Barty’s farewell, the words that moved us

    Ash Barty contributed a series of pieces this year, including the painful secret battle she fought while winning Wimbledon in 2021. Nat Medhurst, Bianca Chatfield, Will Schofield, Steve Johnson, Corey Parker, Christian Welch, Mike Hussey, Steve Smith, Kyah Simon and Chris Anstey were among those to also write personal, powerful, analytical and insightful columns.The topics ranged from grief about the shock deaths of Shane Warne and Andrew Symonds to the sense of gratitude created when you’re rushed to a Russian hospital for emergency surgery.These are five columns from the year that resonated with readers.Ash Barty: Why it’s time to say goodbyeIn her farewell to tennis column, ASH BARTY explains why the time is right to walk away from the game she loves.Perfect Fridays are around the corner.A relaxed eighteen holes of golf at my local course. A quick cold one as I toss the ball back and forth with my dogs in the backyard as the sun sets. Then settling onto the couch to watch the mighty Tigers get to work on winning another flag.I was lucky enough to see a Richmond premiership in person a couple of years ago. And those are the types of occasions I am looking forward to in the short term after making the biggest decision of my life over the last few weeks.I have to say that I am truly happy to be at a point in my life where I am comfortable in what I have achieved and truly excited by the opportunities ahead of me. My retirement announcement on Wednesday may have come as a shock to some, but it is something I had been contemplating to some degree for several months and now, I feel, the time is right.Read more of this story hereWill Schofield: Back playing AFL too soon after Dad’s funeralThree AFL players that lost a parent mid-career have shared their stories with WILL SCHOFIELD – who, days after saying goodbye to his dad, had an ill-fated clash with Jack Riewoldt.It’s the phone call that anyone who’s lost a parent remembers.Living on the other side of the country, my phone rang at 2am. It was my eldest brother, Jase.Dad had passed away.Having flown home to Victoria the previous day from a month-long trip in Perth, he suffered a fatal heart attack as he slept in bed next to Mum.John Schofield, my father, was 65. I was just 23 when he passed on April 17, 2012.His trip to Perth had been the longest time I’d spent alone with him in my entire life. Towards the end, we had some dinners together speaking about things we’d never spoken about. You can never be ready to lose a parent but on reflection, somehow the timing had given me a chance to say goodbye, without knowing it.Read more of this story hereNat Medhurst: The silent pain I kept to myselfLonely, isolated and with no one to talk to. NAT MEDHURST discusses her personal struggles as an athlete and what she has learned in retirement.I had the pleasure this week of speaking to a group of elite female athletes who are mothers. I was honoured to be asked to chat to such an esteemed group, but didn’t count on the profound impact the conversation would have on me.Specifically, the power of peers and the impact we can have on others and ourselves by being open when discussing our challenges and triumphs.Too often in sport we are silenced from talking about real stuff. Surface level conversations are standard and the general catchphrase is when you rock up to training or a game ‘you leave your shit at the door’ and get to work.Throughout my playing career I went through it all on and off the court.On the court there were the highs of World Cup wins and domestic premiership success and the lows of the Delhi Commonwealth Games; the joy of my first Diamonds selection to the despair of being brutally dropped from the Aussie team over the phone; the excitement of playing at new clubs but being blindsided by others.Off the court I struggled silently with my mental health for a number of years.Read more of this story hereChristian Welch: Seven changes I’d make if I were NRL CEOCHRISTIAN WELCH looks at seven things to improve the NRL, taking inspiration not just from the AFL, but also F1, NFL and the NBA.I obviously don’t live in fairyland, so I want to be realistic about the commercial responsibilities and realities the game faces. But if the top job was given to me, I’d look at these seven things to improve the NRL.1. Change the draw, move the grand finalThe balance between appeasing broadcasters and attracting people to attend the game in person needs to be looked at. I know it’s a delicate one because broadcasters put so much revenue into our game, but at the moment I feel like it’s skewed too heavily in their favour. You only have to look at the AFL’s reverting the grand final back to the traditional 2.30pm timeslot in Melbourne, after playing night grand finals in Perth and Brisbane for the past two years. They understand tradition and the fans and I don’t know if that’s something we take into consideration in the NRL.If it were up to me I’d change the schedule. The Thursday game would move to 7.30pm instead of 7.50pm. There’d be one Friday game with a 7.30pm kick off. Saturday’s three games would remain untouched, but Sunday would pick up the extra game at 1.30pm. The other two would be played at 3.30pm and 5.30pm.The after 8pm kick-off time for State of Origin is also a gee up on a Wednesday night, so I’d be moving that back to 7.30. The grand final starts too late on a Sunday night too, because not everyone gets the next day off depending on what state you’re in. I’d be pushing hard for a 4pm afternoon decider.Read more of this story hereKelli Underwood: We can’t be the only women in the roomKELLI UNDERWOOD penned this powerful piece in response to leaked recordings of a colleague discussing Megan Barnard’s appearance and private life.I first met Megan Barnard in the back of a taxi six years ago. I’d just moved to Sydney – part of the reason was to escape the intense scrutiny of the AFL bubble – and we were heading out to an awards night. We were both a bit nervous. Megan asked me where I was living and who I lived with.I paused, like I always did, once upon a time.Tell the truth or protect yourself and your job?I decided to tell the truth.Read more of this story here

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