When Toy Story 3 came out, grown adults and children alike everywhere wept at the scenes of a boy growing up and discarding his unwanted or unused toys. It was a genuinely emotional movie; bloody Andy, throwing away his precious playthings!
The AFL mirrors this scenario every year, except there’s generally less crying. It’s unfortunate, but it’s necessary. Lists need to be turned over and players sometimes just don’t make the cut.
This year is no exception. The dubious honour of graduating in the Delistee Class of 2012 goes to over 100 AFL players (or rather, ex-AFL players) who will now need to look elsewhere after their dreams of making it in the big leagues have been unceremoniously crushed.
Some names will shock. Bret Thornton has been delisted by the Blues – a 181-game veteran and famous for copping a bake from a desperately furious Robert Walls. Steven Salopek played 121 games for Port Adelaide, but never could quite get his body right – delisted.
Mark Seaby, Justin Sherman, the outstandingly average Brett Peake, incredibly red-headed Matthew Bate, mercurial small forward Matthew Campbell and even Simon Buckley have been delisted by their clubs.
But at least they got a game. Spare a thought for the Jordan Wilson-Kings of the world, the Warwick Andreolis, the Matthew Lodges, the Brad Harveys, the Eugene Krugers, the Callum Papertalks, the Matt Panoses and the Piva Wrights. All leave their AFL dreams behind with an infuriating zero next to their names in the ‘games played’ column.
There is, however, always a shining beacon of hope glimmering in the distance. The three drafts in the off-season offer the unlucky Class of 2012 an opportunity to revive their careers at new clubs.
Last year, James Sellar was a perfect example of this. A member of the Class of 2011, Sellar was offered a new home by the Melbourne Demons when selected with pick 58 in the National Draft. The same happened for Setanta O’hAilpin, who was picked up by the GWS Giants.
Others to get new homes, either to fill a need in position or simply to add depth and experience, included the sadly departed John McCarthy, who went from Collingwood to Port Adelaide, and Nicholas Heyne, who went from St Kilda to Carlton.
This year, the sheer volume of players in the class of 2012 means there is some talent on offer, and a number of players could find new homes.
Once described as the best 17 year old in the country, Josh Toy’s career has been stunted by a heart condition. Gold Coast delisted Toy this week, but with clubs reportedly interested in signing the bullocking utility, he looks set to find a new home.
Essendon’s Sam Lonergan could add much-needed grunt to a young midfield, and Kyle Reimers could almost be considered unlucky to have been delisted by the Bombers. The annoying goalsneak might yet land somewhere.
Geelong cast Orren Stephenson to the curb, but the mature-age ruckman fills a need at many clubs desperate for a second big man. Mark Seaby provides direct competition for the Big O in the discarded ruckmen slot.
Rookies delisted by the expansion teams could get a shot at other clubs, with Hayden Jolly, Piers Flanagan, Rhys Cooyou and Tim Segrave never receiving a proper shot at establishing themselves as AFL players. They may receive that shot elsewhere.
Andrew Collins, who you may remember as the other half of the Shaun Grigg to Richmond trade, was delisted by the Blues. Along with Hawk Michael Osborne, the two will train at the clubs that delisted them in the hope of being re-drafted.
It is a cruel world in the sport of AFL, and the relentless nature of the profession means that list turnover is a constant and ever-grinding machine. Some players get left behind and some forge careers at new clubs.
So wherever you are this holiday season and whatever you’re doing, spare a thought and raise a glass for the Class of 2012.