Club loyalty has gone by the buy

Michael O’Loughlin will hang up his boots for good soon, having just joined an exclusive AFL club.Only 63 players in the code’s history have reached the milestone of 300 games.But what intrigues me most about O’Loughlin is that his entire career has been spent at one club, the Sydney Swans.Such loyalty, from debut to swansong, pardon the pun, seems to be the exception rather than the rule in these days of high-powered professionalism.Once, when sport was more territorial, it was the other way around.You joined a club as a kid and you were there for life.AFL’s most loyal players certainly seem to be old-timers.The longest-serving of them, Michael Tuck, played each of his 426 games for Hawthorn, starting in 1972.Next on the list, Kevin Bartlett, started way back in 1965 with the first of his 403 games for Richmond.The only recent player near the top of the longevity tree is Robert Harvey, who played 383 games for St Kilda in a 20-year career that ended last year. Footballers these days can’t even stay loyal to one code, let alone one club. Just ask Karmichael Hunt, who has ditched rugby league to make an even bigger motza in AFL in the first high-profile defection of its kind.This erosion of loyalty has taken place not only in sport, but in many other areas of life, including employment.It was commonplace for employees to spend their entire working lives with one employer.The reward at the end was a gold watch.Nowadays, that sort of loyalty is seen as a drawback, possibly even a career killer.The new way is to flit from one job to another as you clamber up the slippery corporate pole.You might not get to know the name of the receptionist or the tea lady anywhere, but boy do you end up with a whacking great CV.Your next boss is supposed to be impressed by your vast breadth of experiences.But might not that fat CV also reflect other less palatable possibilities?That you are flighty and lacking in focus, for example, or that you are often advised to move on, can’t stick out tough times or have been getting nowhere fast with any of your employers?This loyalty about-face has taken place within my own lifetime, before my very eyes, as it were, so I view it with morbid fascination.If you think Michael O’Loughlin is a rarity, let me pin your ears back with an example of modern-day football loyalty that is nigh impossible to beat.Ryan Giggs, one of the greats of the round-ball game, needs just one line when he lists employers on his CV.Manchester United – that’s all it says.He has been there man and boy, signing when Alex Ferguson turned up at his house on his 14th birthday and is still going strong 22 years later.And European soccer is far more prone to club-swapping than any form of football in Australia.If you think O’Loughlin’s tally of 300 is impressive – which it is – or Michael Tuck’s 426, then hold your breath for Giggs: 806 and counting.Giggs is the most decorated player in England football history, and the first to collect 11 top division English league titles.Loyalty hasn’t done him any harm.It is an under-rated asset.Doug Conway is a well-known Australian journalist who one day hopes to overcome his fear of dentists.
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