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The age-old battle with AFL immaturity

"Getting older is a struggle. I always feel that just under the surface of acceptance and enjoyment of the ageing process is a terrible hysteria just waiting to burst out."

- Michael Sheen

The ball spills out sideways and I get that sinking feeling. My man has got a step on me and space to move. The ball is sympathetically placed out in front of him and he canters out to meet it.

This is the lot of a backman - try as you might to stop your opponent from getting an easy kick, inevitably this is what happens sometimes. It stings every time. In an instant you regroup your thoughts, take stock of what's happening and how you can limit the damage. 

On Saturday night at the MCG, against the Demons, I was standing the mark about 40 metres out from goal and the ball was in the hands of Jay Kennedy-Harris, my opponent. He seems a confident young kid, confident with the ball anyway. I've been watching videotape of him all week from his games this season. 

We're close to the boundary, really close. I can hear the voices of the Demons fans over the fence taunting me. "He got you there, Murphy." "He's all over you, Murphy." I've heard it all before. 

I also notice that Kennedy-Harris isn't looking to pass it off, he's going to have a shot. He is confident. My offering of, "Gee you're hungry, you haven't even looked to pass the ball!" is at the more generic end of the sledging spectrum. I stopped short of asking him if there was chewy on his boot. 

Kennedy-Harris approaches and hits it sweet. I turn to look up at its trajectory, and it's hard not to marvel just a tiny bit at its perfect spin in the perfect setting of the MCG under lights. Fair play to the kid. The crowd erupts and so does Kennedy-Harris. 

He's either so happy with the kick that he wants the moment to last a bit longer, or he's so outraged for being thought of as hungry. Either way, he's in my face and letting me know about it. I do my best "what are you on about?" face, and the oldest argument in footy grumbles to life.

It is the right of every young footballer to take it up to the old blokes on a footy field with variations of "you're too old, you're finished!" Just as it is every veteran's right to return fire with a disgusted look and simple query of, "Who are you and what have you done?" 

On Saturday night we danced the ancient dance of old and young. Kennedy-Harris was supported by teammate "Chip" Frawley, who chimed in with, "He's only played eight games and he's leading you on a merry dance," or words to that effect. I was still working on my "what are you on about?" face, and hit back with, "That's right, he's only played eight games and one kick is hardly a reason to break out the champagne."

And around and around we went. At some point during this exchange I couldn't help but think back to another time when it was me in Kennedy-Harris' shoes. 

In my very first pre-season at Footscray we were on the back end of a torturous summer and were entering the practice match phase. Two sides were picked, and as we jogged out to our positions I noticed that our team's best player and future Hall of Famer Brad Johnson was trotting down toward full forward. I was drifting down to my post on the opposition flank and decided to niggle a club icon.

"Are you a forward pocket like Kevin Bartlett now?" I shot at Johnno.

I hang my head in my hands now when I think about it. At the time it was a bit of a throwaway line, a kid being a bit cheeky. As the scratch match started moments later, I didn't have time to gauge how my comment was received. It turns out it was received poorly by the smiling assassin. 

A few minutes later I found myself waiting under a loopy handball and I sensed trouble in the air. As I took the ball I turned and something flashed past me. It was Brad Johnson. To avoid being broken into 100 pieces I must have hit the deck at the last second. As I lay on the wing of the Whitten Oval I had enough self awareness to know that Brad must not have been happy with my remark.

It still comes up occasionally when we see each other now. He's not as angry about it these days. I really don't know what I was thinking saying that to him before I'd played even one game. And then, on the other hand, I think it's great. Young pups niggling and pushing old dogs to get a growl out of them. You want to see if you're up to it, and if the old dog has got some fight left.  

The brash confidence of youth and the weathered sentimentality of the aged are destined to conflict on the footy field. It's part of what makes footy interesting. 

This week the football community lost one of its giants in Tom Hafey. I didn't know Tom very well, but like most people in football I had met him and heard him speak about his philosophies of football and life. In many respects, Tom was able to bridge the conflict of old and young better than most. "I'm sensational and getting better," was one of his famous lines. 

When Bruce Springsteen's close friend and saxophone player Clarence Clemons passed away, he described it as like losing something elemental, like rain. Tom will leave a similar hole in our game, but he will leave us with something just as powerful. When I think of Tom I think of overwhelming optimism. Young or old, we can all share in that.

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Stats
FRE 50vs GWS 31 LIVE Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE ($2.10)vs RIC ($1.70) 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL ($1.22)vs CAR ($4.00) 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI ($2.35)vs GCF ($1.55) 16:35G
GEE ($2.00)vs SYD ($1.75) 19:20SS
WCE ($2.10)vs HAW ($1.70) 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL ($3.50)vs NTH ($1.28) 13:10MCG
GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD ($1.25)vs COL ($3.70) 19:50SCG
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH ($1.28)vs STK ($3.50) 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE ($4.60)vs HAW ($1.18) 19:20MCG
BRI ($1.70)vs CAR ($2.10) 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC ($1.05)vs GCF ($8.50) 13:10MCG
WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW ($1.15)vs PTA ($5.00) 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL ($2.35)vs RIC ($1.55) 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK ($2.80)vs GEE ($1.40) 19:20ES
ADE ($1.08)vs BRI ($6.75) 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
CAR ($2.25)vs MEL ($1.60) 15:20MCG
WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE ($1.50)vs COL ($2.50) 19:50MCG
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS ($1.22)vs CAR ($3.70) 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW ($1.01)vs BRI ($13.00) 14:10AS
NTH ($1.50)vs WBU ($2.50) 16:35ES
ESS ($4.00)vs RIC ($1.22) 19:20MCG
GCF ($2.50)vs PTA ($1.50) 19:20MS
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE ($2.95)vs WCE ($1.38) 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK ($3.80)vs SYD ($1.25) 15:20ES
FRE ($1.07)vs MEL ($7.50) 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL ($1.50)vs ESS ($2.50) 00:00MCG
RIC ($1.70)vs NTH ($2.10) 00:00ES
HAW ($1.01)vs CAR ($13.00) 00:00MCG
GEE ($1.50)vs ADE ($2.50) 00:00SS
SYD ($1.05)vs GCF ($8.00) 00:00SCG
MEL ($1.87)vs GWS ($1.87) 00:00ES
BRI ($3.05)vs WBU ($1.35) 00:00G
PTA ($2.15)vs FRE ($1.65) 00:30Adelaide Oval
WCE ($1.12)vs STK ($6.00) 02:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 16 14 2 0 126.69 56
West Coast Eagles 17 13 3 1 154.43 54
Hawthorn 17 12 5 0 164.23 48
Sydney Swans 17 12 5 0 115.86 48
Western Bulldogs 17 11 6 0 113.12 44
Richmond 17 11 6 0 112.43 44
North Melbourne 17 10 7 0 107.19 40
Geelong Cats 16 9 7 0 102.42 38
View all
 

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