Everything is Burning: Sympathy for Lewis Young

For me, it was always my second serve. It was intermittently functional, chronically on the verge of total collapse – a poorly built tower that was fine on a sunny day but would collapse as soon as the wind threatened to blow.

There was never one double fault – there were five or six. The smallest failure would send everything I’d practised straight to hell. The ‘kick’ second serve, full of biting topspin, requiring a confident flick of the wrist, would become a sad, flat poke, the ball timid and disheartened as it crossed the net. My second serve was often the preface to my opponent’s worst unforced errors – the serve was so weakly hit that they literally couldn’t help themselves.

Which is all to say … I know how you feel, Lewis Young. I’ve been there, where it all goes wrong, and ‘right’ seems galaxies and lifetimes away.

Young imploded on Friday night. A month of promise gave way to 120 minutes of pure, fresh hell against GWS. Young was the worst player on the ground, perhaps any ground. He kicked the ball into the corridor straight to Josh Kelly and then Brett Deledio, and both resulted in immediate slingshot goals. Toby Greene took a hanger on his back after the Deledio pass, adding insult to injury in a way that was almost a little too on the nose.

Young was manhandled all night by Jonathon Patton, giving away holding free kicks if he wasn’t simply being shrugged aside like he something only slightly more solid than air. He missed tackles, missed smothers, and his second quarter handball to Stephen Coniglio, who immediately goaled from the turnover, was as bad a handball as you will ever see. It was, simply, a football apocalypse for Young.

Momentum is one of sport’s most perfect marvels, and one of its cruellest. Greatness and despair both have a way of cascading. Excellence is so often described as unconscious – an ‘outer’ body experience. Failure, though, is the ultimate in consciousness – someone ‘in their own head’.

By the end of Friday night, Young was so conscious, so in his own head that you wanted to put your arm around him and say, ‘It’s just a game where you a kick a ball between two white sticks. That’s all it is, mate.’ With his frail figure and sad long blue sleeves, it was all much more tragic and uncomfortable than it was comical.

Young will be better for the nightmare, or he won’t be. Zac Dawson went on to play well in multiple grand finals after Anthony Rocca kicked eight on him. Still, though, when we think of Zac, we think of Rocca first, don’t we?

Young will either stay broken from Friday night or use it as fuel to put himself back together. A nascent career has its first, unkindly early flash point. Where Young goes from here will be curious – and moving, whichever way he goes.

Just please, for the love of God, Luke Beveridge, don’t play him on Charlie Dixon this weekend.