CAITLIN BASSETT: Players don’t change teams lightly and coming up against your former teammates is never fun

Caitlin Bassett
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Playing your old team is never easy.
Playing your old team is never easy. Credit: Will Pearce

The one-club player is becoming a rare occurrence in modern sport.

It used to be a badge of honour to stay and play your entire career for one team but as more money is pumped into elite sport, trades and player movement have become the new normal.

Whether you like it or not, sport is a business, and like in any professional job better pay, promotions and the draw card of working with the best people are always going to be tempting.

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

You wouldn’t judge or question someone for wanting to take a step forward in their career in your own workplace, so why do we find it so offensive when an athlete leaves a club for an opportunity at another?

It’s a double standard I always found baffling — and then daunting when I experienced it for myself. After 12 years playing for the West Coast Fever an opportunity came to be a part of setting up a brand new club on the Sunshine Coast in 2017.

While Perth was home, the chance to step outside my comfort zone, work with new people and grow my game in a new environment was too hard to resist.

Coming back to play my first game in new team colours I had no idea what to expect, as a teenager who grew up in front of the faithful WA fans I thought they would welcome me back with open arms, I was wrong.

Former Fever captain Courtney Bruce returned to her home court for the first time on the weekend and while she wasn’t booed running out onto court like I was, it was clear the crowd were no longer backing her. At one stage in the game she came out of the circle to take a magnificent intercept — an act which last season would have brought the 8700 strong crowd to their feet. Instead you could have heard a pin drop in the stadium.

If the Bulldogs select Rory Lobb this weekend he will no doubt be more prepared than last time he travelled back west to play his old team Fremantle.

When he returned last year he was given a less-than friendly reception by the crowd and an even worse one by his former teammates on the field. One local brewer even canned a beer and called it Lobbster Tears.

Lobb had the last laugh his team running away with a 49-point win and afterwards said the boos added to the energy of the game.

Some Perth Scorchers fans even booed West Australian cricket legend Shaun Marsh when he returned with Melbourne Renegades this summer, even though he left to prolong a career that might have petered out in Perth.

The emotions of a sports fan aren’t always rational.

So how does one prepare to play an old team? We love passionate fans but going from fan favourite to getting hostile opposition treatment can be tough.

Some athletes, like Lobb, see the negative attention as a challenge to rise up against, it feeds their competitive nature. For others it has the opposite effect, with so many fond memories and familiar faces emotions come into play which can be distracting or even overwhelming for some athletes.

I was a bundle of nerves when I stepped out onto my former home court for the first time wearing new colours. Running out for warm up I saw my family in the crowd and instantly knew everything would be OK.

My new teammates rallied around me and played a huge role in keeping me focused during that game. I felt I had a point to prove and wanted to show everyone how much I had grown being in a new team, that gave me so much motivation.

It’s never an easy decision to leave a club but the reality is fans are only seeing a small part of the picture, while they are often put on pedestals, athletes are human at the end of the day.

Athletes move on for a range of reasons, more game time, more money, better lifestyle, family or personal reasons — sometimes these are made clear to the public other times the media runs with the rumours which can be much more entertaining.

If there was one piece of advice I would leave for those changing clubs, it is don’t burn your bridges and leave graciously.

Because when its time to hang up the boots, you never know where you might end up.

Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 21-05-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 21 May 202421 May 2024

The PM, the terrorist and the A-list barrister demanding war crimes charges.