Have you ever wondered how other sports players would adapt to AFL should they make the switch? We’ve seen rugby league players and former basketballers and cricketers do it, but what if it was the most elite players in their given sport?
During the week, Collingwood president Eddie McGuire joked that the club would recruit Cristiano Ronaldo. His comments came in response to the media rumours that the Pies would make a play for Adelaide free agent Patrick Dangerfield and GWS young gun Adam Treloar.
“You can ask me about anyone… Cristiano Ronaldo apparently is going to come to Collingwood,” McGuire said at a press conference during the week.
“So we look forward to recruiting him – he’s coming, he’ll look at the MCG over the weekend, come over to the Westpac (to) have a train, he might stay I reckon.”
While the comments were obviously tongue in cheek – given nearly any player gets linked to the league’s biggest club – it does beg the question, how would the world’s greatest sports stars fare at our great game?
Cristiano Ronaldo/Lionel Messi (soccer)
Undoubtedly the top soccer players in the world would have a number of key attributes to bring to the game: both would provide some good evasive skills, fancy footwork and good endurance. On the flip side, kicking a ball along the ground other than in wet weather football would not be a coach-pleaser and, undoubtedly, constantly picking up an oval-shaped ball would be foreign to non-goalkeepers.
Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao (boxing)
Boxers would have the upper body strength to stand up in tackles and win contested ball, but sustained runs might be beyond them. This is not to say they would not have the endurance, because lets face it, anyone who has ever tried boxing would know how tiring it is, but it is more of a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sport than Australian rules. Coaches would also be frustrated with the amount of suspensions both players would receive.
Novak Djokovic/Roger Federer (tennis)
For tennis players, fitness would not be an issue, while their agility and lateral movement would also be quite impressive. Undoubtedly, their hand-to-eye co-ordination would be good and could read the ball in flight, but one has to question the use of their peripheral vision. Given it isn’t something as important in tennis as it is in Australian rules, tennis ex-pats are likely to be wrapped up in tackles from behind, rather than in front. In fact, having any opponent trying to bring them down is foreign, but if they can weave their way through stoppages, they would be very handy.
Tiger Woods/Adam Scott (golf)
Golfers would be the hardest to predict how they would adapt to playing Australian Rules football. Unlike other sports, it does not involve any lower body movement and minimal upper body movement so fitness tests are not a strong point of elite golfers. It is also a relaxed sport and while many who might transfer to Australian Rules would have good demeanours, it’s hard to see them adapt to a sport that involves holding the ball and opponents trying to get the ball off you.
Athletics – Good runners, would have a good endurance base and if they got forward of the ball no-one would catch the sprinters: however, whether or not they could dispose of the ball is another thing.
Baseball – No doubt American baseballers will probably give Australian rules a crack one day, with basketballers and gridiron players already taking punts on our sport. Baseballers would be used to making the most of their chances and timing would be spot on, but whether they could use their hands and feet to dispose of the ball correctly would be another thing.
Cycling – Fitness would not be a problem and given the amount of leg work, cyclists would have no problem running out games. They might even be good at weaving in and out of traffic, but like most non-ball sports, whether they could do anything effective with the football is another thing.
Diving – Would probably fit in well in some clubs’ forward lines. They would be very graceful in going for marks or going to ground, but using a ball or feeling any sort of contact would leave them out of their depth.
Equestrian – Riders would probably be good at jumping over players at stoppages, but you cannot help but feel they would give away a number of in-the-back free kicks.
Hockey – They would be familiar with a field, but not having a stick and having to pick up a larger ball would be tough to adapt to. They would at least have the fitness and evasion skills to make it at the top grade.
Rowing – Like many aerobic sports, rowers would have the fitness to play Australian rules football, but whether they could run, rather than sit, would be a test. They would be ideal at the bottom of packs, using their upper body strength to expedite balls out of stoppages, but when running along the wing, they would feel out at sea.
Shooting – Shooters would have a good eye to pinpoint targets up forward, but whether they could use their legs to help them move the ball to those targets is another thing.
Swimming – Another sport which fitness would not be a problem in the change, but being out in the open air rather than in a pool would be an enormous change. Swimmers would have the ability to drag themselves out of packs, but would be used to the current rather than an opponent holding them back.
Wrestling – Undoubtedly, wrestlers would be great one-on-one specialists, but like boxers, might get on the wrong side of the umpires. They could become good inside midfielders or key position players, but might frustrate fans with their high amount of free kicks against.
It would be interesting to see which sports would adapt best to a change to Australian rules football. Those that have been successful in particular are basketball and gaelic, both of which involve having the ball in the hand and finding teammates to score.
The rise of Mark Blicavs has shown that non-ball sports players could excel at our game given the right environment, but when comparing salaries, it’s hard to understand why any top sports players would transfer to our code.
While McGuire might like to see Ronaldo in a Collingwood jumper, it is hard to see the Portuguese star giving up his $25 million a year contract to be paid less than $1 million.