THE KIDS of AFL stars should not be pigeon-holed as future stars, they might not even like kicking footballs, writes CHERYL CRITCHLEY:
WHEN Luke Hodge gathered his family together for the retirement press conference this week you would imagine all eyes were on the Hawks’ favourite son.
But, Hawthorn officials would have been less than human if their eyes didn’t just stray a little to three other sons: Luke’s boys Cooper, Chase and Leo.
Hodge’s retirement and the birth of Patrick Dangerfield’s first child have had Hawthorn, Geelong and Adelaide fans salivating over what might lie ahead from that glorious gene pool.
Last week, Dangerfield’s newborn son George had hardly drawn breath when he was earmarked to play for the Crows or Cats.
“The pressure is already mounting on the golden child, with Adelaide and Geelong fans licking their lips at the prospect of a future father-son selection,” afl.com.au proclaimed.
“The Crows lead the race after the Brownlow medallist played 154 games for Adelaide, but Cats fans still have hope as he continues to add to his 38 games at the Cattery.”
Such famed father-son combinations are music to the ears of AFL fans and the footy media.
Think Ronald James and Ronald Dale Barassi (Melbourne), Alan and Matthew Richardson (Richmond) Allan and James Hird, Dustin and Ken Fletcher, Terry, Neale, Tony, Chris and Joe Daniher (Essendon) and Sergio, Stephen and Jack Silvagni (Carlton).
Then there’s Gary Ablett (Geelong and Gold Coast) and father Gary (Geelong), Melbourne’s Jack Viney and father Todd, Geelong’s Tom Hawkins and father, Jack, and the Bulldogs’ Tom Liberatore and Tony.
If the pundits have their way, they’ll be followed by the three Hodge boys and Shane Crawford’s four lads at Hawthorn, while Chris Judd’s three boys will be torn between West Coast or Carlton.
It’s the stuff of AFL legend.
But hang on a minute. Some of these kids aren’t out of nappies and we’re already assuming that they’ll:
- Like footy
- Excel at it
- Possess the drive and determination needed to be a star like their dad.
What if Cooper, Chase, Leo and George are no good at footy? What if they’d rather pull out their toenails than pull on the boots?
Hailing from a footy-mad family is no guarantee that your child will like or be good at it. Despite having a grandfather who played for Hawthorn and Richmond-mad parents, my son hates footy.
Ben spent his brief Auskick career doing Mark “Jacko” Jackson handstands in the back pocket and once boasted, “I’ve been doing Auskick for three and a half years and had about four touches.”
If anything, at 14 he’s even more dismissive of our great game. “It ruins an entire weekend,” he says. “It wastes time that could be used doing much better things … virtually anything else.”
We are all different and no kid should be pigeon-holed by what their parent enjoys or does for a living, whether it be sport, entertainment or business.
Young people have enough pressure on them already, so it should not matter if Cooper Hodge or George Dangerfield end up preferring to play the piano, ride horses or drive trains.
Some kids follow their parents and good on them. Many don’t, and that’s fine too. For every AFL player whose son (and now daughter) reaches the top level, many play other sports or none.
I love the fact that my son refuses to follow the pack and has never watched a full game of footy. Belonging to a Richmond family, that might not be such a bad thing…
No doubt the Hodges, Dangerfields, Judds and Shane Crawford and his partner Olivia Anderson will let their boys walk their own path. And if it leads to a career as a butcher, baker or brain surgeon they’ll be just as proud of them.
Author: Cheryl Critchley
Cheryl Critchley is a freelance journalist, AFL Fans Association vice-president and Richmond member who attends games with her husband and three kids – if she can drag them along. She also wrote Our Footy: Real Fans vs Big Bucks (Wilkinson Publishing).