Face your demons
Tom Scully will have to confront hostile Demons fans at the MCG this weekend. Photo: Brendan Esposito
TOM Scully is going to a place a few have been before him, and none of them found it particularly pleasant.
A player who chooses to leave his club is always going to hear it from the fans. For all the changes in footy, that tradition remains. It is magnified by the fact that Scully went when he was so young (he is still only 21), that he went for big money (an estimated $6 million over six years), that he was a prized recruit (No. 1 pick in the 2009 national draft) and that he insisted all through 2011 that he had not made a decision.
His time is Sunday at the MCG for Greater Western Sydney against Melbourne. ''Obviously I understand that it'll be a pretty hostile reception,'' he said in Sydney yesterday. ''But I'm just looking forward to getting down there and it's a great opportunity for the boys to get down to Melbourne and play at the MCG for the first time, which is exciting for the group.''
Scully is prepared, though he also ventured yesterday that he thought most Demons fans had moved on from his exit.
The comments on internet discussion boards yesterday, some hostile the point of distastefulness, scarcely supported his argument.
Giants coach Kevin Sheedy has challenged the Demons' supporters to come out, but Melbourne hopes to put the whole thing behind it. The last thing the Demons want is a drama over Scully. ''At the end of the year there are always changes of personnel and Tom was one of those,'' said Melbourne's football manager Josh Mahoney. ''We've got new players, new coaches and we've moved on.''
How hostile will the reception be? ''We want our supporters to show their passion for Melbourne on game day,'' he said.
Scully remains in contact with some former teammates including Sam Blease.
''Obviously guys were disappointed, but I think they understood my decision and respected it,'' Scully said. ''From that point of view, I've had no issues from any of the players. Once it all eventuated that I was coming here, I'm sure the Melbourne people would've been disappointed, but we're all professional sportspeople, we've all got jobs to do and we all move on pretty quickly.
''It's been a long time since it's happened, I think most people have got over it, once it comes around there might be some boos, but I think people will get over it and get on with it.''
Some of the biggest names in football moved early in their careers. Nathan Buckley stayed just a season with Brisbane Bears after they drafted him, carrying out his promise to return to Melbourne, and signing at 21 to play out his career at Collingwood. Anthony Rocca and Shannon Grant both started with Sydney but quickly returned to Collingwood and North Melbourne.
Scott Thompson is playing a starring role with Adelaide, but spent his first four years playing for Melbourne.
All of them suffered the catcalls and so did more senior players who shifted, including former Geelong captain Leigh Colbert, who went to North Melbourne, and of course Tony Lockett (St Kilda to Sydney) and Carlton's captain Chris Judd, who just last weekend was roundly hooted every time he went near the football at Subiaco against his original club, West Coast.
Farther back there is perhaps the most famous player transfer in history, Ron Barassi's defection from Melbourne to Carlton at the end of 1964.
For players, it is an occupational hazard. With free agency coming, it is guaranteed to get tougher.
That's if you call playing for $1 million a year tough going.