Football has changed over the years. Something’s will be missed, like the dropkick, one on one contest and forwards kicking 100 goals a season. But while the game may have changed from what made it the best game in the world there are something’s that will not be missed, like the brawl.
An infamous brawl can really get the crowd going. I must admit sometimes I wish players would start a tussle to show their toughness and prove that they actually care about the result.
But while we sometimes wish for a little brutality to quench our lust for superiority, modern football is forever better off with the removal of brawls.
Old timers love to reminisce of the good old days and the trouble they would get into on the field.
Jack Dyer always recounted the tale of the time he shirt fronted a Melbourne player and thought he killed the Demon when club doctors covered the body with a sheet.
But for every wise tale of brutality there is a story of a victim, who has never been able to return to their best following an attack.
John Greening’s career is one of football’s great tragedies.
Aged 21 Greening was in the form of his life when he was viciously knocked out by St Kilda hard man Jim O’Dea.
The incident left Greening unconscious and in a coma for 24 hours.
Greening had the world at his feat and could have gone on to be one of the greats in Australian football, but instead only managed to add eight games to his career.
Another incident involves the great Leigh Matthews and Geelong captain Neville Bruns.
With six minutes left in an 1985 encounter between Hawthorn and Geelong, Matthews king hit Bruns in an off the ball incident breaking Bruns’ jaw.
Bruns recounted the incident in the book ‘Champions All – A history of AFL/VFL football in the players own words’.
“The compound fracture had come through my jaw. I actually thought I’ve been shot, because I had this big hole in my gum. I felt for the bullet”.
An off duty policeman in the crowd saw the incident and wrote a report on the incident, which resulted in the incident being taken to court with Matthew’s charged with assault.
Matthews was fined $1000 and was suspended for four weeks by the VFL match committee.
With an increase awareness in one punch attacks and the harm that they cause, incidents like the Leigh Matthews attack would not be acceptable in modern society.
Fortunately most modern footballers have moved with the times and brawls are not prevalent in today’s football.
But to say modern footballers are not as tough as their counterparts from yesteryear is an extreme exaggeration.
For instance look no further then the 2016 AFL Grand Final.
Veteran Western Bulldogs defender Dale Morris played the entire finals series with a broken back. That there shows toughness.
Eastern Wood and Dan Hannebery’s collision in the final term when the game was in the balance was a sign of toughness.
Dan Hannebery trying to play on in excruciating pain following the collision with Wood was again a sign of courage.
Courage can come in all shapes and forms and though it may not be as clear to see in football as in yesteryear, courage is far greater shown in modern football.