Anthony Sharwood takes a moment to salute the NRL and AFL battlers who give everything for their team
As the finals near and we sort the footballing wheat from the chaff, let us pause to salute those players who are neither exquisitely talented nor thrilling to watch.
The ones who are Commodores, not footballing Ferraris. The players who have to buy their own drinks in nightclubs, and probably even queue to get in.
That is not to denigrate their contribution. Not by a long stretch. Average players are the infantry who make the generals look good. They are the quiet guy in the office toiling away uncomplainingly while the suits are out to lunch.
We barely notice these players. They never make the headlines. But my club has them, your club has them, every club has them. And without them, our clubs could not compete.
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Earlier this week, a press release from Fremantle Dockers lobbed in my inbox. It announced that 128 gamer, Byron Schammer, would be hanging up his boots for good.
Freo Senior coach Mark Harvey described Schammer as “a popular player around the club who was always committed to his football”. He went on to say that Schammer would be remembered as a “little terrier on the field who always gave it his best shot”.
“Whenever Byron played he always gave it his all,” the coach added.
I never saw Schammer play, or if I did, I never noticed him. But I wish I had. Because I love moderately talented guys who unfailingly give it their best shot. At the end of the day, what more can any fan ask for?
Who is your club’s Byron Schammer or Mitch Brown, the reliable bloke who gives his all? Have your say by leaving a comment below.
I follow Wests Tigers in the NRL. They have a star-studded team. There’s Benji, Lote, Robbie and a bunch of other guys identifiable by their first names alone, all of whom can win games single-handedly.
And then there’s Mitch Brown.
Mitch Brown has performed perfectly adequately in the bulk of the Tigers’ 23 games this year, just as he did a nice, solid, anonymous job in his 20 outings for the Tigers in their successful 2010 season.
Tigers coach Tim Sheens clearly likes Mitch Brown, too. He likes the fact that the guy can fill nearly any position required of him in the outside backs. But above all, I bet he loves his ordinariness.
The Tigers have enough playmakers and jinking runners. They have enough big personalities and superstars. They need a guy who’s just there. A guy who’ll clean up a towering bomb, or make a hard tackle, and get straight back into the defensive line.
As the finals swing into gear, it is not the Mitch Browns or Byron Schammers of this world who will make the difference. The premiers, ultimately, will be decided by the fitness and quality of their best players.
Yet the average players will play a part too. And the ones that succeed will be the ones who continue to embrace their averageness. They won’t try to emulate the stars, or change the solid style of play which has served them so well all season.
They’ll be themselves, confident in their role as a cog, not a supercharged turbo booster. They’ll take their ordinariness and work with it, not fight it.
In football, as in life, that can be the hardest lesson of all. To realise that most of us are desperately average, and to make what we can of life from that point.
Not many of us come to terms with that. But those of us who do are the real superstars. And just you watch as one or more of those average footballing Joes jogs a victory lap on the first weekend in October.