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The legacy of influence

There are any number of ways a footballer can ‘Be the Influence’.

As well as being able to influence each match, a player can have an effect on his teammates and the culture of his club. In some cases, a player can even change the way other people play or look at the game. Below are some of the game’s most influential figures.

Daniel Jackson

While Daniel Jackson is a chance to win the Tigers’ best and fairest this season – having had a remarkably consistent year – he is far from the biggest name at Richmond.

But there’s no doubt when Jackson exits the game he will leave a mark. He has been strong in advocating the need for players to pursue interests outside football, and has been heavily involved with the AFL Players’ Association, supporting organisations such as headspace and IDAHO. Though Jackson attacks the ball and opponents like his life depends on it, he’s well aware there is more to life than AFL.

In recent seasons, Jackson’s performance on the football field has benefited from a more balanced and focused life off it. He credits meditation for helping him to learn to control his aggression; after missing a heap of games through suspension in previous years, Jackson has played every match in 2013. He has also completed a Bachelor of Commerce at Melbourne University.

Trent Cotchin

There’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with being the captain of a football club – let alone a big club that’s made the finals just twice in the past 30 years. If there’s a side that needs a measured leader, both on and off the field, it’s Richmond.

Speaking on SEN earlier this year, Cotchin’s former coach Terry Wallace recounted his early impressions of the kid his club selected at pick two in the 2007 draft. On November 11 of that year, the Tigers had music pumping during a weights session at Punt Road. But a few minutes before 11 o’clock – much to the disappointment of many players – the music stopped abruptly. Cotchin, who had barely been at the Tigers a week, had asked for the music to be turned off so he and his teammates could share a moment of silence. It was, of course, Remembrance Day.

There are many ways to have an influence around a football club, and from the moment he walked in the door at Tigerland, Cotchin was a leader. At just 23 years of age, he is captaining the club superbly; at long last, the Tigers will play finals.

Aaron Davey

In modern football, all small forwards have two key jobs; they should have a knack for creating goals from limited opportunities and applying pressure on opposition defenders. The introduction of forward pressure during the last decade has largely been Davey’s doing. Davey – nicknamed ‘Flash’ for obvious reasons – used his pace to ensure opposition defenders never got an easy run out of the backline.
In his early years, Davey’s electrifying chases lit up the MCG, brought Melbourne crowds to life and made opposition players think twice about playing on whenever he was nearby. Davey mightn’t be the best player of the last decade, but few have influenced the future of the game like he has.

While he’s had an enormous influence on-field, Davey’s influence amongst the Indigenous community has been just as significant. The Northern Territorian was selected to captain the Indigenous All Stars earlier this season and is an Indigenous Advisory Board member for the AFL Players’ Association.

Scott Pendlebury

There’s something incredibly distinctive about the way Scott Pendlebury plays. The classy Collingwood on-baller always seems to have time to think his way through situations, regardless of the chaos going on around him.

He has great lateral movement for a man of his size and has a knack of dishing the ball out to options others don’t see. It’s hard to know how much of his game can be attributed to his ‘basketball background’, but there’s no doubt Pendlebury has become the face of those who have converted from the round-ball game.

Hawk Jarryd Roughead, Swan Kurt Tippett and Crow Josh Jenkins are others to have flirted with the idea of pursuing a career in b-ball, but it’s Pendlebury’s continued brilliance that will influence the next generation of ‘ballers’ to consider shifting codes.

Gary Ablett Jr

“Don’t be where the ball ain’t!”

Jack Dyer’s number one football rule seemed largely lost on Gary Ablett Jnr during his first five seasons at Geelong, where his incredible talents were somewhat wasted in a forward pocket. Ablett has averaged more than 30 possessions per match since moving to the midfield in 2007, and is now considered one of the game’s all-time greats. His transition from a clever small-forward to an elite midfielder influenced a change in thinking at most AFL clubs; the likes of Steve Johnson, Cyril Rioli, Alan Didak and Luke Dahlhaus have all since followed in his footsteps.

James Podsiadly

Those without knowledge of James Podsiadly’s back-story might see him as a relatively unremarkable footballer. He has forged a career doing what hundreds of key forwards have done before him – leading hard, marking strongly and kicking accurately at goal. But his career has been unique, as he debuted at the age of 28.

His success – within two seasons he’d kicked 100 goals and won a Premiership with Geelong – opened the door for other mature-age recruits around the country. By simply playing his role for Geelong successfully, Podsiadly influenced the minds of mature-age footballers and recruiters alike around Australia.

Matthew Pavlich

As the Dockers sit comfortably inside the top four and are considered a genuine flag chance, it’s easy to forget they were once an expansion club struggling to find their feet. Few, if any, have had a greater influence on Fremantle than Matthew Pavlich.

He is the club’s captain, greatest ever player and remains Freo’s biggest wildcard heading into finals. Dockers’ fans will be hoping Pavlich can influence this year’s finals series the way he did last year; his six goals in the elimination final against Geelong got his side over the line in the biggest September upset in years.