Footy Focus

Sav AdeleLet’s Get Physical

There are a lot of wounded football fans, in the west after the Fremantle Dockers’ defeat in the big AFL grand final on the last Saturday in September. Even though the Dockers were fit enough and definitely talented enough to be versing minor premiers Hawthorn, they were lacking the experience and suffered a major case of the jitters. There is much to be said for sport psychology and the mental demons athletes have to face and overcome to reach the ultimate heights in their field.

Fremantle’s preparation was perfect and they peaked at exactly the right time of year. The on-ball pressure they put on display the week earlier to undo a strong Sydney Swans unit was second to none. During said prelim final versus the Swans, the Dockers had a similar nervous start to the game, missing several goals they normally would have kicked at any other time in the season. They sorted it out with a dominant second half to earn their maiden trip to the grand final.

Freo had every opportunity to be victors with exactly the same amount of scoring shots registered on the board. This doesn’t take into account the several kicks at goal that went out of bounds on the full, meaning Freo actually had more attempts in front of goal than their opposition. They were inevitably undone by inaccurate kicking, a direct result of nerves.

Looking back through the grand finals records which begin in 1898, only five teams have won the cup on their first appearance in the grand final (not including teams that played under a new name but were actually two existing teams merged together). These teams were Melbourne in 1900, Geelong in 1925, Footscray in 1954, Adelaide in 1997, and Port Adelaide in 2004.

The Fremantle Dockers and their supporters can find comfort and hope in the fact that several teams have lost in their first grand final appearance to come back and win the much-coveted flag the very next year. The West Coast Eagles are one of these, going down to Hawthorn in 1991 by 53 points and coming back the following year to defeat Geelong by 28 points.

Succeeding in sports of all descriptions depends on a perfect mix of physical training, game time, and mental strength. Having routines such as Chris Mayne’s goal-kicking ritual is a good way to put the body and mind into auto-pilot and block out distracting surroundings. Collingwood’s Travis Cloak for example, practices kicking goals while listening to a screaming crowd through headphones, simulating the pressured environment of a game. Unfortunately a large part of building mental strength is experience. This applies just as much for amateur sportspeople as it does to the professionals. We sometimes have to endure and learn from these harsh losses that leave emotional scars before we can rise up and understand what is required from us to win.


Sav Adele

Workout Savvy

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