I'd like to take a few moments to write about Tom Lynch, as this has been irking me for a while now.
There is no doubt in my mind that he is a highly capable player, and all reports from those who know him are that he is a fine young man, extremely loyal, with a big heart. Yet all the talk around him is about where he will play next year.
He's been in Melbourne recently, with Neil Balme, Richmond General Manager of Football openly meeting him at the airport. Whilst Balme has recently stated that he does not want to speak about Tom Lynch, it is painfully obvious that Richmond is making a heavy play for him. It is also apparent that Lynch is more than receptive to entertaining those advances.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has publicly stated that he has met with Tom Lynch as well, which also leaves no doubt as to Collingwood's strong interest in the Gold Coast forward.
One can only wonder how this affects the psyche of his Gold Coast teammates, as they fight and claw to gain some respectability under their other co-captain, Steven May.
It is quite a contrast between Lynch and May at the moment. It is one co-captain providing the on-field leadership as the other deals with a season-ending knee injury. It was one co-captain providing the solidity and balance you'd expect from a captain, whilst the other gallivants around a few states away, setting up his own future.
May was resolute in defence last weekend. he underpinned his team's back six, taking intercept mark after intercept mark against a frantic Sydney Swans as he compelled his team to rise in one of the biggest footy upsets in recent history. He was the standout, the star, and the one-man wall across half back, repelling the Swans' futile attacks. He was a leader of his team.
Tom Lynch was nowhere to be seen. yes, he was nursing an injury, and yes it's hard to impact anything when you're out, but the most recent vision I can recall of Lynch is not in Gold Coast colours. It is of a man strolling around the airport with a man in yellow and black.
There may be two co-captains at Gold Coast this season, but only one of them is proving to be a leader.
Now don't get me wrong, there has been a multitude of great players who have just haven't been leaders at their clubs. It has not affected their ability on the field at all that they are not in a leadership position, and both the club and the player might prefer things that way. However, when you assume a leadership position at a club you take on responsibility. That responsibility includes providing a good example for the kids coming through. That responsibility means that you are the face of the club to the general public. What does sitting with representatives of rival clubs say about you as a leader? What does it say about the level of commitment you have to those around you, and those who support you?
Tom Lynch is making a complete mockery of the position he holds. His individual 2018 campaign is ostensibly over. He is now clearly in 2019-mode and he is gearing all his energy towards next season. That is completely understandable, however his responsibility at Gold Coast in 2018 still remains. He is still a contracted player. He is still a valuable part of the club. And he is still a club captain, in name if nothing else.
I'm sure he has many friends at the Gold Coast Suns; many players, team officials and supporters whom he considers himself close to. He has been there seven years - the man is not an island. However I find myself wondering how he can return there after his Melbourne hiatus and be supportive of their on-field efforts for the rest of the season when he is clearly out the door mentally? As I stated above, he'd have friends there - he will be happy for any relative success they achieve, but if his heart isn't in it, how can they not see through it?
When he does return to the team, do you think that Stuart Dew will sit him in the coaches box again? Do you think that he will have him as part of any planning for next season at all? Will he be open about tactics or his thoughts on player strengths and weaknesses?
I cannot see it happening. I know I wouldn't. It may seem petty, childish or old-fashioned, but Stuart Dew has every right to expect loyalty at this stage in the season from his captain. Lynch is contracted until the end of this season and, as such, has a duty to give his full attention to the Gold Coast Suns until such time as his contract expires.
Catching up with Neil Balme at the airport, or whatever it was he was doing, and then sitting down having a catch up with Nathan Buckley is completely disrespectful to not only the Gold Coast Suns, not only Stuart Dew, not only his teammates, but every Gold Coast supporter that has attended a game or purchased a membership. For a club struggling to establish a fan base in a rugby-dominated state, it indicates that if their best player, and club captain doesn't give a rat's backside about the club this season, why should they? If their own captain is not invested enough to put his all into the club that's paying him, why should they care?
What Tom Lynch is doing with Collingwood and Richmond is a football version of try before you buy, but in effect it is Richmond and Collingwood that are inadvertently seeing a bit of what they investing in as well.
And what are they getting? They're getting a man who will happily come and meet with rival teams whilst his teammates are still competing against them. For God's sake, Richmond play against Gold Coast in Round 21. There will be plenty of cameras trained on Tom Lynch as he cheers on his current team against his possible future team. It's almost like an Attenborough documentary - Spy in the Herd.
The forward thinkers amongst us, and those in the football media who like to appear ahead of the game enjoy stating things such as "AFL fans are not ready to start thinking progressively about this sort of situation."
They're basically saying that, as supporters, we are not sophisticated enough to understand that this really is a business and that Tom Lynch has every right to explore his options for next year. Sorry experts, but we are aware that he has the right. But he also has the moral obligation to be present with and supportive of the team he is currently part of, and supposed to be a leader of. Just because you have the right does not mean it IS RIGHT.
I heard Malcolm Blight on the radio this morning, speaking about how any employee has the right to explore options for the next year or for the next position they're applying for. I get that, and to be honest, I love listening to Blighty, but football and the workplace you and I find ourselves in aren't quite the same, are they?
You, me and any Joe Blow out in the workforce doesn't have thousands of fans invested in our performance at work everyday. We don't have people idolising us and investing in us every time we pull on our work boots. They don't cheer when we do something good, and they don't drop their head into their hands in exasperation when we make a mistake. Whilst we might take one or two people under our wing and teach or guide them, we are not having the hopes of thousands rest upon how well we perform.
There are kids watching Tom Lynch and taking notice of how he conducts himself. There are youngsters on the Gold Coast starting to follow this team, hoping they can eek out a win each and every week. They'd be disheartened enough by the lack of success. Do they need a kick in the guts when they see Lynch wandering around with Neil Balme, or hear that he's meeting with Nathan Buckley as their team languishes near the bottom of the ladder?
To them, Tom Lynch is a Gold Coast Suns player right now. He is their captain. He is their idol. He is their hero.
Sitting down and meeting with representatives of teams who are ostensibly the enemy is not what heroes do.
The 2016 version of Tom Lynch was a great player. The 2017 version much less so. The 2018 version, less again. Both Collingwood and Richmond are opening the purse strings to secure the services of Tom Lynch in 2019. My hope is that the next club he lands at is the club he stays at. I hope they sign him to a huge deal over a number of years, and I hope that in the last year of that deal, we don't see him off meeting with every other Tom, Nathan and Neil trying to secure a future elsewhere if that team starts to struggle.
I understand that loyalty and football clubs is a one way street, and at the end of every season, we see clubs wield the power to cut players on their list, and they wield it without mercy. It can sometimes come across as heartless, but at least they wait until the end of the year to do it. They honour the contract.
Tom Lynch is a Gold Coast Sun in name alone at the moment. The ties have already been severed and free agency is doing what people knew it would do, but hoped it wouldn't
It was Peter Garrett who sang "The rich get richer and the poor get the picture."
The Suns get the picture when it comes to Tom Lynch and free agency. I just wish he'd had the class to wait until the season ended before putting brush to canvas, because seeing a club captain laying the groundwork for a move to a rival team while his team competes without him paints a very poor picture of the current landscape, indeed.
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