FROM THE PRESS BOX: A test of strength and skill


From the Press Box with Melanie Whelan

From the Press Box with Melanie Whelan

ADAPT or perish - it is that simple when it comes down to the very foundations of team sports.

Out for a while: There were tears from Suns fans when Ablett was ruled out but the true extent of the Suns’ strength, and how much they have learnt from Ablett, will be put to the test now. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Out for a while: There were tears from Suns fans when Ablett was ruled out but the true extent of the Suns’ strength, and how much they have learnt from Ablett, will be put to the test now. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

There has to be a Plan B – a good contingency – because without one, well, just look at Brazil’s World Cup 7-1 semi-final pummelling from Germany without star striker Neymar this week.

That was after the host nation gave its players counselling for coping strategies in the wake of Neymar’s broken leg.

But Brazil’s flaws were ripped wide open because it did not have a solid Plan B.

Marquee players are major drawcards for a team, boasting almost superhero status in young fans’ eyes and widespread adulation in the sporting world.

Sports fans want to see the headline acts.

They are pivotal to a team in leadership and skill. A good team know how to play to a marquee player’s strengths – and a good team can adapt and rise up to the challenge without them.

Some big headline acts, not just Neymar, have taken a battering lately.

Brazil perished.

Sports fans can watch with intrigue whether other teams will follow suit or thrive.

Gold Coast Suns coach Guy McKenna is confident he has the depth and versatility in his list to cover injured and instrumental captain Gary Ablett, who had surgery on Thursday for his injured shoulder.

If the Suns are to play AFL finals, and be competitive in finals, there is now choice now but to go it sans Ablett.

Others have a chance to step up and develop strong form they have shown this season.

This can only work because the Suns are more than just Ablett.

Would the Suns and their supporters prefer Ablett be healthy and on the field? Absolutely.

Ablett is more than just a marquee player with two Brownlow medals, he has a wealth of experience and invaluable leadership.

There is no equal to Ablett’s skill, but there sure will be a band of players determined to prove their worth for the team.

Now becomes the true test whether the Suns have learnt enough from Ablett to carry on the campaign.

In a cobblestoned bumpy week of cycling, Australian Richie Porte has been quickly promoted to lead Team Sky in the Tour de France when defending champion Chris Froome bombed out.

It took a couple of major falls, in stages four and five, to knock Froome out – he was pretty tough – but now Porte is the anointed and for Team Sky to perform well, his teammates must offer full support.

Right here in Ballarat, marquee basketball team Ballarat Miners is three weeks into its contingency plan.

In a split second and change of direction, star import Roy Booker sustained an injury and within days had repair surgery on his lower leg.

The Miners activated a Plan B – sourcing a dynamic import replacement from the United States – before Booker even went under the knife.

Dyricus Edwards is filling Booker’s important shoes (he arrived just in time to play the minimum number of games before South East Australian Basketball League finals) and is entertaining Minerdome crowds.

Yes, it takes time for Edwards to settle but this is where the rest of the Miners’ roster must lift its game too, and adapt.

American Ken Horton, who formed a dual act with Booker on the floor, has stamped his mark more so as a big scoring player and dominant force on the boards but, just like when Booker was on court, it was less flashy but just as valuable hard work from teammates and execution of bit roles off the bench that made the Miners so strong.

Losing Booker was a heavy blow. The Miners are playing to stay in the finals chase and, like the Suns in the AFL, have no choice but to band together to get there.

The flashy stuff and results will follow.

Modern sporting teams, at all levels, should be acutely tuned into game plans that rely on processes, the roles and targets to collectively achieve success, rather than game plans reliant solely on stars.

Losing a major name hurts, but it hurts more if other players are not prepared enough to step up and adapt their games to fill that role.

Just ask a rioting Brazilian soccer fan.


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