From Demon to Giant: No club loyalty

BY AUBREY HAMLETT

14 September 2011

This article originally appeared in upstart Magazine

Can Tom Scully grow into a truly great AFL player after leaving the Demons? Aubrey Hamlett discusses the fickle business of professional sports.

Tom Scully has pulled a ‘Gary Ablett Jr‘ on the Melbourne Football Club. On Monday the number one draft pick announced he had officially signed with the newest AFL franchise, the Greater Western Sydney Giants.

Scully’s six-year, six-million dollar deal came as no surprise due to the precedent set by Ablett last year. In his press conference Scully said ‘money was a factor’, but he also saw an ‘opportunity to be part of a brand new football club.’

The news comes as a blow for the Demons who are trying to rebuild their club after the sacking of coach, Dean Bailey.

Melbourne champion and interim Demons Football Director, Garry Lyon, had hoped Scully would stay with the Demons.

‘I think Tom is absolutely steadfast in saying, and he has said this to me, I just want to play with Melbourne and at the end of the season I’ll address whatever it is’ Lyon told Channel Nine last week.

The Demons  have had a season they would like to forget. Jack Trengove was handed a three-week penalty for a sling tackle, they were accused of playing ‘bruise-free footy’, and the Cats demolished them in a 186-point win at Skilled Stadium that led to Bailey’s sacking. These factors may have played a part in Scully’s decision.

The Scully situation is becoming more common in the Australian sporting landscape. Scully is the fourth GWS signing in a week after Western Bulldogs Callan Ward, Adelaide Crows Phil Davis and Fremantle Dockers Rhys Palmer all announced new contracts with the new franchise.

Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau have switched codes from NRL to AFL. James O’Connor, Kurtley Beale and Paul Alo-Emile all left their Super 15 clubs to sign with new franchise, Melbourne Rebels. The chance to build a team from scratch and money were common motivating factors for leaving their original teams.

Professional sport is a fickle business.

What does Scully owe a club that allegedly ‘tanked’ to acquire him? While Scully isn’t Ablett, he is a huge loss to a young side that has had a less than satisfactory season.

However, the Demons can look to Geelong to show that all is not lost. After losing Ablett to the Gold Coast Suns and premiership coach, Mark Thompson, to Essendon, Geelong has been rejuvenated by new coach, Chris Scott.

Ablett’s absence has allowed for other players like James Kelly and Travis Varcoe to play more important roles in the field. His defection freed up Geelong’s salary cap, which is a luxury the Demons will experience after saving the reported $1 million dollars per year it would have needed to keep Scully.

It was announced yesterday that Melbourne will receive two first-round draft picks in return for Scully. However, it is now up to the AFL to  look after the best interests of struggling clubs, instead of only focusing on its expansion teams.

Although the Demons may not become a premiership contender next year, with a new coach and young blood, they will bounce back and grow to build the foundations of a true competitor.

Aubrey Hamlett is a second-year Bachelor of Media Studies student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on twitter: @AubreyHamlett

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