My faith in sport has been restored by an eight-year-old
Date: June 13, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell
Sometimes it takes a child to restore your faith in things.
In the past 24 hours I have had that very thing happen with respect to the world of elite sport.
While the sporting headlines of late have been filled with FIFA’s corruption, the standard of umpiring in the AFL and match-fixing in cricket, my eight-year-old son has had far more pressing concerns.
They were eased yesterday when the coach of his favourite football team, the Fremantle Dockers, said that his hero was on the cusp of returning to AFL ranks.
The man Ross Lyon was talking about was Anthony Morabito, a young man who has had to endure the roughest of times over the past three years.
He was recruited by the Dockers with the number four pick in the 2009 National Draft. He had been identified many years earlier as a genuine AFL prospect having represented Western Australia at both under 16 and 18 levels.
Following the 2009 National Championship he was named WA’s most valuable player and was accorded the honour of being selected in the All-Australian U-18 team.
Such was his innate ability he debuted at AFL level, as an 18-year-old, in the opening round of the 2010 season.
In a year where Fremantle played finals football he appeared in 23 of the side’s 24 matches that season – he was one of seven players rested from the team that flew to Launceston to take on Hawthorn in round 21. Not many draftees have such a consistent run in their rookie season.
His last match of the 2010 season was the semi-final loss to Geelong on 10 September. As it turned out that was the last time he took to an AFL field.
At pre-season training in December 2010 he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. A full reconstruction ruled him out of the 2011 season.
He was back playing for his WAFL club, Peel Thunder, in early 2012 but a bout of concussion and some other leg injuries restricted him to just seven games before his reconstructed knee gave way again at training forcing him to undergo a second knee reconstruction in July 2012.
He was able to start training with Fremantle again in December of that year but a month later in a bizarrely innocuous fashion his knee once again gave way while training. It was back under the knife for a third knee reconstruction.
Should he return for Fremantle’s match against Richmond this weekend it will end a 1372-day exile from the elite level during which time his club has played 82 games.
Kudos must go to the Dockers which have been faced with the dilemma of whether to maintain the faith or cast Morabito aside. Often in today’s cut-throat world of elite sport the latter would often have been the chosen path.
Throughout the trials, tribulations and setbacks Morabito has remained focused and totally committed to reclaiming his place in the Dockers’ team.
He has been unwavering in his belief that he would return to the highest level. And so too has my son, James.
He was able to choose what number he wanted on his football jumper this season – his first playing ‘home-and-away’ footy. There was only one he wanted – Morabito’s number 2.
The unmitigated joy when I told him that ‘his man’ is a genuine chance to be back in the purple guernsey in a few days was wonderful to witness. It was like Santa had turned up early.
He first latched on to Morabito towards the end of the 2010 season at which point he was just shy of turning four years of age. I have no idea why he chose him and when I have asked him of late he cannot tell me either.
But all through the last three-and-a-half seasons he has wanted him to be back with Freo with an unbridled passion.
This season when I called a Peel Thunder match in the WAFL my son was overjoyed. Along he came, armed with a pad and pen, and he sat alongside me in the commentary box writing down each kick, mark, handball and tackle his idol affected.
To see the sheer joy on his face was quite something to behold.
That same look was there again yesterday when I told him what Lyon had said about Morabito’s prospects of a return.
James will be glued to the television this Saturday should his favourite player grace the MCG. He will ride every bump and cheer every possession.
In short, he will do what we all did at that age – be enraptured by his favourite player, yell at the TV for his team and live in the moment.
It is a shame that so many of us lose that sporting innocence as we grow older.
This Saturday I will wind back the clock and simply sit there and watch my son’s face and look at the game through the eyes of an eight-year-old.
I am truly looking forward to it.
NB: Alas for James, Anthony Morabito did not make it into the Fremantle side for the game against Richmond. But he isn’t far away!
First published on The Roar – www.theroar.com.au – on 12 June 2014