“It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you” – Eddie Dupris, Million Dollar Baby.
The sentiment of such a line is profound in its beauty and simplicity. However, in an AFL world of heightened professionalism and the overbearing need to be a marketable commodity, there is often no time for such whimsical fancy.
Gold Coast’s Tom Lynch finds himself at a fork in the road that will ultimately shape his legacy. According to Melbourne’s frenzied media circus, at the close of the 2018 AFL season, he will opt to exercise his rights as a restricted free agent and return home to Victoria.
Make no mistake. Whatever term you use to describe the game’s elite, Lynch is it. An enormous power forward possessing overhead marking, aerobic capacity, agility and great kicking skills. He is the complete package. The kind of player that you would want to build a side around.
Added to his playing ability is the fact that Lynch is also currently serving as co-captain of the Suns. With this knowledge, one would assume that Lynch oozes leadership. To be held in such high regard as to be the face of an AFL club is no mean feat. To have been installed into the position as a 24 year old is remarkable, even considering the list profile of the Suns.
All of which makes Lynch’s impending decision a defining moment in the way he will go down in history.
It has been speculated that Lynch will cite both homesickness and the thirst for team success as the cornerstones of his decision. Both of which paint the club he is currently at – the club to which he owes the most – in a particularly poor light.
Homesickness may well be the legitimate cause for many a player leaving their club. However, wanting to return to Melbourne and then demanding to go to one specific club is outrageous.
It disrespects the fans that love and adore their players. It demeans the integrity of the competition and it makes a mockery of equalisation.
Going home for additional support is understandable in this modern age where we are better educated around the impacts a high pressure AFL lifestyle can have on the mental heath of a player. But holding the club that gave you your start in the industry to ransom to appease your own self-interest is railroading of the highest order.
A player’s decision to return home would be much more favourably received if they regretfully requested a trade to the Victorian club that was best able to compensate their current club. The club to which that player is eternally grateful for the opportunities and development provided.
Leaving for success on the other hand, doesn’t come with a favourable option. There is a very simple reality attached to this kind of abandonment. Players choose to be professional athletes. If they aren’t willing to ply their trade away from home, they shouldn’t nominate for a National Draft. They shouldn’t take the place of more professional athletes that are both willing and able to ‘do their job’ under the conditions provided by their workplace. There is no doubt an element of luck in the drafting process. Some clubs will get stars. Others will waste draft picks. Some players will play for successful organisations. Others will not.
In fact, the truth of the matter is that players are not entitled to success. Just being an AFL player does not mean you are guaranteed to hold the Premiership cup. If it did, there would be no reason to cherish the moment of success. In fact, the unbridled joy and emotional release seen at the final siren of an AFL Grand Final is a direct result of the fact that every player dreads having a career that ends without tasting the ultimate success. It is the fear of not achieving that allows them to so fully enjoy the achievement.
For Tom Lynch to abandon the Suns – the club that gave him his place in the game – and the players he has called teammates for the past eight seasons, it suggests an inability to own the situation he finds himself in. Even worse, it suggests that Lynch is resigned to the fact that he is not part of the solution.
Yes, Gold Coast haven’t come on as strongly as many expected. And yes, their current form doesn’t suggest a steep upwards trajectory in the immediate future. But Lynch’s departure would only serve to highlight a key flaw in the Gold Coast’s makeup – a dearth of leadership. In fact, in leaving, Lynch would be publically admitting that he is unable to right the ship.
There have been comments made suggesting Lynch should leave an ‘irrelevant’ club. That the Gold Coast Suns should not exist and Lynch’s career shouldn’t waste away in the misery of their inability to compete.
Shouldn’t we as a consumer be demanding that players of such talent and leadership drive their club towards relevance? Considering their current predicament, could there be anything more impressive than Tom Lynch, standing atop the Premiership dais, having just forged the first great chapter in Gold Coast’s brief history?
Let us not forget that in a previous era, those that left their club for money or success were called mercenaries. A term often used to suggest the making of money at the expense of ethics.
Shouldn’t Tom Lynch force us to remember him as better than that? Because he is better than that.
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