“He wouldn’t get a kick.”
This is how Adam Cooney responded to the question of what would happen if Tony Lockett came into the game in 2018. It was as extraordinary as it was flippant and disrespectful, but the 2008 Brownlow Medalist is not alone in his dismissive feelings of legends past.
Cooney’s reasoning as to why the greatest goalkicker the game has ever seen would be reduced to a player incapable of bothering the stats keeper lends heavily to the accepted wisdom of today’s strategists. “Do you know what 99 percent of the football population say at the moment? That the key forward who sits at home is dead, everyone says that.”
“I don’t think it matters offensively how good you are in the modern game, if you don’t have a defensive bone in your body, you will expose not only yourself, but your whole team going back the other way.”
Yet as offensive as Cooney’s comments were about the capabilities of a legend of a game, another Brownlow Medalist was even more forthright when sharing his views about the superiority of modern-day players over those of days gone by. Writing in the Herald Sun in June 2017, in an effort to laud the current crop of key forwards in the wake of Buddy Franklin’s 800th career goal, he did little more than denigrate the achievements of Plugger and the goal kicking cartel of the 80’s and 90’s.
Asserting that the likes of Tom Hawkins, Tom Lynch, Josh Kennedy and Buddy are unfairly maligned because they are measured against the performances of those who went before them, he declared if Lockett or Jason Dunstall played in 2017, “they wouldn’t have the figures that sit beside their names at the top of the all-time list.” Clearly living by the Kane Cornes mantra of why say one outlandish thing when you can say multiple, he went even further.
“Flipping it the other way, if “Buddy” had played in the 1980s-90s he would have finished his career with 2000 goals,” he wrote. “A few weeks ago we saw him reach his 800th career goal. If he had been playing 20 years ago, that would have been his 1200th goal at the absolute minimum.”
Disregarding the fact that Lockett and Dunstall operated in an age when a fullback would almost need to commit a crime to give away a free kick, Dangerfield felt they had it easy because they often played one-out with their opponent in the goal square. Not content yet that he had expressed how easy it was for Plugger to kick goals, he had one more kicker up his sleeve. “Imagine how many goals Cyril Rioli would kick? He’d be in the 800 territory.” Yep, you read that right.
Are you actually kidding me? Whilst not wanting to be guilty of the same crime as Dangerfield, Rioli has kicked 273 goals in 10 years of AFL football, the idea that he would have kicked 800 in the 80’s or 90’s is bonkers. When did we become so lost in recency bias that it became reasonable to make such outlandish claims in support of case to denigrate the past?
While acknowledging that these things are all subjective and that part of the fun of football fandom is these types of unanswerable arguments, this current trend of holding the past in such contempt has to end. Is it impossible to marvel at the present without denigrating the past? Can you not laud the achievements of Franklin without diminishing those of Lockett? Is it really that incomprehensible that a player that kicked 1360 goals in one era could find a way to prosper in another?
The Pinch Hitters with Boz and Pav discuss this and a whole lot more on their AFL Preview Podcast. Click the link below to listen to their thoughts on Adam Cooney’s outrageous claim.