Ballantyne the man to lead Dockers
For a bloke who stands 174cm tall, Hayden Ballantyne prowls Patersons Stadium with as much pomp as a prime Wayne Carey – and he should be Fremantle’s next captain.
Ballantyne, who turns 25 in July, was elevated to the Dockers’ six-man leadership group in February, and it is obvious the club loves the way he goes about his business. And why wouldn’t they?
Aside from catching renowned wall flower Paul Chapman in the breadbasket with an errant elbow off the ball, Ballantyne did little wrong in Freo’s pulsating win over Geelong at Patersons Stadium on Saturday night.
He was aggressive, niggly, busy (20 disposals, two goals, four tackles) and very, very good – not that you’d know it by the backlash his performance provoked from the Cats, the media and a couple of his fellow players.
Geelong coach Chris Scott, who traded words with Ballantyne as the teams headed to the rooms at half-time, said: “If it was 30 years ago I don’t think he could do that.”
Maybe not, but it’s 2012 and Ballantyne is playing to his strengths.
Whatever high school he attended must have had Sun Tzu’s The Art of War on the syllabus, because he makes opponents lose their cool.
It would be interesting to know exactly what he said to Matthew Scarlett to make the three-time premiership defender snap, but such is Ballantyne’s mastery of psychological warfare.
Napoleon was around 170cm tall, and Ballantyne is certainly one of Fremantle’s generals.
So he talks a bit of smack – name me a great AFL captain of the last 20 years who didn’t. Voss? Carey? Worsfold? James Hird maybe, but he is an exception rather than the rule.
And by a great captain I don’t mean Chris Judd. I’ve never believed in this idea of simply naming the club’s best player as skipper. If a team’s prime mover is also their best leader, no problem. But I think it takes more than that to be a leader of men.
Matthew Pavlich is Fremantle’s best ever player, there can be no doubt about that. But has he been their best ever captain? In my mind that honour probably goes to Peter Bell, who led the Dockers to their only preliminary final in 2006.
Pavlich is like that girl you met at university who your mother loved, yet instilled about as much passion in you as watching your grandfather take out his teeth.
Ballantyne is Maverick to Pavlich’s Ice Man. He is dangerous, passionate and sets the tone – and it’s time the little man was allowed to take the wheel instead of riding shotgun.
He’s built more like Hayden Panettiere, but when he crosses the white line Ballantyne morphs into a pit bull, an angry young man hell bent on winning.
The sacking of Mark Harvey and the appointment of Ross Lyon showed Fremantle are deadly serious about winning their first flag. Perhaps it is time to change the leadership structure on the field as well.
For a club mired in mediocrity for the best part of their 18-year existence, Ballantyne – with all his fearlessness and manic energy – could be the man to lead them to the ultimate success.