As a 21 year-old, I made a lot of mistakes. I drank a lot. I took some substances that weren’t exactly legal. I may not have treated people as well as I now would. I was thrown out of a bar more than once, had several altercations late at night when I’d had a few too many drinks, and said many, many things I regret.
When I was twelve, I was caught shoplifting from a fishing store in West Melbourne. I saw a hat with what I think was a trout on it, and for whatever reason, thought I should have it. I tucked it under my arm and wandered out of the shop. By the time the owner darted out the side door to catch me, I had it on my head. Funny thing is – I didn’t really wear hats, and I wasn’t even into fishing. I just made a dumb choice. It was the first of many, and I don’t think I’ll only make wise decisions from now on, either.
I may have been a bit of a tosser at times, but one thing I never did was drink and drive. That’s not to say I didn’t get into a car with someone who had a couple of beers – I did. Nobody's perfect.
We could go on all day about the stupid mistakes I made, but it seems that all anyone wants to talk about over the past few days is the stupid mistake Jordan De Goey made... which really let's me off the hook!
There is no denying that he’s a bloody idiot – we’ve all seen the ad campaign and had it drilled into us for many years. If you drink and drive, you’re a bloody idiot… didn’t even have to look it up.
Whilst De Goey’s mistake is dumb by any measure, the cries for blood on social media and in the print media itself, have been frightening. In the wake of AFLX, AFLW’s dramas and a couple of injuries, the AFL community have been screaming out for a story to sink their teeth into. Journos gripped this one with their talons and refused to let go. Meme makers licked their lips in anticipation of one-liners they could throw out to get as many Facebook likes as they could.
It was a story of a young man who had erred before and had just erred again. After lying about how an injury occurred last off-season, he was caught on the hop again. This time, there was no way his dog could’ve been the one at the wheel.
Jordan De Goey has fronted his teammates and expressed his remorse. He knows he let his mates, his coach, and his club down. This was the guy who told Nathan Buckley that “I’ll never let you down.”
Talk is cheap.
Actions speak, and not only has he let Buckley down, but he’s put himself in a situation where people are calling for him to be cut from the Collingwood list. Many want him to be made an example of, to be the figure that the club can point to and say “Remember him? You know what happened to him when he let the club down?”
But Collingwood is not that silly. Jordan De Goey is worth too much.
In 2013, the Magpies had the enviable position going into the draft of having picks six, and 10. They drafted Matthew Scharenberg, who has played 14 games for the club. They also drafted Nathan Freeman, who is yet to play an AFL game and currently sits on St Kilda’s list.
In 2014, they took De Goey at pick five, and Darcy Moore at pick nine under the father-son rule. It was supposed to be the draft they got right. De Goey showed all the signs, and Moore was touted as the next big forward for the Pies.
They traded their first pick (pick seven) in 2015, and 2016 (pick eight) to Greater Western Sydney to get their hands on Adam Treloar, which has left them with two real young prospects from the draft over that four year period. Moore is in flux as to whether he is a forward or backman, and then there’s De Goey. In short, the Pies cannot afford DeGoey to be a ”what if…” kind of player. They’ve invested too much for such little gain.
Some were surprised by Collingwood President, Eddie McGuire’s comments on Triple M Radio the morning of February 20th. He stated the coverage De Goey’s drink driving conviction was getting was not journalism, but more like bullying.
McGuire went on to say that he knew prominent businessmen, high rankling police and government officials who had been booked for drink driving that weren’t subjected to the kind of attention DeGoey had been. Three pages in the Herald Sun on De Goey’s indiscretion indicate he may have a point.
The penalty Collingwood handed their young gun leaves no doubt that they have taken this matter seriously. De Goey will not be part of the group as they head towards season 2018. He has to earn the right to be a senior Collingwood player, and the club have placed no timeframe on his return. He is also $20,000 lighter in the hip pocket. $10,000 of that money is coming by way of a club-imposed fine, and De Goey is voluntarily parting with another $10,000 to charity. He will work away from the club for at least four weeks – a great way to experience that life away from football isn’t all fun and games.
On top of the club imposed penalties, De Goey has lost his driver’s licence for six months and has a conviction to his name.
He’s lucky it ends there, and that’s more because he was caught before anything happened. Had he hit someone…
The Collingwood Football Club will rally around Jordan De Goey. It’s what footy clubs do. He will spend his time thinking about his errors, and go about making amends with those who need to trust him on a weekly basis. He will mend fences with those at the club who believed him when he said he’d never let them down, and he’ll work hard to earn the respect of supporters, members, and the general public again. The alternative if he doesn’t do those things is life without a footy club.
De Goey comes out of contract at the end of 2018. He would be advised to take a leaf out of Steve Johnson’s book if possible. In 2007, Johnson was suspended by the club for the first five games of the season after being arrested for public drunkenness.
Johnson could’ve become bitter about that. It was a cultural thing at footy clubs through the eighties and into the nineties to drink, and drink, and drink. Stevie J was just carrying it into the new millennium. Geelong didn’t want that, and that five game suspension was enough to whip him into shape. Johnson’s redemption came in the form of the 2007 Norm Smith Medal. The Cats knew how to push the right buttons on Stevie. Do the Pies know which buttons they’re pressing on De Goey?
The ideal scenario is that DeGoey comes back a more complete person, and in turn, becomes a more complete player. He’ll have learned his lessons and gained some wisdom along the way.
But there’s a flip side.
At 21, De Goey is still a kid by most’s standards. Whilst he is a well-paid footballer, his life experience is somewhat limited. The pressure on him at the moment is immense. If he reads any social media, chances are it won’t be positive. Under the guise of anonymity, people say some vile things. There is a chance he will adopt an “everyone is out to get me” attitude, and given the press coverage, who could blame him?
This is where Collingwood need to be careful. An angry, worried and displaced 21 year-old is prone to making more mistakes. Having already made a few, just one more would almost certainly see De Goey’s career under threat.
Collingwood has been harsh but fair, but whilst they push their talented youngster away with one hand, they should draw him closer with the other. Talents like De Goey do not grow on trees. Sadly, for him, neither to chances to get it right. He has to make this one count.