Lumelume earned three first-grade games and looks a leading prospect to replace either Suliasi Vunivalu (Rugby Australia) or Josh Addo-Carr (going home to Sydney) who are leaving the club.
Storm fullback and Clive Churchill Medal winner Ryan Papenhuyzen won the members’ player of the year while centre Justin Olam was named most improved player at the club awards ceremony which they hosted at their Sunshine Coast resort on Tuesday night.
Young prop Tino Fa’asuamaleaui was rewarded for his rise into the Queensland state of origin squad by being named Billy Slater rookie of the year after playing every game bar one while utility forward Brandon Smith won the best forward award.
Strength coach Dan Di Pasqua won the Mick Moore club person of the year award, a highly-prized honour within the Storm.
CARDEDEU, Spain — Andreu Canet turns 100 next month. And his birth year, as it turned out, was a curse.
Having been drafted into Spain’s Republican army at 17, he is now a rare survivor of a contingent of about 27,000 soldiers dubbed the “baby bottle conscription.” They were all born in 1920 and called up by the Republican government in 1938 to replenish the army’s ranks as it prepared a last-ditch attempt to stop Gen. Francisco Franco from winning the country’s civil war.
This July, as he has done every year for the past three decades, Mr. Canet made his annual journey to a peace monument built on hilltops near the Ebro river — the site of a major counterattack launched by Republican troops in July 1938. The already difficult pilgrimage was made even harder by the pandemic. And for the first time, he said, he was the only one who turned up on the day of the commemoration.
“Perhaps I’m in fact the only one left alive by now,” he said wistfully.
Mr. Canet’s story is just one chapter in a civil war legacy that Spain is still trying to come to terms with.
In September, the government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez presented a draft bill aimed at reviving and extending a 2007 law to facilitate the opening of more than 2,000 mass graves scattered across Spain and to identify the remains of those inside. Most are believed to have died during or just after the war, which took place from 1936 to 1939.
The government also wants to close down any venture or institution that glorifies Franco’s dictatorship, and to revamp the giant underground mausoleum from which his remains were exhumed last year and transferred to a cemetery where his family already had a crypt.
Looking back on the war, Mr. Canet said he was utterly unprepared for battle when he was drafted at 17.
“We had to bring our own clothing and a blanket, and I fought in my espadrilles because my family was simply too poor to afford shoes,” he recalled in a recent interview in his apartment in Cardedeu, about 25 miles northeast of Barcelona. “We got zero training and zero instructions about what we would be doing, and I, of course, had never seen the Ebro until I was told to get across it.”
Their crossing of the river, which slices across northwestern Spain, enabled the Republicans to regain some of the territory that Franco had conquered. But under heavy bombing by German and Italian planes flown by his fascist allies, the Republican advance soon ground to a halt, and the fighting turned into the war’s longest, largest and most deadly battle.
While historians have offered different numbers, most estimate a death toll of at least 20,000 soldiers from both sides during the nearly four months that the battle endured. Once the Republican forces were pushed back across the Ebro, Franco secured his victory, which then paved the way for a dictatorship that lasted until his death in 1975.
Mr. Canet, whose 100th birthday is Nov. 30, said he could still vividly remember both the trench warfare that followed the treacherous river crossing and the aftermath of the conflict. He spent the first part of the postwar period in a military hospital recovering from typhoid, which he probably caught while stationed on a rat-infested islet in the middle of the Ebro.
“The rats kept crawling over my face when I was trying to sleep,” he said.
He shunned any notion of heroism and said that his military promotion, eventually to the rank of sergeant, reflected more a shortage of officer candidates than his own merits.
“When we captured our first hill,” he recalled, “what I really remember is how tired and thirsty I was, being even forced to drink my own urine, and how little sense of pride there was when so many others had already died.”
He teared up when recalling the cruelty of some of his commanders, who once threatened to shoot him for falling asleep during a night watch.
After surrendering to Franco’s troops, Mr. Canet was conscripted again — but this time into military service in Franco’s army. His battalion, based in the northern city of Burgos, was filled with defeated Republicans.
“The war had been horrible,” Mr. Canet said, “but so then was my military service under officers who hated us, while suffering the humiliation of marching through villages where children spat at our feet.”
And although Mr. Canet was the only one who showed up for this year’s commemoration, Víctor Amela, a writer who recently published a book about the conscription, said the veteran was probably not the only surviving member of the “baby bottlers.” Mr. Amela estimates that there are about a dozen survivors left, most of them living in the Catalonia region.
He said that the monument near the Ebro, erected in 1989, had been financed by former soldiers and their families because “the Spanish state has sadly refused to look back and confront the legacy of our civil war, let alone offer an apology to a bunch of children who were forced to fight in it.”
The “baby bottle” conscription showed “the most miserable side of a very ugly war,” Mr. Amela said, as most of the enlisted teenagers came from poor families without the personal connections that allowed others to avoid the draft. “I feel that it is a crime that a government sent 17-year-olds to an almost certain death, in full knowledge of how superior Franco was by this late stage of the war.”
Once Mr. Canet finally returned to civilian life in late 1943, he worked in a factory that made fountain pens and then set up his own shop in the entrance hall of one of Barcelona’s subway stations, where he sold and repaired pens, lighters and watches.
Until he grew more frail, Mr. Canet said, he enjoyed visiting schools to tell children about the experiences of the “baby bottle conscription” in hopes of keeping the soldiers’ memory alive.
But he is unimpressed by the government’s latest attempts to set right the historical record of the war.
“It just all feels too late,” he said. “The current generation has no idea what the war was really like, and no government has actually ever done anything for us.”
Yes, this remains the gold standard for saving. It proves you have the diligence required to service a mortgage. It can also act as an important buffer, should you be forced to sell into a sinking market.
However, when property prices are climbing, there is a trade-off between saving a bigger deposit and missing out on potential price gains (and yes, I know prices can fall, too).
Turns out, banks are more than willing to lend at greater than 80 per cent loan to value ratios. Of course, if you do so, they’ll also happily sting you about $10,000 for “Lenders Mortgage Insurance” (LMI) to protect themselves – not you – if you can’t pay up.
2. Choose your parents wisely
It’s a sad fact that Australians with wealthy parents can have an easier ride into homeownership. I hate this. But I also swallowed my pride sufficiently to access the “bank of mum and dad” and have them go guarantor on my mortgage.
How does that work? Well, despite having saved a sum of $140,000, I still only had about 12 per cent of my purchase price after the state government took its sizeable bite in stamp duty. To buy my home, I would have to borrow 88 per cent of its value, putting me well into LMI territory.
To get me down to an 80 per cent Loan to Valuation Ratio (LVR) – and avoid paying LMI – my parents were able to go guarantor on the missing 8 per cent – about $70,000. They paid nothing up front, but would have had to find that money – and hand it over to my bank – should I be unable to pay my mortgage.
It made me deeply uncomfortable to think my parents and their home might be on the line if I couldn’t pay my mortgage. But then, something magical happened …
3. Homeowners secretly love it when property prices go up
Yes, it’s wrong and makes life so hard for young buyers, but making money for doing nothing is pretty fun. I understand why it’s become a national addiction. I despair at the chances we’ll ever fix it.
In the months after I bought, property prices started rising again, thanks to a combination of interest-rate cuts and relaxed lending rules.
I had my home revalued by the bank in the early days of COVID-19 and it came back at a valuation of $910,000. My initial loan of $767,750 now represented just 84 per cent of the value of the property. I was already half-way there towards discharging my parents from their guarantee!
I just had to find another $23,000 – in addition to the $16,000 I had already paid off my mortgage – to pay down my loan to $728,000 and get just under the 80 per cent LVR.
Thanks to my new penny-pinching lifestyle (more on that soon) I did it. I discharged my parents from their guarantee after only six months – another moment of immense gratitude and also pride.
Of course, falling property prices could easily have had the opposite effect, meaning it would take much longer to get down to an 80 per cent LVR.
I was doubly lucky: both in my choice of parents and my purchase timing.
4. You can probably live on less than you think
Last year, a judge in the now famous “shiraz and wagyu” judgment found that a person’s current living expenses were not the best guide to a person’s ability to service a mortgage. Why? Because while a person may currently enjoy consuming shiraz and wagyu steak, they are perfectly capable – once shackled to a monster mortgage – of tightening their belts and living a more frugal lifestyle.
In reality, banks largely assess your ability to service a loan against a “household expenditure measure”, which calculates the basic living costs of different household types.
If you are saving for a home, it is worth making inquiries what this amount is and trying to stick to it. It will prepare you for your mortgaged life and help you find savings sooner.
I haven’t had wagyu steak – or, indeed, a haircut – all year.
5. Owning a home is really nice
Looking back, I have no regrets about buying. Of course, renting makes sense when you’re young and you’re not sure where you want to live, or with whom. But buying is a worthy life goal.
Not having to worry about your kids drawing on the walls is a liberating thing – although I’ve done more damage myself, merrily banging nails into walls and ripping up carpet.
I’m also ahead financially. Currently, I pay about $350 a week in interest to the bank – well under the $650 I was paying in rent. My total mortgage payments are higher, at $700 a week, but half is effectively saving, going towards building equity in my home.
A year later, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Jessica Irvine is a senior economics writer with The Sydney Morning Herald.
The 4G mobile network’s 100 Mbps service coverage extended to 18% of Finland’s land area by the end of June 2020. As such, coverage had increased by two percentage points in the last six months. In ideal conditions, download speeds of 100 Mbps were available to slightly over 93% of all households. In contrast, no significant changes occurred in 30 Mbps and 300 Mbps service coverage during the first six months of the year.*
100 Mbps mobile service coverage extended to 57% of Finnish main roads and highways, with the total coverage of all road classes being 41%. Rail network coverage was 58%.
The speed-category-specific coverages of the mobile network represent availability in ideal conditions. They do not account for network congestion or structural and geographical obstacles.
My partner and I left Melbourne early in the morning of the first Monday in July.
It felt a bit like a mystery flight because it was only a short time before we left that we actually knew where we were going.
We were off for what I thought was going to be a few weeks of umpiring AFL footy in one of the interstate hubs before matches would return to Melbourne.
Now 111 days, 25 coronavirus tests, six hotels and 1,000 kilometres of running later, I’m almost ready to head home.
But not before one last mission — today’s grand final.
It’s been an extraordinary journey of ups and downs as I played my small part in trying to keep this game loved by so many Australians going.
Charter flights, COVID tests and round and round ovals
My first task back in early July was trying to organise “working from home” from an interstate hotel at very short notice.
My daytime job is as a journalist in the ABC’s Asia Pacific Newsroom and, fortunately enough, my boss was very accommodating.
One of the early bizarre experiences came as we boarded the charter flight from Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport.
Instead of going through the main part of the airport, we waited with hundreds of other AFL players, umpires and staff at a private terminal before wandering straight across the tarmac and onto the plane.
In these COVID times, there’s no food on planes and people are spread out as much as possible.
We checked into our first hotel in Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast with dozens of other umpires and their families.
With us all sharing the same floor in the hotel and eating breakfast, lunch and dinner together, it was very quickly starting to feel like Year 8 camp with all your mates.
There was no leaving the grounds of the hotel under the strict 14-day quarantine rules.
As a boundary umpire, a high level of running fitness is key to the job.
But with limited space, it meant endless laps of the hotel oval.
My boundary colleague Michael Marantelli — who is also umpiring the grand final today — set the record with 21.1 continuous kilometres around the oval during one of his runs.
After one week in quarantine, my first match day had finally arrived.
I was preparing for a Saturday afternoon game at the Gold Coast stadium between Fremantle and St Kilda.
But just before leaving for the match, my spot was suddenly in doubt — the result of my COVID test hadn’t arrived and under no circumstances was any player or official involved in matches allowed to participate without recording a negative result in the lead-up.
Some good work by our hub manager meant he was able to get onto the lab and confirm the result was negative.
COVID tests had become one of the defining features of season 2020.
We were tested before every match and, if lucky enough, sometimes even a couple of times a week.
By my count, I’d racked up about 25 tests over the last few months — some less enjoyable than others.
The occasional one drew some blood, while my favourites were with one particular guy who was quick and would say “now just a short one up the nostril”.
Often there would be a little bit of jostling in the lines to try and position yourself to get one of the “friendly” testers.
A few weeks turns to a few months
After one week at Southport, logistical reasons meant it was time to move onto another hotel just down the road.
As with the previous hotel, we shared our accommodation with a couple of footy clubs and families and partners of players and officials.
With coronavirus cases in Melbourne continuing to soar, people gathered around TVs on Wednesday that week as AFL boss Gillon McLachlan announced there would be no more footy in Melbourne for the foreseeable future.
Suddenly, what I thought was going to be a few weeks away was looking more like a few months.
By the start of the next week, we’d arrived at our third hotel, this time in Broadbeach, where we would be pretty settled for the next few months.
Hub life meant limiting your interaction with the public, no sitting down in cafes, restaurants or the like, always social distancing and following strict rules on which umpire colleagues you could hang out with.
In fact, the AFL’s hub rule book ran 17 pages long. And for good reason.
A lot had gone into working with governments and other stakeholders to make sure the season could continue safely.
While being away from home for such a long time and following such tight rules wasn’t always easy, we were fully aware of the hard times so many other Australians were going through, particularly those in Melbourne.
But if we could help keep footy on TV and in the stadiums for the fans, we were happy.
Three matches in just over a week, and a snake encounter
The next three months of hub life, like 2020 in general, were full of twists and turns and unexpected moments.
Never before had I umpired three matches in just over a week but that’s what came with the “footy frenzy” periods of the season where games were played every day.
Training in this COVID world was a whole different story as well.
No more big group sessions on the track and meetings in theatrettes, but instead running by yourself and coaching over Zoom.
There was one running session I did along a gravel path in a bushy area near Surfers Paradise that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
Moving along at just over 3-minute-kilometre pace, I was puffing hard and keeping a close eye on my watch.
Turns out I should have been keeping an even closer eye on the path, because I was centimetres away from stomping on a snake.
I noticed it at the very last second, as it did me. I jumped and it jumped.
Luckily we both escaped unscathed — other than a soaring heart rate that I struggled to bring back down.
A night grand final, outside Victoria
By mid-October, I’d umpired all 18 home and away rounds, with trips to Adelaide and Cairns in between, and three finals.
But the most nervous wait of all was still to come.
The last Sunday before grand final day is always an anxious day for umpires — we’re waiting to find out who has been selected for the biggest match of all.
As soon as I saw the coach’s name pop up on my phone late in the afternoon, my heart rate was again going through the roof.
And as soon as I answered I was immediately listening for hints in his voice of good or bad news to come.
Fortunately for me, it was good news this time.
I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in a few epic grand finals before, including the 2010 draw.
But never has the finale been played outside of Victoria. And never before at night.
This one is going to be special. And I reckon it might just be another classic.
The Centre of Indian Trade Unions has expressed concerns over the change in the base year of consumer price index for the industrial workers (CPI-IW) from 2001 to 2016, saying the exercise is arbitrary and deliberately designed to suppress the real impact of the price rise of essential items for human survival.
“Entire exercise made by the labour bureau functioning under the ministry of labour on this matter has been thoroughly arbitrary, deliberately designed to suppress the real impact of the price rise of essential items for human survival and also to deprive the workers of their entitlement for legitimate DA,” Tapan Sen, secretary general of CITU said in a statement on Friday.
According to Sen, the government ignored the fact that even in the midst of economic slowdown, the prices of essential items, food items in particular were on the rise. “They did not hesitate to arbitrarily as well as drastically reduce the weight assigned to food items in the standard consumption basket from 46.2% to 39% for the purpose of computation of consumer price index,” CITU said.
The union alleged that the data has been manipulated with a dubious intent. “Manipulation by the government with a dubious intent does not end here,” Sen said. CITU said the linking factor of 2.88 for converting the numbers of 2016 to 2001 series equivalent will suppress the impact of actual price rise.
CITU said till July 2020, the exercise of base revision was being done with the idea of 2013-14 as the base year. “Changing it to 2016 is an afterthought by the Modi regime as the same year, the notorious demoetisation was undertaken affecting negatively the price-level of the items in standard consumption basket for CPI-IW owing to virtual collapse of the economic operation in the country in the last quarter of 2016,” it said.
“CITU denounces such anti-worker pro corporate steps by the BJP Govt and calls upon the workers and unions to protest and oppose such moves of the government,” it added.
Cotchin has had a challenging year, on both a personal and team front, but it is a year that is concluding in another premiership opportunity. His team has had some issues – notably the Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones drama in Surfers’ Paradise, which Cotchin said offered a learning experience for the club.
‘‘I think when you’re always challenged as a group, and clearly there was a lot of people talking about what had happened with that situation, it was a public challenge that we faced,’’ Cotchin said of the kebab-shop incident that resulted in the pair being suspended and sent home.
‘‘What it does is encourage lots of great conversations that allow people to share how they feel.
‘‘As we’ve always said, our No.1 focus is to ensure that those two players receive the support and help that is required.’’
As captain, Cotchin seeks to balance pushing standards for the players with empathy.
‘‘I think you definitely have to have standards and values but I always try to treat every scenario with empathy,’’ he said.
Cotchin also had his own difficulties, when his wife Brooke’s sojourn to a beauty parlour resulted in the club copping a $25,000 fine for a COVID breach in Queensland as part of the draconian AFL rules for those in club hubs.
Cotchin, at first reluctant to discuss a situation that involved his wife, observed that it was not part of Brooke’s job to be in the spotlight like a footballer.
‘‘Yeah, it’s a challenge. It’s not her job to be put out in the public spotlight like we are as players. ‘‘So that was challenging but you know again we learned a lot through that with regards to our relationship but also the people who are always there for you.’’
Cotchin had also been among the players who had raised the possibility of leaving the hub, a fact that emerged in a comment from Jane Gale, the wife of Richmond’s chief executive.
‘‘It was more just about my family’s wellbeing, yeah,’’ said Cotchin of the ‘‘hub-aloo’’ that surfaced in August when the club was fined for Brooke’s beauty parlour trip.
‘‘I think every player that’s been in the hub has had times where they’ve been challenged, whether it be missing people from home or some of the restrictions – which is easy to say up here given what everyone’s been going through in Melbourne.’’
Cotchin’s three young children, including his school-aged six-year-old daughter, have been in the hub for 100-plus days, a situation that he found both ‘‘amazing’’ in terms of life lessons, but also challenging.
The AFL provided his daughter with teaching support that helped cover for not being at school, as it did for others within the Royal Pines resort on the Gold Coast.
‘‘The AFL provided a program which made a big difference and the club have been supportive as well.
‘‘There was quite a few families, whether they were from other clubs or AFL that were staying there.
‘‘Yeah, the people that have been looking after them have been fantastic.’’
Cotchin agreed that the hubs were not a natural environment – ‘‘no, definitely not’’ – but says it was also a treasured experience that he and his family will not forget.
‘‘It’s certainly something that I think we’ll reflect on for years to come … you know, having the kids around and for the boys and Brooke, for that matter, just to get to experience what I get to experience every day back in Melbourne has been special and unique and has given them a total appreciation of, you know, what footy clubs are about, particularly our footy club.
‘‘Just some of the life lessons that they’ve learned just from spending time with guys, whether it’s out on the pitch out here or playing card games and so forth.
‘‘They’re all experiences that they probably wouldn’t have got, certainly not the age of six, four and one.
‘‘Yeah, we’re incredibly grateful for being part of this journey with them.’’
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan spoke with Cotchin a couple of times, just to encourage him, as with other captains, to do all that he could to keep the season going.
Did Cotchin think the season, about to be completed, would actually cross the finish line, as it will on Saturday night at the Gabba.
‘‘To be honest, I had no idea. Once we got up here it seemed as though things were going pretty well but there was definitely times where I think the AFL was fearful.’’
Richmond’s aggression in games has been another discussion point this season, but Cotchin did not view it as an issue.
‘‘No, I think aggression’s a part of our make-up, just with the way, you know, we like to pressure the ball.’’
He felt his own hard-edged play, which has been evident for some years, was ‘‘just part and parcel’’ of playing footy.
‘‘I think we let ourselves down a little bit in the first final, just with regards to the 50 metres.’’ While the Tigers have been seen as the benchmark and even cast as the overdogs, compared to 2017’s insurgency and romance, Cotchin says they remain a team that hunts.
‘‘I think the way we play footy is very much about the hunting. I think that’s a core part of what we do as a team. ‘‘You know, we try to remain hungry and do our best every week.’’
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.
Australians are unlikely to fly to the United States or UK on Qantas for another year, with its chief executive outlining that this could “potentially” happen “by the end of 2021”.
“For some of our big destination like the United States and the UK, it’s going to need a vaccine given the high prevalence of the virus in both of those locations,” Qantas Group boss Alan Joyce said at the company’s AGM in Sydney on Friday.
“But we are getting more and more confident about the opportunities and the potential for a vaccine in helping getting those operations up by potentially by the end of 2021.”
He said it was “going to take some time to recover international travel back”.
The company has been running some very limited international flights, largely to help the Federal Government with repatriating Australians stuck overseas.
It was also revealed that the company, which owns both Qantas and Jetstar, is expecting a further $100m in losses for the first quarter of this financial year, as border restrictions drag on due to COVID-19.
“The unexpected closure of several domestic borders in July meant our recovery has been delayed,” Mr Joyce said.
“We had expected group domestic to be operating at about 60 per cent of pre-COVID levels by now. Instead, the continued border closures mean capacity is now below 30 per cent.
“This delay resulted in a $100 million negative impact on earnings for the first quarter of FY21, and will have an impact on Q2 as well.”
The flying kangaroo recorded a $2 billion loss for 2019-20, with the coronavirus pandemic slashing its full-year revenue by 21 per cent.
The company’s chairman Richard Goyder used the AGM to criticise ongoing domestic border closures.
“Even as numbers in Victoria come under control and New South Wales shows how small clusters can be managed, there is some frustrating inertia around the Queensland and Western Australian borders,” he said.
“And that seems to ignore the broader economic and social risk involved with staying shut — especially as Federal income support winds down.”
However, Mr Joyce said that “assuming” Queensland and NSW borders open in coming weeks, the airline could go back to flying about half of its pre-COVID domestic flights by Christmas.
“We know that latent travel demand is strong,” he said.
The airline had just bought a new fleet of Airbus A380 when COVID-19 hit.
Mr Joyce said it was “heartbreaking” that the large planes with significant first class capacity had been sent straight to “the desert for storage”.
“They’ll be there for some years,” he said.
Union takes aim at virtual AGM
Around 18,000 of the company’s staff are still stood down.
The airline’s AGM was done virtually this year due to COVID-19, meaning shareholders could only write in questions.
On Friday, the Transport Workers Union held an “alternative AGM” and used an actor, complete with an Irish accent, to play Mr Joyce.
In a parody of recent events, the fake Mr Joyce addressed the union’s concerns about outsourcing workers by saying outsourcing would “take the pressure off everybody”.
Mr Goyder hit back at these claims during the AGM, dubbing the union “misleading”.
“They’ve been extremely misleading and have been overlooking the fact that COVID has presented extreme times,” he said.
Airline will chase Asian markets instead
The airline flagged plans toprioritise Asian markets as speculation mounts about Australia forming COVID-19 “bubbles” with countries with low case numbers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged last month that international arrivals from South Korea, Japan and countries in the Pacific could potentially avoid hotel quarantine.
“Both Qantas and Jetstar are keeping a close eye on new markets that might open up as a result of these bubbles — including places that weren’t part of our pre-COVID network,” Qantas chairman Richard Goyder said.
“By early next year, we may find that Korea, Taiwan and various islands in the Pacific are top Qantas destinations while we wait for our core international markets like the US and UK to re-open.”
The airline has also announced two of its board’s directors will go and will not be replaced, reducing its size by 20 per cent.
“We consider this appropriate under the circumstances when the company is scaling back at all levels,” Mr Goyder said.
Barbara Ward and Paul Rayner have been on the company’s board since 2008.
Pickett doesn’t drink. Not any more. He knows what is good for him and what isn’t.
He came into the AFL as a mature-aged recruit, to Richmond with life experiences unlike anyone else in the game. He had spent two-and-a half years in jail, had four kids. He was not just an old recruit, he was by now a mature one.
You surely know that his first game of football was just over 12 months ago in the AFL grand final but it bears repeating. Imagine your first game being the biggest game of the year, in front of the biggest crowd. Right now it’s hard to remember being at a game with a crowd.
The feel-good nature of this story demands that after that breakthrough moment life would open up and get easier. That after spinning with the ball on light dancer’s feet, after kicking a goal on that grand final day, he would follow through on the promise he showed in that one game and become a top 20 player in the competition, with a wealth such that all life’s troubles would melt away. It hasn’t happened.
Still on rookie wages after his one game, he was ready to sign a new contract that would have given him the financial comfort he has chased along with his playing dream. Richmond had one there for him. Then COVID hit and contracts were frozen, player wages cut and everyone was thrown into turmoil and hardship. Pickett was one of the players quickly identified as an obvious case for hardship assistance when the sweeping wage cuts hit players.
Since that grand final debut, when he played in front of a full MCG, his next game was in front of an empty MCG. He has co-written a book, he’s been the subject of an Australian Story documentary, he’s gone into a hub and played a full season.
Having moved his young family from Perth to Melbourne to pursue his football dream, they went into lockdown for months in a small home in Melbourne then joined him in a hub in Queensland.
Meanwhile, home in WA, his dad was struggling with lung cancer and the pull on him to leave the hub and get back across the country to see him was becoming acute. He said recently he nearly left the hub – and with it any real hope of playing finals with Richmond – to get back to see his dad. His dad didn’t want him to do that.
For people who work closely with him at Richmond, this spoke to the essence of Pickett. He wanted to be with his family. Football meant so much to him but he was putting someone else first.
When he was asked this year how he was coping with the hub and everything going on, he’d shrug and smile. “I’m all good,” he said.
Pickett never comes to the club with a complaint, it’s only ever a question. And it’s never about him, it’s always about one of the other players who now fall under his wing.
“Is Stacky [Sydney Stack] OK? What can we do?” he’d ask.
“I’m worried about Shai [Bolton]. I think we need to…”
They are used to the calls. If the other players have concerns it’s Pickett who wants to fix it.
“That’s been the environment, that’s how he’s been from the start, he always thinks of others,” said assistant coach Xavier Clarke.
“It speaks to the person he is, he wants to make sure everyone else is OK. He calls me old fella but I am learning from him. I have a two-year-old now and I am learning from him about how he is with his kids.”
This year has been an adjustment for everyone. From the outside, Pickett’s football has looked inconsistent. Maybe it’s the high bar he set in his first game, and the excitement it generated for how good he could be, that everything afterwards has felt like a slight letdown, but it hasn’t been as consistently electric as that first game. Really, how could it be as exciting?
The difference is largely explained by the fact on grand final day he came in and played on the ball and half-forward. It was easier to fit into that role as a see-ball, get-ball midfielder and forward playing on instincts.
With Brandon Ellis going out he has taken a position on a wing, which at Richmond means learning and understanding a very specific way of playing the position to fit into a structure.
This year he has learned that role.
“You can’t judge him on numbers. He offers us so much with his running power and grunt. He is very important to us,” an insider said.
His background has made him ready to deal with the difficulties he has faced in the last year, from the grand final to the dislocation of the hubs and juggling the kids in a flat away from home.
“Nothing fazes him. He has been through so much in his life it’s like football is easy,” said one Richmond football insider.
It’s a turn on the famous line from Keith Miller, the great Australian all-rounder and former World War Two fighter pilot, who put elite sport into perspective when he was asked once about pressure to perform.
“Pressure?” Miller asked. “There’s no pressure in Test cricket. Real pressure is when you are flying a Mosquito with a Messerschmitt up your arse!”
For Pickett, there is no pressure in AFL. When you have been through what he has been through, footy is just a game.
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.