Chris McDermott working behind the bar at The Planet nightclub in 2000.
Chris McDermott working behind the bar at The Planet nightclub in 2000.

Why days of playing up are over

BOYS just want to have fun. In days of old maybe, but not today.

There was a time, not long ago when footballers had a life away from the AFL.

Those days are over.

Don't feel sorry for them, this is not an article looking for sympathy just for understanding from all parties.

There was a time when footballers worked full time.

Stephen Rowe was a painter, Rodney Maynard a farmer. Others owned sport stores like Tony McGuinness and Grantley Fielke. Some of us had pubs and the occasional nightclub like Darel Hart and myself.

Part of the crowd at Lennies Tavern, Glenelg in 1988.
Part of the crowd at Lennies Tavern, Glenelg in 1988.

Ah, the good old days. Or perhaps just the days of old.

Players worked full time.

They trained Monday to Thursday, played on the weekend, played hard on a Saturday night and got back to training on Sunday morning to run out the bumps and bruises from the game and the night.

Most players earned less than $50,000 a season.

The winds of change and professionalism were blowing but they had not yet arrived.

There was something raw, amateurish but special about those days.

This is traditionally the stage of an article on player behaviour that I apologise to my coach back then, Graham Cornes, for being the cause of much of his frustration for a decade from 1985 at Glenelg to 1994 at the Crows.

Graham was a non-drinker and had visions of the game of Australian rules in the future and how he wanted players to train, perform and behave.

I did not. I lived in the now. For the now and for the moment.

Glenelg players unveil the Tigers’ colours at the West End Brewery after winning the 1985 premiership.
Glenelg players unveil the Tigers’ colours at the West End Brewery after winning the 1985 premiership.

As captain of Glenelg and then the Crows and the SA team in the State of Origin years I believed in train hard, play hard.

I believed in building strong bonds among the playing group.

I believed in strength and unity on the field and off it.

I believed in the occasional night out and Sunday session.

I loved the game back then but fair to say Graham and I clashed. Often.

Not as often today but I sense it is still a topic best avoided.

But I feel for the current player..

Some of that feeling is envy. Some of it is for what I consider to be the loss of some of the old fashioned "fabric of the game.

The humble beginnings from which greatness was built.

That is how it all began at Glenelg and the Crows.

There was a history at the Bay but not of success. More of failure.

So many Grand Finals in the '70s but so many losses.

Footballer Stephen Kernahan with his father Harry Kernahan after the 1985 Glenelg SANFL premiership win.
Footballer Stephen Kernahan with his father Harry Kernahan after the 1985 Glenelg SANFL premiership win.

A group of teenagers arrived from 1980 on and the culture changed, Improved?

Definitely changed.

It was gradual not immediate.

The players mixed almost 24/7 364 days a year. Easter Sunday was a lay day.

The Bay Disco was our home away from home. So too the Holdy, Lennies and Bojangles.

They were the days of no mobile phones. No social media. No Instagram. No Facebook.

No prying reporters looking for a scoop. Respect was a two-way street.

Respect for privacy.and respect for your life away from the game.

That place puts a smile on my face every time I drive past it.

It was the same from the first day at the Crows.

A group of players, enemies a month earlier had to become comrades in a very short time.

Try we did. Training hard and playing hard was our mantra. Almost to a man.

It was the way of the AFL back then.

Part of the crowd at Lennies Tavern, Glenelg in 1988.
Part of the crowd at Lennies Tavern, Glenelg in 1988.

Those days are over too.

So they should be. Eras change and life as we know it evolves.

We are better today than we were 25 years ago.

We are smarter, wiser, more worldly but evolution comes at a cost.

Every footballer in the planet knows that.

Many of them do not like it but it cannot be argued.

You cant have the cake without paying some of the price.

Want the trimmings the game today offers, it comes at a cost.

Don't abuse it. Don't confuse what it means.

Don't abuse the benefits this game affords you and have respect for others that are not in such a fortunate position.

Don't compare yourself to days of old.

Life for a footballer has never been better but you've got to work for it and accept that there are some things in 2018 you just cant do any more.