One of the most attractive and endearing traits of AFL football is that players of all shapes and sizes are able to play the game at the highest level.
However, while there are many types of personality present at each football club, the temperament of an individual player is a definite factor in terms of where and when they may be drafted and how long they will actually remain at their club.
Take an example of two players under consideration for drafting. The first is seen as having slightly better skills and physical attributes, but has a chequered past, with more of an erratic personality and he may be passed over in favour for a slightly less-talented individual, especially if the alternate player is seen to be more reliable, and ultimately a self-motivated learner that is able to respond effectively to any coaching instructions given.
These days, with the large amount of money that AFL clubs invest in player development throughout their entire careers, it is in each club’s best interests to have each listed player learn as much as they can while delivering what is expected of them, both on and off the field. This expectation focuses not only on their playing ability but specifically the players’ activities away from the confines of the football club.
In past instances, AFL clubs have lost large financial sums as a result of player misbehaviour, resulting in sponsors cancelling lucrative arrangements with clubs, as was the case with Sharrod Wellingham’s misdemeanour and the subsequent loss of Collingwood’s TAC sponsorship in 2008, which reportedly cost the Magpies $500,000.
With so much at stake, it is difficult to justify how any club would take any chance in drafting a player with off-field discipline issues, especially if the issues are severe enough that they may affect the players mindset and not allow him to focus on the game, perform to the best of his ability and therefore devote himself entirely to the teams core virtues and values.
The mid-season case of Liam Jurrah and his off-field activities cannot have had any positive impact on his Melbourne teammates, and now that he has left the Demons, the shadow of his recent past still lingers badly. Even if he is picked up in the Pre-Season Draft, he is still a desperately risky proposition to ever get back playing to his full potential, and is unlikely to have an initial positive influence on his new team.
This is not to say that in certain cases players are not worthy of taking a risk on, but often the player will be signed on a performance-based contract that has strict behaviour clauses, effectively forcing the player to conform to the team rules, regulations and culture, otherwise they may be delisted.
A similarly risky philosophy on drafting can apply to the recruiting of players from states other than their own. It is often the case that players can become homesick and want to leave their initial club and return home.
However, if a player has a strong temperament, chances are he will adapt to his adopted team’s culture and environment, becoming less likely to want to leave once his initial contract term expires.
Contrasting this, drafting a player that is less mature and self-assured increases the likelihood the player will be tempted to move back to his home state. If the team is underperforming and losing matches constantly, a situation can arise as it did for Ben Jacobs and his insistence of departing the struggling Port Adelaide, with his eventual move back to Victoria and the Kangaroos through the National Draft.
For some individuals, a second club and new set of behaviours may just be the wakeup call they need to reinvigorate their careers, but sadly, not all take advantage of their second chance and are left to fall by the wayside.
The safest way of recruitment is for clubs to get their picks right in the first place, which is obviously easier said than done. However, by recruiting players with solid temperaments that are willing to learn and avoid the indiscretions, chances are higher that the player and club will have an enduring relationship. Both parties would be comfortable with each other, making it more likely to find success, and for the player to become increasingly valuable to their club for the longest time possible.
Having talent is one thing, but if you’re not mentally committed or focused on football enough, chances are you’re just not cut out for footy at the top level.