Time for Port Adelaide to rethink off-field policy after Ollie Wines injury

Ollie Wines
02 Feb, 2019 by Liam Sheedy

There is never good timing for a player to be injured. Less than two months before round one, this is exactly what Port Adelaide is faced with after Ollie Wines dislocated his shoulder in a water skiing accident.

Ollie Wines injury

The Victorian is expected to miss between 8-10 weeks after having surgery this week. The news has certainly divided opinion on what activities off-field if any should be restricted for AFL footballers.

Outspoken media personality and former Port Adelaide Premiership player Kane Cornes ruffled some feathers as he often does when rightfully questioning the activity that led to the injury and also the timing for a player who is in contention and expected to be the next club captain.

While Cornes was copping it from all angles he also had some support from respected AFL legend Kevin Sheedy.

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“I had a few water skiers in my day who I used to read the riot act to. If you want to win premierships you need to get your act together.”

AFLPA comes to the rescue

Not surprisingly the AFLPA leapt to the defence of an AFL player facing scrutiny, with AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh stressing the need for players being able to relax outside of football.

“What we’ve seen over the journey is that players just focused on playing football, or any sport 24/7, tend not to thrive. So, it’s really important that players do have a release away from footy. He (Kane) constantly has an expectation that AFL footballers should be doing nothing other than AFL football, 24/7.”

The message that seems to be getting lost in translation is no one is asking AFL players to be focused 24/7 and 365 days of the year.

AFL players do get mandated time off each week during the footy season. They are also entitled to substantial more annual leave each year than those in the general work force enjoy. This also includes a three-week Christmas break.

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A browse through the Collective Bargaining Agreement confirms the AFLPA have done a brilliant job to ensure AFL players are well paid and looked after not only with various perks but importantly remuneration.

Unfortunately being an elite sportsman comes with some compromise and sacrifice. No expectation exists from the general public and club members for AFL players to only play and train. Players are entitled to have a life outside of football.

But it should not be too much to ask for some common sense to be implemented. When back in training and less than two months before round one it would be a wise idea to minimise injury risk activities.

AFL players unite as social media lights up

As expected, this topic has seen plenty of commentary on social media. Players, ex-players and even family members have had their say in what has made for some entertaining reading and debate.

No doubt the debate will rage on!

The club’s position

Port Adelaide officials have defended their position in what they allow players to do in their own time. And football manager Chris Davies has been the one to face the media this week

“Ollie Wines is a guy who loves his skiing. We’ve got other guys who like to ride motorbikes. Others who like to ride go-karts. We’re not going to stop them doing their own thing in their own time.”

Davies has been less than convincing when interviewed on radio this week in trying to allay the fears of the Port faithfuls.

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On one hand playing down the injury but then also admitting further surgery may be required at the end of the season. “Ollie Wines may potentially need a full shoulder reconstruction post season.”

Great news. We all saw how well the approach of nursing an injured Paddy Ryder and specifically Tom Rockliff with a shoulder injury worked for Port in 2018.

Some Power fans do not feel concerned about what has transpired. Perhaps this view will change if the star midfielder has a compromised 2019 season and further surgery that will affect preparation for the 2020 campaign.

Change required but not an overhaul

Currently a clause exists in AFL player contracts under section 4.10 No dangerous or hazardous activity

“Players must not engage in any dangerous or hazardous activity, including but not limited to, trail bike riding, professional boxing or wrestling, soccer, gridiron, karate, judo, hang gliding, parachuting, or bungee jumping which, in the reasonable opinion of the AFL club, may affect the player’s ability to perform his obligations under this contract, without first obtaining the consent of the AFL club, which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld.”

The fact is Ollie Wines had permission from his club. He has done no wrong in the view of many. The latest injury however should force club management to rethink the current policy of simply letting players do as they please.

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It may be something simple as clauses restricting certain activities classified as higher risk until November, when players generally return for the start of pre-season training.

The good news for Power players who are worried about this is they have not played finals 7 of the last 10 years, so they have enjoyed starting annual leave early most years without the pesky distraction of finals and winning premierships.

Port Adelaide has allowed standards to slip for too long and the results show.

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For a club that has the motto: “We exist to win premierships” – perhaps it is time to start lifting professional standards. It should not be too much to ask professional athletes for some minor sacrifices along the way such as the water skis and bikes being parked in the shed when round 1 is not far away.

by Liam Sheedycontributor
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