After only managing five games for Essendon in 2012 and being delisted at the end of the season, Kyle Reimers has turned down his AFL lifeline.
Reimers was offered a position at Carlton, being granted permission to train with the Blues and even meeting with new coach Mick Malthouse.
But it looks unlikely that Reimers will be pulling on the fluorescent boots in an effort to capture an elusive AFL premiership in 2013.
While Reimers is now unlikely to be playing for an AFL club in 2013, at only 23 years of age and with considerable talent, it isn’t certain we will never see him play at the highest level again.
Reimers appears to have made the best decision for himself at this stage. While most young men with the talent would leap at the opportunity to play with an AFL club, Reimers is all too aware that in the modern era of football, talent alone is not enough.
While players have a short break between the ending of one AFL season and the beginning of another, pre-seasons are starting earlier and earlier as clubs attempt to get the edge on their competitors. Being an AFL player is no longer a siren-to-siren commitment; AFL players are required to maintain their fitness for the entire year.
Players are held to high community scrutiny and media attention; they are denied the opportunity to enjoy a ‘normal’ social life that most of their peers would engage in.
Being an AFL player is more like holding down three jobs than simply the one dream job many a kid would fantasise about when playing at a junior level. There are multiple training, rehabilitation and media commitments required on a weekly basis – and that’s just in the pre-season. Then there’s the ‘fun’ part: monumental physical feats of athleticism and endurance on game day, which is faster than ever, with more furious, bone-crunching tackles than we’ve ever seen.
AFL isn’t just the glamour of holding up the premiership cup, it is media training, ice baths and gruelling pre-seasons, and talent is no longer enough. The level of professionalism and commitment required from an AFL player is higher than it has ever been and it takes a mature head to realise they are not up to the task.
If Reimers does decide to return to his old WAFL club in Peel Thunder for 2013, it could be just the tonic that is needed to rejuvenate a career that showed so much promise, and he could be lining up for one of the Western Australian AFL clubs as soon as 2014.
The psychological component for an AFL player has become just as important as the physical, as was shown with Dayle Garlett, who on talent alone would have been a top 10 pick in the 2012 National Draft, but missed selection.
Essendon, despite its recent history with Reimers, who lacked the commitment to football at the highest level, seem set to take another risk with Garlett currently training with the Bombers. It could well be a risk that pays off, as with the structured environment of an AFL club, mentors, senior players and a rigid training program, Garlett could flourish, and manage to reach the potential his talent promises.
It’s as though Kyle Reimers has walked out the door and held it open for Dayle Garlett to walk in. With any luck, Reimers will keep his own AFL door open for the future.