MITCHELL JOHNSON: Sam Kerr can’t be the Matildas captain after keeping criminal charge secret

Mitchell Johnson
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Putting players like Sam Kerr on pedestals can be so dangerous..
Putting players like Sam Kerr on pedestals can be so dangerous.. Credit: The Nightly

Growing up, there were sporting greats who I admired and wanted to be like.

And I’m not talking about fast bowlers or any cricketers for that matter.

Tennis legend Pete Sampras was the main one for me and a player I loved to watch on the court. I even copied his service action and always wanted to have his single-handed backhand.

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But one thing I never did and have never done is obsess over any sportsperson or put them on a pedestal.

When I reached the peak of my own career as an international cricketer, I certainly never saw myself as being on any sort of pedestal either.

Although I did understand that, having a public sporting profile, I was looked up to by some kids, some aspiring fast bowlers and even enjoyed (or not enjoyed at times) by grown men and women.

Now having two young kids myself, I have gained a new perspective on our sporting heroes — a term I find uncomfortable.

When the Matildas captivated the nation on their way to the Women’s World Cup semifinals at home last year, my son was drawn to watching Sam Kerr and her teammates who became a team we all loved.

So when Matildas captain Kerr — arguably one of Australia’s biggest sporting icons and role models for young children — was in the news recently for the wrong reasons, it came as a reminder of why putting players on pedestals can be so dangerous. They can always be brought down hard.

With my kids, I hope they will be able to look up to my wife and I as the greatest examples — not because of our sporting careers but because of how we have brought them up.

Regardless of the outcome of Kerr’s charge in England, her captaincy deserves to be called into question after hiding it from Football Australia.

More than just being looked up to by many young girls and boys, Kerr is the captain. Leaders need to lead from the front, and not telling the national body about her legal issues sends a terrible message, more so when you’re the captain.

This would be a good time to show the young kids who look up to her, or any of our sports stars, that you must be accountable for your actions. What message does this send our kids otherwise?

Sports stars are human and make mistakes but when you are the captain of any Australian team, you hold yourself to the highest standards.

Sam Kerr #20 of Australia celebrates winning on penalties  the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Quarter-Final match Australia Women vs France Women at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia, 12th August 2023

(Photo by Patrick Hoelscher/News Images) in ,  on 8/12/2023. (Photo by Patrick Hoelscher/News Images/Sipa USA)
Sam Kerr’s stature as a national hero has taken a massive hit. Credit: News Images/Sipa USA

There are plenty of bigger scandals that happen in other sports and I’m not trying to compare or contrast here, but this is where honesty and accountability would be best.

Real heroes aren’t our sportspeople in my eyes. Firefighters and others who put their lives on the line for us are the true heroes and those who save lives too.

I remember always being told during my career: “Kids look up to you, you have to be an example to them”. While I agree to a point, that responsibility should not be sitting solely on the shoulders of athletes but instead mostly on a child’s own parents.

It’s not a role sportspeople can fulfil — and I’m not just talking about off the field. Even on it, the access that cameras and microphones now have, including huddles in the AFL or stump mics in cricket, can sometimes pick up every word that is spoken.

It’s a recipe for constant criticism. A player swears and the criticism comes hard that they should be a better example to the kids watching.

When you are out there as a player, the heat of the moment happens. It happens at all levels and is probably worse at lower levels to be honest. Surely the lower levels should be responsible too.

It’s great if our kids have someone to admire and want to be like one day in their chosen sport.

But with my kids, I hope they will be able to look up to my wife and I as the greatest examples — not because of our sporting careers but because of how we have brought them up.

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