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Such is FEV

The Age

Tuesday February 22, 2011

Martin Blake

THE easiest thing to say right now is that Brendan Fevola is finished as an AFL player. The reality is that he might not be. History tells us this is so.Wayward players have been moved on by clubs before and found another home because they could kick and mark and run and jump. For inspiration, Fevola need look no farther than Ben Cousins, who was apparently washed up at the end of 2007, sacked by West Coast and suspended by the AFL Commission, finally owning up to his drug addiction. He was almost certainly in a deeper hole as a footballer than Fevola is now.But Cousins cleaned up his act and Richmond took him on, so that he played two seasons in 2009-10 to round out his career.Fevola's reputation has been smashed, having had ugly departures from two clubs, including Brisbane, where the Lions yesterday reiterated they had sacked him "to uphold the culture and the reputation of the football club" accusing Fevola of "repeated breaches" of his lucrative contract.But if he came back to Melbourne, close to his family, cleaned himself up and got fit again, who's to say that a club would not take the risk on him at a moderate salary, with the low draft pick that he would now require, in the same way that Cousins did? (Richmond got the Brownlow medallist with pick six in a pre-season draft).Someone like Collingwood, for instance? "The only club I could see taking him would be Collingwood," said Age columnist, Fevola fan and former Carlton player and coach Robert Walls yesterday. "He's got some sort of relationship with [president] Eddie McGuire. He would have to prove over the next 12 months that he's over his addictions and his bad ways. If he could do that and go to Collingwood on their terms, if he wasn't on much money and he knew the eyes of the world were on him, that if he stuffed up once it's all over, that'd be his chance."There would be no point in a team that's finishing in the bottom half taking him on. Why would you do it? Maybe a team that says 'hey, he might help us win a premiership. We're in premiership mode'. And it has to be 'one strike and you're out'."Four-time premiership coach David Parkin agreed. "If he was back in Melbourne and had the right support systems around him, somebody might be in a position where they would want to take him," said Parkin.When Carlton put Fevola out for trade at the end of last year, Collingwood was one of several clubs who had an interest. Ultimately Brisbane was keenest, but as a regular Footy Show panellist over the years, Fevola is close to McGuire. He texted the Collingwood president yesterday with the news: "Just been sacked." McGuire also revealed on radio that Fevola was "shattered" with the Lions' decision to cut him.There is no mechanism for Fevola to play AFL football this year, and in any case, he is still in rehabilitation. But he could nominate for the national and pre-season drafts at the end of this year in the hope of playing in 2012. He will be 31 at the start of the 2012 season, but he has 623 goals to show that he can finish up front.The AFL is unequivocal that it would not stop him. "No absolutely not [would the AFL stand in the way of Fevola going elsewhere]," the league's general manager (football operations) Adrian Anderson said yesterday.It appears the AFL's agreement to allow the Lions to spread Fevola's payout over two years in the salary cap was important to Brisbane's decision. That payout will be the subject of further negotiation between the player and his management.Even Michael Voss, the Brisbane coach, admitted yesterday that the decision to recruit Fevola had gone sour. "You recruit a player hoping that he will make the club better. Clearly we didn't get that. But I can't say it was not a mistake because he is no longer here."The hell-raising and the Brisbane experience will scare off some clubs. Carlton willingly moved him on and Jonathan Brown said yesterday that at Brisbane, Fevola had "lost the trust of the playing group". Brown said that Fevola might well find himself in front of the sticks for someone else; he only hoped he did not kick too many goals against the Lions.Too much trouble? This might be a bigger problem than his physical age. "He's strictly a full-forward and you don't have to be extremely fit," said Walls. "OK, you need some running fitness but he relies on strong hands and smarts and long kicking. He could have those to the age of 34 or 35."Walls can see the Cousins comparison. "Look, that was good for Ben to play those two years, and Richmond got some goodwill out of it," he said. "But for Fev, it has to be 'one strike and you're out'. I don't think it's possible to say 'he won't play again'."

© 2011 The Age

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