Fans Players

‘I would love to see AFL players showing that kind of personality’

Hawthorn star Chad Wingard is an avid basketball fan and has taken a look at the ESPN-produced documentary, ‘The Last Dance’, for As he writes, Wingard is of the view that a similar-style production could work in the AFL under the right circumstances.

Like many basketball fans, I have been fascinated by the Last Dance documentary that is airing on Netflix every Monday evening in Australia.

For those that don’t know, the documentary focusses on the Chicago Bulls’ sixth championship title run during the 1997 and 1998 NBA seasons.

It goes behind the scenes and takes a look at the personalities in the team, uncovers never before seen vision and gives an open and honest take about the issues that were bubbling under the surface at the end of the Bulls’ famous era.

Growing up more in the LeBron James era, seeing the vision of Michael Jordan playing in his prime has been pretty cool too. My old man was a Jordan fan and he was the reason for my middle name.

The thing that stood out for me about ‘MJ’ was his flamboyant play and just how athletic he is for a player of his height at 6 feet and 6 inches.

It was amazing to see how Jordan changed the NBA, his team and his city. As the focus on them grew and the League celebrated their achievements, the players really became rockstars.

The behind the scenes access and getting to really understand the players’ personalities was one of the best things to come out of it.

I would love to see AFL players showing that kind of personality when they’re being interviewed and I loved how the documentary did a great job of humanising the players, while also allowing them to speak their minds.

Recreating that documentary-style story telling in the AFL would be awesome, but there are also a few challenges to go along with it.

The culture of Australians doesn’t always celebrate the individual expressing him or herself and I guess there’s a bit of a case of tall poppy syndrome here in our country. Whenever someone is having success or speaking their mind, there’s some in society who like to knock others down a fair bit.

You would also need to have the right people involved in the project, because as a player I would want to make sure I have control over what is put out there.

The part of the media I don’t like is when they cut out a quote from an interview and it’s not in context with what you’ve said throughout the entire press conference and it ends up on the back page of the paper.

It portrays such a picture of yourself and I think that’s what the players are worried about. They’d rather have as much control as they can over their personal image and what they believe in and stand for.

We’ve all got personal brands to look after, no matter who you are.

You’re representing your family, your football club as well and the AFL, but if you have one mess up your personal brand takes the biggest hit.

Every interview you have you’ve got to make sure you say the right things and think about your personal brand because it can be tarnished so quickly.

There’s massive positives to greater access as well.

If the players have more control over the content and it’s ticked off by the clubs, the content is so much more rewarding for the members and other spectators because they feel like they’re part of something.

We, as players, sometimes take that stuff for granted because we see what happens inside a club on a daily basis, but fans really want that insight and it’s entertaining for a lot of people.

The players will be more supportive of showing greater personality as the media becomes more progressive too.

But it’s going to come down to the next generation and how they use podcasts and their articles to tell stories and entertain people.

They’re the ones who are going to change the AFL media landscape in terms of how much access is being given to the audience and then we’ll have improved interaction between players and fans.

How players act on the field compared to the way they behave off the field is so different.

We saw that in the documentary with Scottie Pippen and I can think of a couple of players at Hawthorn who are similarly misunderstood.

For instance, James Sicily is completely different off field to what his on field personality would suggest, while Sam Frost is placid off field but he’s an aggressive animal on the field.

There’s so many personas that you could portay to the audience and I reckon a similar AFL-style documentary like the Last Dance would really help humanise AFL players.

Watching the documentary, it was amazing to see how MJ shaped the NBA in the powerhouse that it is today.

Every athlete in the world has got Michael Jordan to thank for the way he raised the bar and changed the sporting landscape.