Niggle is part of the game
Fiery Freemantle Dockers nforward Hayden Ballantyne copped his fair share of negative media this nweek, but in my opinion, his character and style of play is a positive nfor the AFL.
When you talk to guys that played VFL and AFL nfootball in decades gone by, almost all of them will tell you that nsledging and niggly tactics, designed to get under the skin of opposing nplayers, were part and parcel of the game.
In my view, little has changed, and we're better for it.
Brutes,n villains, eccentrics, small guys with big mouths these are the guys nwho start water cooler conversation and incite passion in football fans.
Loven them or hate them, there's little doubt they bring interest to the ngame, and with the Australian sports market as crowded as it is, that ncan only be a positive thing for our game.
From a football nperspective, the other thing to note is that sledging and niggling nplayers, especially the high profile boys, can be incredibly effective.
Lastn season we played a game at the SCG against Fremantle where a number of ntheir players spent the entire afternoon mouthing off, bumping us off nthe ball and generally doing anything possible to put our team off our ngame.
It worked we gave up no less than eight goals from free kicks and lost the game.
Ourn coaches let fly in the sheds after the game, and rightly so. They came nwith a plan to get under our skins, executed it, and left with the win. nJob done.
Discipline is the key when coming up against guys who nseem to revel in the off the ball contest. You can't allow yourself to nget sucked in and lose focus.
It's probably not a popular point ofn view, but I take my hat off to Hayden - he has his style and he's nworking it to his advantage. People also forget he is a very gifted nfootballer: super quick, skilful, tough and very versatile, which makes nit even harder coming up against him.
Facing the Dockers
All of us at the Swans are raring to go for Saturday's contest.
Lastn weekend gave us the opportunity to freshen up after a heightened nbuild-up to round one, and we're all better for it. Training this week nwas short and sharp.
The Sydney Cricket Ground surface is in amazing shape, and we're hoping for a big home crowd to get us over the line.
See you there,Kizza