INJURIES NOT CAPTAINCY RUINED JACK TRENGOVE’S MELBOURNE CAREER
The timing of the announcements was cruel. On Tuesday night Dustin Martin was confirmed as the AFL Players Association Most Valuable Player. Almost simultaneously a release arrived from the Melbourne Football Club confirming Jack Trengove had been delisted.
The popular former Melbourne player, who at 20 became the youngest club captain in AFL-VFL history, was taken at pick two in the 2009 draft. Martin, now one of the AFL’s best and soon to be highest-paid players, was taken with the next pick in that draft.
Oh what might have been for Trengove and Melbourne. Trengove was an enormous talent whose career was cruelled by foot injuries. Or, rather, has been until now cruelled by foot injuries. For, despite Melbourne’s decision, the passion still burns for the still young midfielder to play on at another club. He is only 26.
The man who recruited him, Barry Prendergast, the man who coached him, Paul Roos, the man who was captain when he arrived at the club, James McDonald, all agreed he was a player who should have been a good and senior midfielder for 10 to 12 years.
For two years he was on the impressive upwards trajectory expected of such a high draft pick. It was understandable that he was marked for leadership but in retrospect he was invested in that too soon. He battled with the responsibility but his foot injuries were what cruelled his Melbourne career, not captaincy.
The first navicular injury was diagnosed in 2014 but had been troubling him for a long time prior to that, perhaps.
“I think the foot injury was a big part of it [how his career went at Melbourne]. Certainly it impacted him when I was there,” Roos said.
“From what I can gather there might have been problems there with his foot before they found out the extent of the problem. He arrived at the club an athletic kid and the first couple of seasons he was really impressive and that injury to the foot was a big part of it.”
McDonald said he only played one year with Trengove but it was immediately apparent he was a capable player likely to have a long career.
“You could see why they went for him. He had all the attributes, he was an elite endurance runner, his skills were good. He was not quick but he was not slow. And he was a good decision-maker. You’d say then he was going to play midfield for a long time,” McDonald said.
“He was just one of those unlucky blokes with the injuries he copped. The captaincy stuff happened after I left so I don’t know the details but there are not too many Wayne Careys around who can take it on at 21, 22.”
In 2012 Trengove was named co-captain with Jack Grimes. Roos has no doubt it was premature and an error.
Prendergast said anyone would have struggled to be captain of Melbourne at that time.
Roos said: “From my point of view, that 18 to 22-year-old period is crucial in your development, no question. Most people would acknowledge now that it was a poor decision to make him and Jack [Grimes] captains.”
The former Sydney premiership coach and Melbourne coach said all players needed to find their feet for the first year or two and had to worry about their own game for several years without being burdened with leading others.
“Around the 22-year-old period you have an idea of what it’s all about and from 22, 23 onwards is when you go through to play your best footy and Jack should have had an eight to 10-year career after that.
“Both Jacks were not allowed to do that and get their games in shape they had to lead others. They are both outstanding people. You could see why they were made captain because they have great attributes and are great people but you still have to be ready for the job. They needed to look after their own game first.”
He said even the best draft picks such as Jesse Hogan, Angus Brayshaw and Christian Petracca were “coming from a mile back” to play AFL football.
That said, the captaincy was not the reason Trengove’s career stalled. His career stopped because he broke his foot.
“He would have worked his way through the captaincy, he always had enormous leadership traits. The foot problems were what hurt him,” Prendergast said
Trengove only managed two games in 2014 but was poised to be traded to Richmond at the end of that season until a medical uncovered further serious trouble with the foot. He needed more surgery and the move to Richmond was over. He didn’t play in 2015, came back to play three games last year and two this year.
“He is held in enormously high regard. It would have been a very difficult conversation for Goody [Simon Goodwin],” Roos said.