CAN pain cure the football ills?

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

THRASHING the boys on the training track is the formula often prescribed after a dismal loss. But is the punishment going to produce a better performance or simply fatigue? LAWRENCE MONEY looks at this and other football mysteries:

WHO wouldn’t sympathise with Saints coach Alan Richardson after the thumping by the Roos back in round 2? And again by the Hawks in round 6.

Each time, Richo declared that his boys faced a ferocious week ahead on the training track as penance. Visions of 100 push-ups, 50 one-kay sprints, maybe even carrying sacks of cement up the Portsea sand dunes. Yes, the old “punishment” training.

Artwork: Gordon Napier

It is one of the mysteries of footy – the theory that draining every last ounce of energy from the team at practice will make them play with more energy and enthusiasm the following week. In fact, after the post-Roos “punishment” training, the exhausted Saints were belted the next weekend by the Crows by 49 points. And after the thumping by the Hawks, and another punishment session, the panting Saints were annihilated by the Demons.

I sometimes wonder about “punishment” training – if you lose again do you get punished even harder? And how would the coach do it anyhow? TWO hundred push-ups and double cement sacks? I dunno – sapping an athlete of energy, to give them incentive, seems crazy.

Here’s another mystery. Your star mid-fielder kicks a goal and he does the fist pump. If he is wearing the ubiquitous black arm-band he kisses it and points theatrically to the sky. (“That one’s for you, Knackers.”) He does that touch-hands thing with team-mates then he sprints like a madman for 300 metres to the bench.

There, he talks to the coach on the phone, gets told to keep up the good work, then sprints like a madman back on to the ground, arriving in a lather of sweat, mouth gaping like a goldfish. Even if he has the proverbial “big engine”, he has just wasted 600 metres of hard running which, in the words of Jack Dyer, took place “where the ball ain’t”.

“Leave him on!” we yell, “he’s red-hot and wanting to kick another,” but the insanity continues. By the end of the match, if star midfielder has kicked six goals he has probably run three useless kilometres to and from the bench, distances he could have more usefully covered chasing the Sherrin.

Here’s my third mystery. Team B scores a behind and Team A’s backman shapes up to kick out. There is a Team A team-mate unguarded alone in the back pocket so the backman passes to him. The ball is now at least 30 metres on its way to Team A’s goal. Why is that A player in the pocket unguarded? Elementary mathematics dictate that, with one player from team A is occupied taking the kick-out, team B must outnumber team A out there by one player.

If no one from team B covers the bloke in the pocket there must be two more players from team B out there. But still team A usually gets the ball away from the back 50 via the unguarded pocket. Go figure.

ABC radio (2018): “The constellation prize…”

3AW (1983): “On Monday there will be no Saturday sports show”

Peter Landy (1985): “Michael Roberts looks more like his father at that age than his father did himself.”



Author: Lawrence Money

Lawrence Money has twice been named Victoria’s best newspaper columnist by the Melbourne Press Club. He wrote columns for 37 years on the Melbourne Herald, Sunday Age and daily Age — and in Royalauto and Your Sport magazines — before retiring in 2016 after a 50-year career in journalism.
He still treads the speaking circuit, does radio gigs, tweets on @lozzacash and chases a long-gone 13 golf handicap. He clings to the eternal hope that the Melbourne Demons will once again win a flag.



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