Are we there yet?
It took a volcanic eruption and Australian skies full of ash to bring the topic of travel in sport back to the back pages of newspapers and ‘lead’ stories on nightly newscasts. I am a passionate supporter of AFL and hold great fervour for basketball; my questions is this – does AFL whinge too much about travel and are they asking ‘are we there yet?’
Only recently, Essendon, Richmond and the Brisbane Lions were all ‘victims’ of the Chile volcanic ash clouds that prevented them to amend their travel plans. In a world where the majority of people are super keen for sport and current journalists fall for any story where a person or persons of profile are involved (but that and the topic of how good these articles are, are best left for another forum), the AFL teams led news segments.
Although Richmond and Brisbane remained behind and used time in a different location to recover, the boys from Punt Road hired the bus and went for a ride down the highway from Sydney to Melbourne. All week, sports stories and AFL talk shows talked about the impact it would have – Richmond won the week later by the way, against Adelaide in Adelaide.
AFL has changed in a massive way over the years from toughness in terms of Leigh Matthews to a toughness formed around Judd, Hodge and now the likes of Dustin Martin where endurance is key. Toughness has been taken out if we talk about the bump and tackling being pretty much eliminated from the game but toughness remains if we discuss running constantly and racking up just under a half marathon.
In my opinion, AFL (and many over-the-top supporters) could learn from the NBA where teams play 82 games – more if they make it to the playoffs. NBA players compete in double-header and triple-header situations where they back up on the road. They biggest rest the world’s best basketball players get is 3 days – days of rest range from 0 to 3 days. Fatigue is a key factor in performance and the elements of rest and travel convey a large impact – a team that plays several consecutive games in opposing cities in the US must deal with constant travel aggravation as well as jet-lag from making frequent long-distance flights over a relatively short period of time.
Basketball is known as a non-contact sport but watch an NBA game and you will soon realise that this is not the case or YouTube Dwayne Wade and it will soon become evident that there is a lot of contact – however no where near the like in an AFL match.
Both sports require a great amount of toughness but I believe AFL can study the NBA more and maybe suck it up a little.