Laurie Axtens - Call of the Loon

How to bow out with grace

The old guard are always hard to shift. Years of wearing criticism and toughing it out has its effect. They become stubborn and often conceited and inevitably the enthusiastic and potentially successful young players get sidelined. Their main argument is about experience and runs on the board, and its difficult to drop players who are still performing, even if there are young players below them champing at the bit. They need to bow out gracefully themselves.

If we can learn anything from the demise of Howard and his government it is this. Dont completely believe your own spin. Honest self assessment is vital if you want to avoid embarrassment. Shane Warne learned a lot about embarrassment during his career and perhaps thats why he knew when to retire. He was on top of the mountain but could see a small, googly-eyed Sri Lankan called Murali speeding toward him. So he thought hed rather spend the twilight of his sporting career broadening his interests, relaxing and patching up the many wounds he had inflicted on his nearest and dearest.

It takes an incredible amount of self knowledge and honest self assessment to get retirement right and very few of us have that knowledge. Not that everyone is stubborn and arrogant. Many peoples self assessment is too self deprecating. I regularly see people who are too self critical giving it away before the real time has come. You can see they secretly want to be out there and many come out of retirement and do exceptionally well. Just this weekend former representative player Peter Leeson scored a century for Byron/Brunswick at the ripe old age of 44.

The answer to the problem is having good friends. Good friends will give you an honest assessment of your abilities; they dont have a hidden agenda; they dont want anything from you or to get you out of the way. John Howard probably didnt have anyone like that he could call on. He couldnt ask his old boss Malcolm Frazer, because Frazer thinks hes a cretin. He couldnt ask his deputy, because Costello desperately wanted his job. He couldnt even ask his own wife, because shes Australias answer to Hyacinth Bucket from the British comedy Keeping Up Appearances.

Fortunately most of us havent chewed up and eaten our friends so we can ask if were jamming up the works. Its very difficult to age gracefully and accept that your time is over, but its worth doing, because you dont want to end up an overweight wino like Stuart MacGill, whos too proud and too foolish to hang up his boots.


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