Strong as Steele

If pride is one of the seven deadly sins, then humility is its opposing virtue. Those inflicted with self-consumed pride are sadly deprived of the beauty of humility.

Steele Sidebottom has been blessed with humility in spades.

I played with some absolute champions of the game during my career with Geelong and Hawthorn, from Gary Ablett Snr through to Gary Ablett Jnr, and so many brilliant players in between.

One of my absolute favourite champion teammates was former Geelong star Jimmy Bartel.

Not only was he an outstanding footballer on the field, more importantly he was an outstanding person off it.

Because despite 305 AFL games, three premierships, a Brownlow medal, Norm Smith medal and multiple All-Australian selections he was, and still is, just an outstanding human being, and as grounded and humble as they come.

Steele Sidebottom reminds me of Jimmy Bartel. Superstar footballers. Superstar blokes.

It’s a beautiful thing, humility.

It’s not hard to see why Steele Sidebottom has become a favourite of the Magpie Army throughout his 179 game career with Collingwood.

A naturally gifted footballer, he is an outstanding ball winner with sublime skills and an exquisite understanding of the game.

If he isn’t winning his own ball at the coal face he is cutting you up on the outside with run and carry and pin-point disposal. Add to that an uncanny goal sense and ability to kick clutch goals in big games, and you’ve got yourself a seriously good footballer who can turn a game on its head in a heart-beat.

When you consider some of the champion mid-fielders who have played for Collingwood in recent times, it is an elite category of personnel.

Tony Shaw, Nathan Buckley, Dane Swan, Mick McGuane, Darren Millane, Scott Pendlebury, Gavin Brown, Paul Licuria, Tony Francis and Scott Burns are all undisputed legends of the Collingwood Football Club in their own right.

If you look purely at the raw numbers, Steele Sidebottom already stacks up alongside this illustrious group, from a statistical point of view at the very least.

Already with a premiership under his belt in 2010, he averages close to 27 disposals a game since becoming a permanent member of the Collingwood midfield.

“I’ve been really lucky to have played with some great players in my career at Collingwood,” Sidebottom says.

“To play in a premiership in my second year was just a dream come true, and to learn from guys like Pendles (Scott Pendlebury), Swanny (Dane Swan), Dids (Alan Didak) and Dayne Beams was really important in my development as a younger player,” he adds.

“Now we have a new look in our mid-field with Taylor Adams, Jordan De Goey, Adam Treloar and Brodie Grundy who are all really talented players so it’s an exciting time for the footy club.”

Despite not yet winning a Copeland trophy, he has finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th in Collingwood’s Best and Fairest award in previous seasons.

At 26, it seems a mere formality that he will win a Copeland before he decides to pull the pin on an already illustrious career.

Sidebottom is now the vice-captain of Magpies (along with fellow TIV student Taylor Adams), an ANZAC Day medallist and along with Scott Pendlebury, the first players targeted by opposition coaches on a weekly basis.

And while he still has a way to go to be universally accepted as a Collingwood great, I’ll bet my house that by the end of his career he most certainly will be.

But not if you ask Steele Sidebottom.

He’ll predictably baulk at the notion and uncomfortably shrug off any such suggestion.

It’s a beautiful thing, humility.

Steele Sidebottom is now firmly entrenched (along with three of his Collingwood teammates) studying a Certificate III in Carpentry program at the Trade Institute of Victoria (TIV).

The Magpie quartet of Taylor Adams, Jordan De Goey, Will Hoskin-Elliott and Sidebottom have only recently commenced the Carpentry course based in Williamstown, but the early indicators are strong for the group, who have hit the ground running and are totally committed to the program.

“We’re only just getting stuck into the practical training now, but the boys are loving the course, the facilities are great and everyone at TIV has been really helpful,” Sidebottom says.

Collingwood is now the fifth AFL club to join forces with the Trade Institute of Victoria. The Magpies join Richmond, St. Kilda, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs who collectively have more than 30 players studying trade based courses at TIV.

Sidebottom is a classic case of a player who on the surface to the ill-informed outside world shouldn’t have a care in the world. Superstar footballer, highly paid, young, fit, extremely popular and playing for the largest sporting organisation in the country.

But AFL players are also normal human beings, who like everyone else on the planet worry about uncertainty, job security, providing for their families and what the future holds.

Given the cut-throat nature of the AFL landscape, the media scrutiny, the necessity to perform every week and the fact that a career can be ended by an injury here or a change of coach there, in many respects the life of an AFL player is more difficult than those of everyday people – it certainly is a hell of a lot more stressful than many people choose to believe.

It’s understandable for a young player who is out of contract at the end of the year or who is struggling for form to start to consider or even hit the panic button with regards to what to do after their football career is over.

It’s equally as refreshing to see bona-fide superstars like Steele Sidebottom speak openly about being worried about what to do when their playing careers are done and dusted.

“I’m at the age now where I’m just not completely sure what I want to do when I finish my footy career,” Sidebottom says, matter-of-factly.

“I’ve always had an interest in Carpentry and the building industry in general, but when the TIV boys came down to the club and presented to the group it made it clear to me that this is something I really want to do,” he adds.

“I’m really fortunate to be playing AFL for a great club in Collingwood, but I’m also aware that there is a real world out there and preparing for life after footy is something that is very important to me.”

It’s a beautiful thing, humility.

Author: Aaron Lord

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