An Essendon supporter friend of mine (Mark Franklin) recently said to me that when Nick Stevens was at Port Adelaide he liked him, and then when he moved to Carlton he hated him. His hair got greasier, he seemed to be sneering, and his eventual incarceration for domestic violence seemed to fit the new image.
My own thoughts on Nick Stevens remained unchanged upon his arrival at Carlton, but that’s because I have a fairly strong hatred for Port Adelaide. I hate Carlton too, but I disliked Stevens equally at both clubs. Franka’s dislike of Stevens did not, in my view, grow from a darkening of the hair, but from the fact that he had become a Carlton player. And fair enough.
I recall being disappointed when Matthew Lappin went to Carlton from St Kilda. He only played 55 games for the Saints in the mid-90s before moving over to the Blues for his extra 196 games, but I liked him. I liked the fact that he was a skinny fellow out there with the big boys, and he seemed to have time and space, which is a rare trait. I was annoyed he’d moved to my least favourite club.
But did he have to offer it to Collingwood? There was significant poetic justice about when Ball’s Magpies defeated his former club in the following year’s second Grand Final (you’d think the term “second Grand Final” word be an oxymoron). I was pleased for him in a way, because as a footy follower, I felt I’d been on his side. Then again, I was disgusted that Collingwood had won a premiership, and frankly, I no longer really liked Luke Ball.
Chris Judd is another; he was a much worse bloke and player at Carlton. A dirty, over-rated commentators pet. Jarrod Molloy, who I’d followed a bit because he played for Fitzroy (for whom my grandfather played), ruined things by playing for Collingwood.
Of course, it is much worse when the offending movement occurs from your club. I was only a kid when Peter Wilson left the Tiges at the end of the 1989 season, but by gum did I loathe him during his 117 games for the Eagles. His jaw, his hair, his running style; everything about him aggravated me. Of course, the Tigers haven’t had that many good players at all, let alone good players that have left. I haven’t begrudged Brett Deledio at all for leaving, but I have no idea what to expect of myself when he finally pulls on a Giants jumper in a game, but I suspect at the very least I won’t have quite the same affection for him.
I don’t believe that most Geelong supporters turned on Gary Ablett when he left, but there have been many players have ill-feeling follow them. Jeremy Howe, for instance, is a dual category member, in that he is disliked immensely by his previous club’s supporters for leaving, and also now disliked by other supporters, myself included, for going to play for Collingwood.
I remember being at the MCG in 2008 for the Victoria v All Stars game and finally being able to revel in Fev’s six goals on the night. It would’ve been nice to enjoy more time of Fev at Brisbane, where I could actually be in his corner. Interestingly, I still dislike Sam Mitchell now that he’s at West Coast, but my dislike of him has more to do with his smug face and arrogant waddle than the colour of his jumper. Mighty fine player though he is, I can’t stand him.
We’re emotional creatures, and many of our emotions are irrational. Much of the above is irrational, because we emotional creatures can be at our most emotional, and therefore irrational, when we are involved in sport. It makes no sense that I can like a player at one club, and dislike like him at another, but it is one of the many beautiful vagaries of we humans and our investment in sport.
The likelihood is that some of the players we can’t stand are lovely people, and some we admire are awful units we’d detest if we knew them. That, however, is just footy really.
Follow Greg Gibson on Twitter: @GregGibbo28