Top 5: Plugger, Buddy and the unspoken AFL battle

    Geelong’s demolition of Sydney proved a tear-jerking moment for Tyson Stengle and Eddie Betts, while it was a fitting farewell for inspirational captain Joel Selwood.Administrators squeezed two AFLW seasons into 2022. The ‘Batman and Robin’ combination of Daisy Pearce and Tayla Harris secured the premiership Melbourne had hunted since the league’s inceptionAnd on CODE, we dug deeper to understand trends, analyse key issues, and find out what an AFL game is really like from a coach’s perspective.These are five of our most memorable stories from this season.Will Schofield: What retirement is really likeWILL SCHOFIELD had an AFL career spanning 14 years and did all he could to set himself up for life after footy. But the transition to the ‘real world’ was harder than he ever could have imagined.It was a boyhood dream come true to play footy for a living. Something I wanted so badly growing up in Geelong, a footy town. I was drafted at 17, moved across the country and never looked back.After 14 years at the top level, I retired at the end of 2020. A chapter of my life officially over.In theory transitioning out of the game shouldn’t be that hard.But it is.Highly paid, get to travel, a focus on fitness, loved by fans, sponsors and connections – life as a professional athlete, especially as an AFL player, is as good as it gets.But with all the good comes a difficult period, one I have just gone through. The transition from a player into the ‘real world’.Read more from this story hereAn AFL career ended by an exit meetingAs the excitement of finals dawn for some, others will have their dreams dashed this week when AFL clubs tell players their services are no longer wanted, writes DANIEL CHERNY.Max Spencer had the shakes.After a couple of years on Gold Coast’s list, his day of reckoning had arrived.He was only 20, and yet his dream hung in the balance.The defender had not been given an indication as to whether the Suns would extend his contract beyond the end of 2018. But he’d played just three matches for the season. The writing was probably on the wall.On Monday, as eight clubs eye a September bounty, another 10 are packing up and moving on. The end of an AFL season comes with a cold-hearted ruthlessness. One day your side is vying for a spot in the finals, the next you are being shuffled down the conveyor belt towards the off-season.The league’s collective bargaining agreement dictates that once the season is done, the post-mortems for each player come quickly. Over the next few days, hundreds of AFL players will sit down in an office somewhere in their club to be the subject of an exit meeting.But what do these meetings actually entail? So much depends on where a player sits on the list, and the stage of his career.Read more from this story hereSteve Johnson: Preparing for the AFL draftGamesmanship, fake snubs, dossiers, FOMO and forthright debate. STEVE JOHNSON explains the hard work and mind games that help clubs prepare for an AFL draft.I remember sitting in Sydney’s boardroom while listening to the debate about drafting Elijah Taylor.Most people don’t realise the sheer volume of work that goes into preparing an AFL club for a draft. I certainly didn’t until I became an assistant coach at the Swans.Kinnear Beatson‘s reputation as being one of the best operators in the caper is richly deserved, while Simon Dalrymple, Chris Keane and Ross Monaghan also played key roles in allowing Sydney to rebuild on the run.Every club does it differently when it comes to the division of draft powers. I think Sydney’s model struck a good balance, empowering coaches to form part of the process while ensuring the people who know best ultimately make the decisions.In the lead up to every draft, the entire coaching panel assembled for a crash course in that year’s prospects.Kinnear and his team prepared a draft dossier on approximately 70-odd youngsters. They then ran us through a heap of video. They looked at every player’s strengths and weaknesses on the footy field, but also chatted about their family background, coaches and school teachers’ insight, personality, other interests, any red flags and more.Read more from this story hereThe day Plugger pulled on the boots for PortBlack limos, security and countless autographs – PAUL AMY recounts the day Tony Lockett debuted for Port Dunbar says it was probably on the Tuesday, since that was when Malaxos, assistant coach to Rodney Eade at the Swans, usually phoned from Sydney in 2002.Dunbar was coaching VFL club Port Melbourne, which back then had a semi-alignment with Sydney, taking in 10-or-so players every week.Malaxos would call to confirm who would be lining up with the Borough, and ahead of the Round 7 match against Werribee he had some “pretty big’’ selection news.“I’ve always remembered how it happened,’’ Dunbar says. “Stav rings and says, ‘Now listen, what I’m going to tell you, we need to keep this under wraps, we don’t want it getting out yet’,’’ Dunbar recalls.“Only about half an hour later the phone rings and I hear, ‘It’s Caroline Wilson from The Age here, I just want to talk to you about Plugger playing at Port Melbourne this week’. So the secret didn’t last long!’’Tony ‘Plugger’ Lockett kicked 1360 goals in 281 games of league football, making him the most prolific goalkicker in VFL/AFL history.And 20 years ago, during a brief AFL comeback with Sydney, he kicked four goals for Port Melbourne at North Port Oval.Read more from this story hereWhat it’s really like to play on BuddyWhat’s it really like to be a defender playing on Buddy Franklin? It’s horrifying, writes WILL SCHOFIELD.I had prepared and studied to play on Buddy Franklin all week.I had a strategy that I was confident could beat him.How hard could it be? I’d played on plenty of good players and found ways to limit their influence. That’s all you’re trying to do as a backman, especially when you’re playing on the good ones in good teams.You know they’re going to get shots on goal.Restricting them to a down day is usually the aim.I always shook my opponent’s hand before I played. My dad who, like me, had chronic white line fever, told me as a young kid, ‘No matter what happens on the field, you shake your opponent’s hand before and after the game.’So I walk towards Franklin, then playing for Hawthorn, on this Friday night at the MCG with my confidence high and my rock-solid plan at the front of my mind. I get within hand shaking distance and, for the first time, it dawns on me how big the man is. He probably only has four centimetres in height on me, but he looks like Mount Everest close up.Not a good start.As I reach my hand out to Buddy and look him in the eye. His expression changes. He already knows he’s won and the siren hasn’t sounded.“Are you the best they’ve got?” he asks with a grin, encasing my hand in a grip that feels like a wet rag in a vice. “Tell Woosha to send someone else down here.”Read more from this story here

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