A couple of weeks ago when Geelong’s Josh Hunt tried a “half-hearted, one-handed attempt to mark in traffic,” he was crucified by the media and looked down upon by the football public.
How dare an AFL player, on a six figure salary, make a split second decision to preserve his body, when supporters pay good money to see fit young men go at it in search of a win?
Fast forward to the game on the weekend which saw Cats fringe player Tom Lonergan do the exact opposite and collide heavily after backing into a pack in a moment of bravery and selflessness. He has now lost a kidney, damaged his aorta, and will perhaps never play again. He was expected to be brought out of an induced coma today. Hunt, on the other hand, will be named against Hawthorn on Sunday. Who’s more important to the team? Hunt, because he is still playing.
The fact is that some contests are just too dangerous to go running back into blindly, but the team, public and media cry out for it, labelling it as part of the great Australian game, and leaving the players little choice but to follow suit. Some will be lucky and take the grab without more than just a few bruises. Others will end their career.
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And when Cats coach Mark Thompson came out and said, “I think today we probably learnt more about Tom than the three other years that he’s been here,” it was a typically cliched response, more about putting pressure on the current list of players to emulate Lonergan’s actions, than to console the player himself — who probably wouldn’t have liked to be defined by one contest after three years of sacrifice.
Also Josh Hunt still must have been in the coach’s mind when he said, “That’s just brave and that’s what people admire about some players. Some people have got it in them to do it.” Is Josh taking one kidney too many into this week’s game?
Footy is a harsh game. Those who wince will be cast out and those who don’t may never play again.