Brendan Fevola - By Denis Pagan

Few footballers have the capacity to polarise opinion as sharply as Brendan Fevola. When I was appointed coach of Carlton there was no shortage of people wanting to share with me their misgivings about Brendan. Looking back, I’m glad I reserved my judgement and waited to form my own opinions.      

At our first meeting in late October 2002 Brendan told me how much he desperately wanted to play for Carlton. I listened to what he had to say and recall being struck by his passion and sincerity. Being mindful also of the Blues’ ageing list, I quickly came to the conclusion that this very talented, but unpredictable and frequently misunderstood 22-year-old, could not be delisted or traded.    

The humorous aside that followed this meeting has been well documented. When asked by a teammate how he fared in his interview with the new coach, Brendan leapt into the air, punched both fists and excitedly shouted “the coach loves me already”, a la Toyota’s ‘Oh What a Feeling’ marketing slogan. Unbeknown to Brendan, I too had left my office and was standing in the corridor directly behind him. And so began a relationship that remains important to me to this day. 

Brendan possesses a very strong personality, can be charming and is extremely caring and generous to those he aligns himself with. Teammates still speak with fondness of a mid-week trip to Sydney to attend an Anthony Mundine fight, which was made all the more enjoyable after Brendan ‘secured’ upgrades to business class for the travelling party.

He is highly influential among the younger players at Carlton and with the exception of Anthony Koutoufides, no player cast a larger shadow during my time at the club.

Central to Brendan’s wellbeing are four very important females. His mother Karen and wife Alex provide invaluable support as mentors and advisors. Without their guidance and devotion Brendan’s life may well have taken a divergent path. He also enjoys the unqualified love of his two delightful and doting daughters, Mia, aged eight (and an absolute princess) and 13-month-old Leni. Both provide him with balance and a real sense of fulfilment.

As we know, Brendan can be prone to distraction, lose motivation and is emotionally single-minded. Without even realising it, he can divide a group very quickly and I’m yet to encounter an individual who verbalises their thoughts as immediately as Brendan does. This trait can often bring him unstuck, as was the case earlier in the year upon learning that he had been overlooked as acting captain in favour of the less experienced Jarrad Waite. Brendan’s disappointment manifested itself in him telling the senior coach that he mightn’t make himself available for the upcoming game!        

Without doubt the biggest challenge confronting Brendan with his football is consistency. He needs to achieve consistency in his attitude, training and presentation, make the necessary sacrifices and develop a full understanding of the consequences of his actions.

By bridging the gap between the highs and lows of his unique personality Brendan is capable of scaling even greater heights as a player, which I’m sure is a tantalising prospect for the Navy Blue faithful.  

Brendan is outstanding with children. The junior Carlton supporters idolise him and the number 25 jumper accounts for a high proportion of club-generated merchandise sales. At this year’s Family Day, more than two hours after the formalities had concluded and long after the rest of the playing group had departed, Brendan was still signing autographs and interacting with young fans and their families. I don’t know of too many footballers who would have done that.

As much as I admire all that is good in Brendan, he has caused me considerable angst at various times. The antics he served up in the Round 13 match against Fremantle at Subiaco were simply unacceptable. Most disappointing of all was the fact that Brendan had nobody else to blame but himself.

In the days leading up to this game Brendan was noticeably flat, hence the decision to send him to Perth a day ahead of the main travelling party. Sadly, Brendan’s idea of freshening up involved a Thursday night outing to play cards at Burswood Casino.

Sending Brendan away from the club to contemplate his immediate playing future certainly cost Carlton a possible victory against Melbourne the following week. Yet for the club’s long-term benefit, no other course of action was possible. Mind you, not everyone agreed with Brendan’s one-week absence. One senior player told me in no uncertain terms that the sanction should have been longer.

It’s pleasing that since his return Brendan has been totally committed and his form in the St Kilda, Collingwood and Port Adelaide games were to a high standard, even though he had been carrying a thigh injury.

Brendan has always been prepared to put his hand up and take responsibility for the times when he has transgressed. He expressed genuine remorse for the shenanigans in Ireland last October that caused much embarrassment to himself, his football club, the AFL brand and those closest to him. So much so, that there was never any doubt in my mind that he was going to be on top of his game when the season commenced. I’ve often wondered if it’s only when Brendan’s feeling comfortable that things tend to go awry for him.       

I wouldn’t trade Brendan Fevola. When on song, he instils in his young teammates enormous confidence and self belief and is capable as any player of winning a game off his own boot (as he showed against Essendon in Round 3).

Next time you watch Brendan play, pay close attention to the way opposition defenders leave their direct opponents to cover him. Then observe the other gun forwards in the competition and the space they have to work in compared to Brendan.

I miss Brendan coming into my office for our little chats and engaging him on his thoughts on the meaning of life. Like the girl with the curl in the nursery rhyme, ‘when Brendan is good, he is very good. But when he is bad …’ well, I guess enough has been said already.


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