It’s a tale that’s all too common in the world of AFL and professional sports: an athlete with undeniable talent and potential who seems to self-sabotage at every turn.
For list managers, coaches, teammates – and the forever-hopeful fans – the pain burns sharply when a player keeps shooting himself in the foot.
Collingwood’s Jordan De Goey has been that player throughout his career.
Collingwood star Jordan De Goey.Credit:Getty Images
De Goey has endured heavy scrutiny during his 137 games since entering the AFL as the fifth pick in the 2014 national draft. He is gifted as a footballer. His incredible power and skill is match-winning. However, his lack of discipline and professionalism is frustrating and confusing.
With the continual off-field slip-ups, and inconsistent form on the field, De Goey enters this season with more hype and optimism than any other player. Why? Probably because he is indeed falling short of his potential … and there is a fascination with this.
There are double-page spreads dressed up with happy photos – De Goey and his dogs enjoying life away from the never-ending scrutiny in the AFL arena. De Goey speaks – and owns – his mistakes. He admits to fearing for his career. He says he is a changed man who is happy to be out of the spotlight … while commanding the spotlight.
It’s as if a public relations firm has been hired to repair his battered reputation.
De Goey today carries the faith of former Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd. He believes De Goey should be a top-five player by season’s end.
When does potential become matched by results?
Surely the moment is now, starting in Friday night’s match against Geelong at the MCG.
De Goey has given himself his best chance with a formidable pre-season training base. He gathered 31 disposals and had 11 score involvements in a best-on-ground performance in Collingwood’s last pre-season hit out against Hawthorn.
Collingwood coach Craig McCrae told The Age last week that De Goey looks fitter, happier and more engaged than ever.
“He has got a presence about his leadership which I had never seen before. He is invested, so fingers crossed, it leads to a good season for him,” the second-year coach said.
New Collingwood captain Darcy Moore also lauded De Goey’s pre-season form and sounded a warning to his rivals.
“It is pretty exciting for us and pretty intimidating and scary for the rest of the competition, so hopefully, it means he can really put a rich vein of form together in the early part of the season,” Moore said.
De Goey and Pies coach Craig McRae.Credit:Getty Images
Will the coach and captain be duped? Will they be let down again?
Or, after eight years in the AFL system, will De Goey’s behaviour and commitment finally rise to his potential – and everyone’s expectations?
To this point, the 27-year-old’s career reads as a tale of inconsistency. It is underwhelming.
De Goey’s career highlight is leading Collingwood’s goalkicking with 48 in 2018. He has never been on the podium in a club best-and-fairest count nor has he been named in the All-Australian squad. His best Brownlow Medal finish was tied for 28th in 2012.
He is capable of so much more.
De Goey’s bare playing resume is even starker when compared to the profiles of some of his contemporaries who possessed similar talent and playing attributes at the same age.
At 27, Patrick Dangerfield had a Brownlow Medal (2016), three club best-and-fairest awards (2015, 2016, 2017), a Leigh Matthews Trophy (2016) and five All-Australian honours (2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017).
Patrick Cripps was Carlton captain, had won the Leigh Matthews Trophy (2019), three best-and-fairest awards (2015, 2018 and 2019) and was twice an All-Australian by 27.
At Melbourne, Christian Petracca at 27 was a premiership player and Norm Smith medallist (2021), three times an All-Australian (2020, 2021 and 2022), a best-and-fairest winner (2020) and Melbourne’s leading goalkicker (2019).
De Goey has shown he can perform on the big stage; the 12 goals he kicked in the 2018 finals series and his strong showing in Collingwood’s first two finals against Geelong and Fremantle last season are testimony to this.
However, he has been unable to sustain that level of performance for any significant length of time.
The AFL’s best players stack up notable performances most weeks and repeat them yearly. It is high time De Goey lived up to his potential and matured off the field.
Last year De Goey derailed his season with an inexplicable trip to Bali during the mid-season break. He was filmed partying and making sexual gestures, resulting in Collingwood fining him $25,000, suspended until the end of the 2022 season. Former Collingwood chief executive Mark Anderson blasted his behaviour and attitude towards women.
Yet, the infamous trip did not deter the club from signing him to a lucrative five-year contract at the end of last year. Potential, again.
It is assumed Collingwood placed extra behavioural clauses in the first two years of the deal; however, Magpies football boss Graham Wright recently denied this.
Surprisingly, Wright adds the club will not stop De Goey from travelling to Bali again during the bye this season. Wisely, De Goey has made this a moot point by saying he will stay home.
Collingwood’s success this season relies heavily on De Goey finally delivering on his potential. He has the ability to achieve a season similar to Dustin Martin’s heroics of 2017 that culminated in Brownlow, Norm Smith and premiership medals.
However, if history is a guide, De Goey will most likely let his club down and squander the prime years of his career. The list of unfulfilled potential in AFL ranks will claim another big scalp.
Perhaps the penny will drop. If so, it could be the difference between De Goey being remembered as a premiership-winning Collingwood hero or just another talented sportsperson who wasted his talent by lacking discipline and dedication.
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