate, and with Stewart potentially moving to Perth, Barrot would at least partly fill the space left behind.
The only problem was the transfer fee. Barrot wouldn’t come free and the Saints weren’t an overly wealthy club.
“Well,” Stewart said to the Saints board, “I guess I could put the Perth move off for a year and play for *urgh* Richmond if I have to if it means you don’t have to pay a transfer fee.”
“Bingo!” the Saints screamed with joy, enamoured with their own cleverness and business acumen.
Stewart would play 78 games for Richmond, winning his third Brownlow and a Tigers best and fairest along the way.
Barrot would play just 2 games for the Saints before being on-traded to Carlton later in 1971 season.