Sport AFL Nathan Burke: To farewell a champion is in itself a team-building act

Nathan Burke: To farewell a champion is in itself a team-building act

Farewell: Will we be saying goodbye to Jarryd Roughead with a game or a lap of honour? Photo: AAP
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“To farewell or not to farewell, that is the question.” 

OK, this may not have been William Shakespeare’s original question, but it is the big one Hawthorn coach Alistair Clarkson had faced this week as the Hawks prepared for their Marvel Stadium game against Gold Coast.

Finally it has been confirmed.

After 282 games glorious games in the brown and gold, key forward Jarryd Roughead will be hanging up the boots at the end of this season.

And the club announced on Monday night that Roughead will be recalled to play one final game for the club he has served so well.

While the entire football world thought that a farewell game would be more than fitting, until the announcement Clarkson had been non-committal.

The match against struggling Gold Coast was clearly going to be the most opportune time to say goodbye to the big fella who has given so much to the club.

The following weeks the Hawks meet the West Coast Eagles in Perth in what could be a match with top-eight implications.

But the decision to back sentiment was not as black and white as some outside the club would think.

Jarryd Roughead playing in the VFL at the MCG. Photo: Getty

Complicating the matter was Roughead’s form this year.

He has managed only seven games in 2019, averaging 12 disposals and 1.3 goals a game.

Hardly terrible numbers but poor enough to keep him out of the team since the Round 14 loss to Sydney.

There are those who thought a farewell game could send a poor message to other players outside the team.

They claimed that giving Roughead a game would show a level of selection favouritism that goes against accepted good-coaching practice.

They argued you don’t give away games of football, no matter how much you have bled for the club.

It’s true, every game is precious and the honour of representing your club each week goes to only the most worthy 22.

If you aren’t in the team, then bad luck.

The only way of getting in is to perform so well you dislodge one of the incumbents.

Now there is merit, albeit small, in this thinking.

Football clubs live and die by the standards they set and this could be seen as lessening the standards. Something Clarkson was no doubt loath to countenance.

With the Hawks still a finals chance, Clarkson is focused on that goal and nothing would be allowed to derail his plans for a run at a flag – this season or next.

But … there is a lot to be gained in giving a club servant like Roughead a swansong in front of his adoring fans.

In itself it is a team-building exercise.

It shows the younger players what could possibly be in store for them if they can pull off a career like Roughead’s.

It shows that if you are prepared to sacrifice greatly, give your all in a selfless manner over many years, the club will go out of its way to thank you.

In terms of lessons, I think it is one that will resonate with the younger players more than keeping the old timer sidelined for consistency sake.

It is also a real-world demonstration of Hawthorn’s ‘family club’ reputation. It was a ‘walk the talk’ opportunity if you will.

Complicating the matter was the thought that Roughead may not want to put himself in the spotlight.

In the end, everyone is a winner.

Of all the 282 games Roughead has played, there will probably only be a handful that he will recall instantly. Probably his first, the four premierships and most likely this one – the last.

In 20 years, Clarkson, Roughead, families and fans will look back and be thankful that they all shared the moment.

It’s also going to be a great day for football.

Nathan Burke is a former St Kilda captain who played 323 AFL games for the Saints, winning three Trevor Barker Awards as best-and-fairest player.

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