Reputations can be won and lost on the back of resilience and durability.
My earliest memories of real courage at the top level came from the ’89 Grand Final, when ‘Dermie’ and ‘Dipper’ almost wore their injuries like a badge of honour.
Despite having broken ribs, they showed incredible toughness in the biggest moments, on the biggest day of the footy calendar.
But that’s not the only type of resilience you need as a footballer.
While those are obvious examples of withstanding pain, the week-to-week grind of footy can sometimes be just as difficult to push through.
Some don’t bat an eyelid, even now, in July, probably the toughest time of the year.
There’d be countless players performing at a high level who’d be carrying niggles others simply couldn’t cope with.
Plenty has been made of the ‘Danger Show’, but Patrick Dangerfield, like Joel Selwood and Scott
Pendlebury, is a prime example of a champion playing on under duress.
Most of the time, we don’t even know how severe any injuries guys like that carry really are.
I’ve often said it’s a player’s mental capacity to execute under that pain that sets them apart, whether it be in-game or simply getting enough work done on the track.
That’s where there are question marks right now over Mitch McGovern.
At Carlton, caretaker David Teague has made the tough decision to drop his big money recruit for failing to meet the club’s fitness standards.
Whoever was going to replace McGovern in the Blues team probably wasn’t going to be as good, even with him playing well below his best.
The easiest thing for Teague to do, given he’s coaching for the short-term and simply wants to win as many games as possible, was to maintain the status quo.
Instead he’s set the standard for what is a young and impressionable group.
It should prove a strong message to everyone at Princes Park that things are very different to five weeks ago.
While McGovern might have had a few injuries to deal with since moving from Adelaide, it’s a decision that should have been made much earlier.
The only knock I have on the Blues is why they haven’t been more transparent. McGovern was last week listed as being out “managed”.
Why hide it?
We in the media make our judgements based on the information that’s in the public arena. Fans do the same thing.
Is there more to his situation than we know?
What will be interesting now is just how long McGovern is forced to sit out senior footy. Is this a fitness call, or a wake-up call?
If it’s only a fortnight then you’d argue this is more the Blues trying to fix an attitude problem, rather than any conditioning-related one.
The club’s fitness guru Andrew Russell might be one of the best in the business, but I doubt even he
could whip someone into shape in two weeks.
If it is purely a fitness issue, McGovern should spend at least three or four weeks training without
playing any football. That way there are no bumps, no bruises and no excuses.
If he puts his head down and does the work, he gets welcomed back to senior level for the final few
games of the season.
That might seem harsh, but at the same time the Blues must be harder on someone like Mitch because of the clear talent and – that dirty word – potential that he has.
If he doesn’t take this on the chin, he’s going to flush that potential down the toilet.
If McGovern wants some guidance on what’s required, then the phone call to make is to his brother
Jeremy who lost 10 kilograms after his own issues in his early days at West Coast.
Jeremy is still not the fittest footballer going around. He doesn’t have a rig like Majak Daw and he’s not an elite runner, but he has improved in that area.
You don’t become a three-time All-Australian without reaching a certain level of fitness. On top of that, he also showed great courage by playing in last year’s grand final with his own rib problems.
No one will forget how he left his opponent in those final moments to intercept the footy and ultimately start the chain that led to the premiership winning goal.
Mitch on the other hand, rightly or wrongly, has already forged somewhat of a reputation after missing the grand final in 2017 because of a knee injury, before criticising the Crows for leaving him out.
At just 24, time is still on McGovern’s side to change his attitude and the perception of him. But it won’t be forever.
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