Shane Woewodin – Retired Australian Rules Football Player

AFL Brownlow Medal winner Shane Woewodin (born 12 July 1976).

Athletes and competitors at the highest ranks of any sport are confronted with an uncomfortable reality when the decision regarding their future is imminent. This discomfort arises from the element of uncertainty that is present in any decision of this nature.

Is it best to leave at the top? That will always result in nagging doubts that greater future accomplishments could have been achieved.

Is it best to soldier on and risk tarnishing an otherwise stellar reputation? The history of competition contains far too many instances of athletes who played one game too many and at times suffered injuries that impaired their quality of lives permanently. In other instances, a steep decline in skills has led to humiliation, disgrace and pity in the eyes of the fans.

shane woewodin

Perhaps worst of all is the scenario where competitors do not have much to say regarding the decision and fade from view with the uncertainty that there was still fuel left for the fire.

This last would seem to be the case concerning one-time AFL Brownlow Medal winner Shane Woewodin (born 12 July 1976). He played his last game in the seniors in 2005 and spent the next two years playing for East Fremantle in the WAFL, where he had originally gotten his start, and something which certainly would have been a difficult pill to swallow for someone who had grown accustomed to the bright lights and attention of the upper level. Adding to the indignity of the situation for Woewodin was the fact that even though he played well for the Sharks and was quite public about his desires to return to the AFL seniors, none of the teams of the AFL expressed any interest in his services, leaving him undrafted in 2006 and 2007.

1997 AFL Rising Star

So, from going from 1997 AFL Rising Star nominee to the football pinnacle of Brownlow and Truscott Medals recipient in 2000 to being out of work after 2005, in would have seemed to Woewodin that the game had discarded him prematurely.

Here is a closer look at his life and playing days and some of the instances that ultimately decided his fate.

As has seemingly been the case with every Brownlow Medal winner, Woewodin played in the midfield. When he got his start with the Lynwood Ferndale Junior Football Club, he played centre half forward when he was drafted for the East Fremantle FC, making his debut for that club in 1995. The Melbourne Demons selected him during the 1997 pre-season draft and immediately saw his skills sufficient to have him play in 22 games for the Demons, although Melbourne fans would have little to cheer in a season where his efforts on the ground produced only four victories against 18 losses. His play was judged adequate enough to earn him two Brownlow votes.

Woewodin would enjoy an auspicious beginning to his career from the perspective that he managed to stay healthy enough to play in 100 games in a row.

Melbourne’s fortunes improved in the 1998 season, where Woewodin would help them win four times as many games, 16, as they had the year previous and lost only half as many, 9, but that would have to be described as a nowhere-to-go-but-up situation. Woewodin would get involved in the scoring somewhat, with 10 goals and 10 behinds, but his skill was more apparent in his 452 disposals, which represented his fourth-best all-time production just a little short of the third-best 466 in 2002 and second-best 474 in 2003.

It terms of statistics, disposals in particular, 1999 was not rewarding for Woewodin. His 360 total for the season was better than only his debut season, his final season and 2001, the year he suffered the notorious post-Brownlow slump.

Year 2000 Record Breaking Year

Then, along came the 2000 season when he achieved his high water mark. He set career marks for goals, behinds and disposals, his 554 total being almost 100 ahead of any other year. Woewodin gathered 24 votes that year to win the Brownlow Medal, which was only nine shy of the sum of his eight other seasons in the AFL. It came as a surprise to many when he edged Scott West of the Western Bulldogs by two votes.

Just as in 1998, the Demons won 16 and lost 9 when he took part, but they were to lose the Grand Final to Essendon in a rather lopsided 19.21 (135) – 11.9 (75) affair.

Shane Woewodin played 20 games in the 2001 season that followed that found the Demons on the losing end 11 times. He made a better showing in 2002, but Melbourne was again only average. It was to be Woewodin’s last season with the team. He offered, in light of his failing to perform at a level sufficient to justify his superstar salary, to take a pay cut, but it was nowhere near the amount that the Melbourne officials had suggested.

He was traded to Collingwood in a somewhat acrimonious fashion, but experienced a measure of revenge when his new club beat the old in a 52 point drubbing in the Queen’s Birthday match of 2003. He would return to his former top form that season and the next. In 2003, he scored his second-highest career totals with 16 goals and 474 disposals over 25 games. He would, however, once again drink from the losers’ cup in the Grand Final when the Brisbane Lions would apply a 50 point thrashing to the Collingwood squad.

He finished second in his club’s Best and Fairest voting in 2004, but he saw his fortunes decline in 2005. Collingwood would win only twice with Woewodin on the ground in a dismal year that held only five wins total. The announcement of the decision by Collingwood officials to pursue a “youth policy,” thinly veiled jargon for out with the old, saw him playing for the affiliate Williamstown on more than one occasion before he was delisted.

Next came the two years of grasping for a spot in a sport where players of a similar skill level with fewer years on the meter and substantially more modest demands on the salary coffers squeezed him out of the ranks. He played out his career with his original East Fremantle team before taking over as coach for 2008. He would next come to light in 2010 to spend two years as the midfield coach for the AFL operation of the Brisbane Lions.

Could Shane Woewodin, given the opportunity, have contributed at the top level if Collingwood, Melbourne or another team had seen fit to take the risk? Sports history is replete with examples of some who stuck around too long, looking to capture that elusive victory or achievement that would promise contentment. Perhaps Woewodin was fortunate to go out, if not exactly on his own terms, with the question unanswered.

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