YEAH, it hurt. A little like throwing an awesome party then finding out late a bunch of the cool guys invited are having their own exclusive party down the road.
But this was not just a party – and it was broadcast nationwide – Ballarat got stood up.
The right thing to do should have been obvious. Only, the lines became blurred in a public blame game while others quickly forgave.
Western Bulldogs players should have been in Ballarat with their coach on Monday.
Instead players marked Mad Monday in a Yarraville pub.
A few days later, tempers are likely to have cooled of those who had skipped Ballarat’s block party when furiously learning there would be no players. There was still something missing for those who did attend and enjoyed the experience – the players.
The right thing should be obvious.
Essentially it does not matter who made decisions on whether the players would or would not attend Ballarat’s community celebrations for the Bulldogs’ epic AFL premiership journey.
Ballarat is a key partner of the club. And it is so much more.
The Bulldogs have been rallying a whole new legion of Bulldog fans right here in Ballarat, the gateway to an expanded western front. They have promised the city’s first in-season AFL match in our stadium. They have inspired in community based club-led health, literacy and leadership programs.
Bulldogs head coach Luke Beveridge led an official contingent, including Daylesford’s favourite son Chris Grant, to share the club’s ‘holy grail’ with us. The premiership cup also had a whirlwind tour of Ballarat businesses, schools and key figureheads on Tuesday.
But the players, the ones who produced on-field heroics, went to a Yarraville pub.
There is a fine line between public demands on professional athletes and allowing young men to truly take a private moment, together, to celebrate the greatest team achievement in their lives.
A key part of being a professional athlete is taking the increased intensity of media and public engagements with title wins. As much as players might prefer a pub, titles demand extra diplomacy.
There were bound to be unexpected demands on players and coaches. Time constraints were always going to be tight with player exit interviews on Tuesday and a final official club function, the best and fairest, on Wednesday night.
Players should have made the time.
Players rocked up to 30,000 adoring fans at Whitten Oval the morning after the biggest game and night of their football lives, yet celebrating with a growing adopted base of Ballarat fans proved too much?
Ballarat boasted about 1000 fans, in cold and rain – they were always going to turn up.
The coach made it.
A reception did not have to be on Monday, we could have waited a couple of day. Instead we were waiting an hour away from where players were in a pub, likely patting themselves on the back and talking like heroes instead of truly acting like ones.
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