When Western Bulldogs’ 2016 flag hero Tom Boyd retired from the AFL in May, many supporters were left hoping the decision would provide the peace and quiet he craved to deal with his physical and mental health issues.
So it was great to see the 23-year-old back at his local club Norwood on Saturday and booting two goals in its win over North Ringwood in the Eastern Football League.
It was Boyd’s first game since his shock retirement, having walked away from the final two years of his multimillion-dollar deal with the Bulldogs, with the emotional support of his coach and teammates.
The rain-affected match played at Ringwood North’s Quambee Reserve was a different proposition to the pristine conditions of the Dogs’ home ground under the roof at Marvel Stadium, but Boyd told the Knox Leader he was delighted to be back playing with his mates.
“It was good to get out there and ultimately I got the real extreme taste of suburban footy and it was a really enjoyable experience to get the win,” Boyd said.
“It’s somewhere I’ve spent a lot of time around the last six or seven years, obviously not being out there but being around the place with my old man and family.
To many people at the club, I’ve always been here and it was good to pull the colours back on.’’
Boyd, picked first overall by Greater Western Sydney at the 2013 draft, played nine games for the Giants before he signed a seven-year, multimillion-dollar deal with the Bulldogs.
He played a further 52 AFL games for the Dogs, playing a key role in the 2016 finals series and the drought-breaking grand final win over Sydney.
But mental health and back issues limited him to 23 games in the following two seasons and ultimately led to his decision to retire.
“I just felt like I’d given up the desire to want to play at the highest level,” Boyd said.
“For a big part, the rigours of AFL, mainly through the week and the ability to just get out there playing footy, is not the same as it used to be for me.
“To get back to the purest form of footy at the Eastern level, the local level, is really important and I’ve always enjoyed it.”
Boyd said he was heckled a few times from the crowd, but added there was “nothing untoward” in the banter.
Demon defender’s dispute is ‘healthy’, says coach
As the exciting Brisbane Lions youngsters go from strength to strength the Demons were in a world of pain on Sunday with Max Gawn’s second-quarter ankle injury only the beginning of their woes.
As the Dees slipped to a 14-point deficit with Eric Hipwood’s four goals in the third quarter, the final break turned ugly with Steven May and former Sun Sam Frost having an animated discussion about what had transpired.
The pair appeared to be in dispute about the lead up to a goal from Allen Christensen and it took teammates intervening to calm the situation and for the pair to finally exchange a friendly pat.
Coach Simon Goodwin said after the match he wanted his players to be frank with each other and sort out their tactical issues.
“I’ve just been made aware, and spoken to the boys … I think it’s a healthy discussion,” he said.
Buckley flirts with the ‘S’ word
“Clearly that was not something to be proud of,” said Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley of his team’s Saturday night’s 44-point shellacking by North Melbourne.
In fact, Buckley almost went as far as confirming his team looked soft as North Melbourne steamrolled the Pies in the first quarter and just kept on going.
“We’re bloody embarrassed with the way we’ve played,” Buckley told reporters in a brutally honest appraisal after the game.
“That was as bad as it gets … that’s as big a shellacking in general play as you will see.”
“Tonight was the first time in a long time we probably saw some really average physical efforts from our boys,” he said.
“It was plain for all to see – there was one side that bodylined the ball and ran hard and straight and there was another side that got out of the way a few times. It’s not easy to say, but it’s a reality.
“So there’s a question that rightfully should be asked of us and that we need to answer.”