Baha'i News -- The other Hawk that got away
The other Hawk that got away
July 31 2002
Former Hawk Luke McPharlin has settled in at Fremantle and will take on his former club this
Picture: WA NEWS
Forget Trent Croad. The player that Hawthorn is really regretting losing is Luke McPharlin, writes Caroline
Some of the most heartbreaking losses in football have no scoreboard upon which to record them. Just haunting and
frequent reminders. One of which will take place at Subiaco this week when Hawthorn takes on a Fremantle team which includes
"The One That Got Away".
It is not the loss of Trent Croad that has shattered the Hawks this season, and caused
massive soul-searching, but that of the club's one-time smokey Luke McPharlin, one of the AFL's best young prospects running
around in this year's outstandingly high-quality field.
The structure of the modern game dictates that stories such
as McPharlin's rarely occur these days. Perhaps he is the last of them but, if that sounds like a cliche, the speedy
193-centimetre 20-year-old with classic footballer's hands is anything but.
McPharlin is a biomedical science
student, follower of the Bahai faith, guitarist and singer-songwriter who has already released his first CD Calling,
Waiting, Searching - the proceeds of which will go to charity. And his 10-man band has begun to pick up irregular gigs
around Perth. He still swaps his music with the man who recruited him to Hawthorn, John Turnbull.
If McPharlin was
Turnbull's biggest coup, then his loss to Hawthorn has now become his most shattering loss in seven years at the club.
Turnbull had been following the boy since 1996 and it was three years later that he slipped away from a WAFL game, and a
host of his opposition talent scouts, to watch McPharlin contest a 200-metre sprint for Perth's Christ Church Grammar at an
interschool sports day.
The teenager finished second and, at that time, had no intention of extending his football
beyond schoolboy level. But to render him eligible for the draft, Turnbull had to persuade him to play one game for the East
Fremantle colts side. "To be honest, I wasn't that keen at the time," said McPharlin.
"To be honest, I had to be
pressured into playing. I'd drifted away from footy and I preferred basketball and athletics. Now I'm really glad I played
By half-time of that East Fremantle game - McPharlin would not be readily identified because he had been
forced to change jumpers at the last minute due to a size issue - Turnbull was close to asking the club to remove him as he
had already kicked four goals.
By the time the draft took place, only Mick Malthouse, on behalf of Collingwood, had
interviewed McPharlin, apart from Hawthorn. Melbourne had also shown some late interest.
So the nervous Hawks pushed
him forward from pick No. 25 overall to their first pick, No. 10.
No one at Hawthorn would say so, but clearly the
club believes that the loss of McPharlin will hurt the club more than the decision to trade Croad. And the Hawks are still
emotionally bleeding at how relatively powerless they were in the letting go of a footballer they had so clearly outwitted
15 other clubs to select - and into whose future they had conservatively invested some $200,000.
You get the feeling
that every senior performance McPharlin puts in for Fremantle - he lined up at centre half-back last Sunday and performed
well in the first half against the Saints' Nick Riewoldt - plunges another knife into the still-raw wound.
Experienced club administrator John Hook watched only the first half of the match before turning off the television with
a knot in his stomach. Turnbull watched the game highlights, periodically shaking his head.
"Neither West Coast nor
Fremantle had shown any interest in him," Turnbull said yesterday. "It's the most distressing and frustrating situation
personally that's taken place in my experience at Hawthorn. It still irks me."
There are so many elements surrounding
McPharlin's departure that have upset the Hawks, to the extent that Hook penned a letter to the AFL putting forward a case
for a free draft pick in return for the youngster's loss, given that it emerged after he had gone that Fremantle had serious
salary cap problems.
The letter was never sent because the AFL's football boss Andrew Demetriou indicated to Hawk
chief executive Michael Brown that the club would be wasting its time. But the letter has been filed in the offices of
Glenferrie Oval anyway.
And under the new changes to the draft, 2001 wooden-spooner Fremantle would not have been
guaranteed McPharlin, who admitted yesterday that his main reason for leaving Melbourne related to his family back in
This year he would have gone into a lottery open to the four bottom sides as long as none of them had won more
than seven games. Had the new system been in place, McPharlin would not have taken the risk.
The Hawks, realising
they had lost McPharlin, included him in the Croad trade for which they received the Dockers' draft picks No. 1, 20 and 36.
But in effect they lost him for nothing because the Croad trade guaranteed top pick Luke Hodge anyway.
But what truly
irks the club - and has caused some dissension - is that Fremantle convinced the player it would better manage his osteitis
pubis. And it seems to have done a pretty good job of just that.
The Hawks had initially recommended major surgery,
a prospect McPharlin's parents, Ian and Marion, refused to entertain.
The Dockers, through their highly regarded
physiotherapist Jeff Boyle, told McPharlin he would not require surgery - simply rest and good management over a three-year
course. The Hawks' diagnosis had been far more gloomy. Not that they ever wanted to lose him.
Struck down at the
start of last winter after showing massive promise in eight of the Hawks' first 10 games, McPharlin became increasingly
dejected at the prospect of not playing and was receptive to any positive messages emanating from back home. By the time
Hawthorn realised what was happening, it was almost too late.
Still he wrestled with the decision, changing his mind
several times in the final days.
"I really enjoyed living in Melbourne and I really enjoyed my time under Peter
Schwab," McPharlin said yesterday.
"I came home because of my family first and foremost but I was also really
confident about Jeff Boyle's program. I really thought I'd miss this entire season but I had a six-month rest and that,
coupled with Jeff's program, seems to have fixed it.
"I sat down at the end of last year with (fellow-sufferers) Luke
Power and Stephen Powell and we all had different ideas about the injury, but the pity is that no one really seems to truly
understand how to cure it."
And the prospect of taking on the Hawks this week? "It'll be interesting but I'm pretty
relaxed about it," said McPharlin.
"I just want to go out there and beat them."
©Copyright 2002, The Age (Australia)
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