Tom Boyd leaves the game millions of dollars lighter than he might have, but without the onerous burden and invasive pressures that were triggered, in no small part, by the gargantuan contract that he signed when he became a Bulldog in October 2014.
Boyd's five-and-a-half year career was one of the game's most significant, given that it encompassed three major happenings in the AFL – the advent of long-term mega deals, the mental health pressures on modern players via relentless media and social media scrutiny and, finally, the unimaginable, glorious 2016 premiership of the Bulldogs.
To Bulldogs people, the critical role Boyd played in the 2016 flag – in both the fabled preliminary final against his old club and the grand final triumph over Sydney when he might have won the Norm Smith Medal – more than offsets the fact that he was largely unfulfilled as a footballer and didn't approach the levels either GWS or the Dogs envisaged.
This would not be the view of Boyd had he played for a club such as Hawthorn or Geelong – clubs accustomed to silverware, where the assessment would be more cold-blooded. But the Dogs would not have won their poetic premiership without him, and that reality enshrines his legacy at a club that had been flag-less since 1954.
Boyd was signed by the Bulldogs for close to $7 million over seven years, during a tumultuous post-season at Whitten Oval in which captain Ryan Griffen walked, triggering both the sacking of the coach, Brendan McCartney and the audacious recruitment of Boyd in a trade for Griffen and an early draft pick, as the beseiged Bulldogs bit back.
Unbeknownst to the competition, the Dogs had already done some legwork on getting Boyd during 2014 but had nothing to trade to the Giants. Griffen's exit opened the door for Boyd to join, an acquisition the Dogs hoped would finally solve their perennial quest for a key forward colossus.
He was only 19, as Redgum sang, and the external expectations that were heaped on Boyd were unrealistic. A 200cm forward needs years to develop, but the spotlight on Boyd meant that he would not enjoy the luxury of a gradual apprenticeship.
The game also changed just as he arrived at the Bulldogs. Speed, agility and front-half pressure were becoming paramount and Boyd was really built to play as a ruckman, rather than as a conventional key forward.
It is telling that his hours of triumph in 2016 were largely in the ruck, Boyd having taken over from an incapacitated Jordan Roughead in the preliminary final and rucked courageously; in the grand final, he mixed forward and ruck, but his most telling impact – that long goal in the last term was for the ages – came as a follower moving forward.
It is to Boyd's great credit that he has walked away from about $2 million and that he did not haggle or attempt to gouge anything from the club – a stance that will benefit the Bulldogs considerably in the coming years, freeing their salary cap for the pursuit of others. It is hard to remember a footballer forfeiting that kind of money – even in seasonally adjusted terms – since television dollars flooded the coffers.
Boyd was at the centre of both the mental health/social media nexus that bedevils AFL footballers, and the massive long-term contracts that accompany free agency. Lance Franklin's nine-year Sydney deal arguably was the midwife for the Boyd deal, given they had the same manager. The difference, as we know, was that Buddy was a prRead More – Source