There’s been quite a lot of disappointing news about AFL footballers over the last few weeks, predominantly incidents where players have punched others on the field.
It’s not a good look for the sport, and as a fan it’s pretty frustrating.
But it’s made me think back to a moment that’s stuck with me, a moment where I thought “wow, he gets it” when listening to a footballer speak.
It was 2010, Brownlow Medal night (Australian football’s MVP medal for all those non-Aussies) and the winner was giving his acceptance speech.
It was Chris Judd.
He used the word “real” multiple times. Pointing out that football isn’t the real world. That the heroes of football aren’t the real heroes in life. That they have a place as role models for kids, but they’re not the real role models.
He talked about his motivation for moving back to Melbourne from Perth, changing football clubs, as wanting “a life outside of the footy club”.
This man isn’t perfect, but he understands.
He was awarded the AFL’s highest individual honour, twice. He won a premiership, and as team captain. He was captain of two teams. He played at the highest level, but he still kept in perspective that it is just a game.
At the end of the day, it’s not real; it’s just a game. It’s not the real battle. He loved football, but he knew that there is more to life than football.
And I was so glad that night, listening to him, that his talent in this sport gave him the microphone. That as much as he shied away from being a role model, in that speech he shone through as one.
Love your sport, kids.
Don’t give in.
But remember that it’s just a game.