Star Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn said he would understand if coach Simon Goodwin felt he was the victim of a mutiny after a player-led push resulted in a scheduled pre-season “torture camp” being shelved due to safety concerns.
The club held a similar camp last pre-season which saw players enjoy just half an hour of sleep over three days in a bid to foster mental toughness and resilience.
However, on the same camp, key players Dom Tyson (knee) and Christian Salem (concussion) injured themselves.
The second edition of the camp had been “in the diary” for a long time, but, according to Gawn, the players took too long to raise their concerns about it, causing more problems than there should have been.
“If I put myself in Goody’s shoes I would probably be thinking the same thing. I’d be like, ‘What’s going on here? The players have stood up against me’,” Gawn told SEN on Tuesday.
“But the way ‘Goody’ spoke to the leadership group when we spoke to him was very good.
“The players had concerns, the fitness staff had concerns, the coaches had concerns and then when it all gets built up, the best decision was made.
“The concerns were around player wellbeing, injury and so on. Players had lost a lot of weight at last year’s camp and there was a few young guys who had just built up their weight.
“Those concerns weren’t raised [at the start of this pre-season], so that was the problem early on. So then it took about a month in, and then the concerns did get raised by the leadership group.
“We’ve got another camp in Maroochydore coming up which we’ll probably get some of the same stuff in that we missed out on that camp.”
Complicating matters was the fact that some Melbourne players bypassed the leadership group and went straight to the AFL Players’ Association to voice their concerns, but Gawn didn’t have an issue with that.
“It’s whatever people feel more comfortable with. At first when I heard it I thought maybe they don’t feel comfortable with us but we’re a core group of about 25-to-26-year-olds in the leadership group and an 18-year-old might not feel comfortable as of yet to talk to them,” Gawn said.
“They might feel better at a psychologist, I’m not sure what the best way to talk about that is but personally if I had a problem I might go to the PA as well.
“The Players’ Association is our union and we’re encouraged to speak to them about any problems. I’ve personally never spoken to them, but I’m sure all 18 clubs have spoken to the Players’ Association at some time about something to do with the club and something to do with their own problems, their own life.
“The leadership group got told by the Players’ Association that there was players coming to them as well, so there was players coming to both parties … which is not a problem in my eyes, that’s what the Players’ Association is there for. They’re probably doing it thinking that nobody’s going to know about that because that’s what the PA is for – just to talk away from everything else.”
Gawn said completing the camp last year, which NRL powerhouse Melbourne Storm also use, was the proudest moment of his life.
Meanwhile, the 26-year-old is expecting big things from young stars Christian Petracca and Jesse Hogan this season.
“He is still quite young, he’s still maturing into his body and into his head, but this pre-season he’s wiped about 35 seconds off his PBs already,” Gawn said of Petracca.
“He’s running really well, he’s kicking the ball really well, he’s trained almost every session, so those things in the history of football usually mean you go out and have a good year.”
Gawn believes Hogan has become so fit that he could play a similar midfield role to that of Hawthorn captain Jarryd Roughead and retired Richmond great Matthew Richardson.
“I can’t believe a guy that strong and that big can run well, he’s actually a really good runner – probably in our top three or four. He’s done almost every session as well,” Gawn said.
In a further boost for the Demons, co-captain Jack Viney is now running after being on crutches for an extended period due to a serious foot injury suffered late last season.
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