In a week during which footballer behaviour has been in the spotlight – or just plain alight [groan] – I’m here to ask you to spare a thought for former Swan Daryn Cresswell.
Born in Tassie, ‘Crezza’ played 244 games for the Sydney Swans between 1992 and 2003. He was the Swans Best and Fairest player in 1994 and a six time runner up for the same award. He’s a member of both Tasmanian and Swans ‘Teams of the Century’, he played in Sydney’s grand final team in 1996, and was selected All Australian the following year.
Cresswell was an extremely fit and skilful footballer with a penchant for big moments. Check out the highlights of the understrength Swans’ unexpected win against Port Adelaide in the 2003 First Qualifying Final for a few glimpses (the kick to find Hall at 4.12 is a peach). Who could forget the 1999 Preliminary Final between Sydney and Essendon? Cresswell was also a huge part of Sydney’s win in the Elimination Final against Hawthorn a few weeks earlier. There’s also this post-siren moment against North Melbourne.
Onfield, he was something of a brute – uncompromising, intimidatory and ridiculously tough and durable. Perhaps it’s unsurprising then that despite a seriously impressive playing CV his career is best remembered for the time he fixed his own dislocated knee against the Cats on a miserable Kardinia afternoon way back when.
Daryn’s personal downfall, as is now well known, was equally wince-inducing.
It’s a complicated, troubling and extremely sad story, one that I had the job of helping him recount in his recent biography, Crezza.
Like far too many Australians, Daryn gambled. At first it was fun but with terrifying speed it became an obsessive disease. He let people down. At his most desperate, he made horrible mistakes. In the end he went to prison. If he didn’t land in the clink, he probably would have taken his own life.
So why then am I asking you to think of Daryn Cresswell today?
When he was released from prison Daryn had next to nothing. People offered him handouts to help him get back on his feet, but he chose not to accept them. Instead, with the only money he had – a few grand eked out of Channel 7 for an entirely regrettable interview – he bought a second hand lawnmower, a grubby old ute and had some fliers printed. Then he donned his joggers, and ran the streets of the Gold Coast suburbs making letterbox drops. It was the fresh start he needed. These days, a couple of years on, sporadic mowing has morphed into a landscaping business that keeps him occupied pretty much most of the week. The rest of his time he devotes to coaching the Palm Beach Currumbin Lions in the South East Queensland AFL competition.
Last year he took his Lions to the Grand Final. They fell to the highly fancied Western Magpies in a forgettably lop-sided affair.
This weekend, Palm Beach Currumbin take on the Western Magpies again, only this time it’s in a Prelim. They’ve met three times this year already – one win apiece in the ordinary rounds, the Maggies too good in the First Semi. But, they’re better than that this year, the Lions. Crez has demanded it of them, they’ve listened and last year’s Grand Final defeat is still a fresh memory. They’ll be hard to beat this Saturday. One more win and they’ll have earned their chance to make amends.
And so to my point.
As this week has illustrated, people sometimes do stupid stuff. Sometimes, though, human error delivers real ramifications. People tie themselves in seemingly hopeless tangles. They hurt loved ones. They burn bridges that will never be rebuilt. They lose trust. They pay incredibly heavy personal tolls. And yet at the end of it all they can still search for and find redemption.
In a small way that’s part of what Daryn Cresswell will be setting out to do this weekend.
And good on him.
So as the sun sets on a week where a rapacious media has fed heartily on our bloodthirsty desire to sweat the small stuff, perhaps we can momentarily rail against this rather base mentality and spare a thought for a bloke whose mistakes had real and awful human consequences but who has worked his arse off to come out the other side.
Carn the Lions.
The Lions defeated the Western Magpies 19.21 (135) to 12.5 (77) in last Saturday’s Preliminary Final.
The Lions now play Springwood in this weekend’s SEQAFL Division 1 Grand Final.
Note: I don’t receive royalties from the publication of Daryn’s book. It’s his story, not mine.
Crezza is available at all the usual outlets.