Posts Tagged ‘seven years’
Collingwood forward Travis Cloke gears up for the big stage against Carlton at the MCG. Picture: Michael Dodge Source: Herald Sun
TRAVIS Cloke has been called a lot of things in his seven years in the AFL.
Wasteful, an erratic kick for goal with a history of point-blank misses.
Inconsistent, after capturing the 2007 Copeland Medal and then not quite maintaining the rage.
Somehow a little different, courtesy of a family some have criticised for its close-knit, yet quirky, nature.
North Melbourne coach Brad Scott chose a different word this week. Unstoppable.
Four months into the season, Cloke has arguably become the game’s best forward.
No defender can stop him, and Cloke no longer defeats himself through poor conversion.
In every way, a talented boy has matured into a hulking brute of a man.
"he is the no.1 contested mark in the competition," Scott, a former Collingwood development coach, said this week.
"Once he gets front position or the position where the ball is going to land, it is impossible to move him.
"he is 108kg and incredibly strong, so you can’t move him, but if you don’t body him he has such good endurance he leads at the ball repetitively and outmarks you on the lead.
"Once he gets ascendancy in the body-on-body situation, he’s almost unstoppable."
The Herald Sun sat down with Cloke this week to chart the reasons for his improvement, and, as ever, he was engaging and self-effacing. Instead of ducking questions on his high-profile flaws, he has gone away and worked on them.
But now he can see the funny side.
As North Melbourne’s Lindsay Thomas shanked that shot from 15m out against Collingwood, he could afford a wry grin.
It was not lost on the crowd that, moments later, Cloke marked near the boundary and threaded another difficult goal.
"I was down the other end and had a laugh," Cloke said. "I am not sure who I was on, but I said, ‘I am glad I am not the only one who misses those shots at goal’.
"It’s one of the hardest spots to kick at goal when you are in front. you try to take it easy and relax but the worst thing you can do is take it too easy.
"Twelve months ago I was the one missing that shot at goal. there was a lot of heat put on me last year with my goalkicking, but hopefully I can keep improving. It’s not where I want it to be but it’s coming along."
If the left boot that has brought him an excellent return of 40.25 this year has drawn most of the attention, the rock-solid hands have been close behind.
His numbers are inspiring.
As Champion Data analyst Glenn Luff notes, Cloke is the biggest gorilla in the competition, yet has the tank to run like Nick Riewoldt.
Consider these averages this year, all career-highs for 24-year-old Cloke: rankings points (98), disposals (15.5), marks (7.4) contested possessions (8.9), contested marks (4.4), goals (2.9) and tackles (3.1).
His 62 contested marks are 25 more than his nearest rival; his 40 goals third in the competition.
As it turns out, none of it has come about by chance.
"I have spent 12-18 months working really hard with my goalkicking and am starting to get the rewards for it," he said.
"and I am spending a lot of time on my marking with Chris Dawes and Nathan Buckley.
"It’s about pack work and the marking bag and positioning. we have (former NBL basketballer) David Stiff here who is (205cm) and 120kg and he goes flat out. He’s a massive man and very hard to move. ‘Bucks’ kicks to us and we have Anthony Rocca to watch us, technique-wise.
"David has brought the post-up moves from basketball as a centre and positioning. we do a lot of boxing and grappling and getting used to hitting bodies. you come off the track knackered but I want to be having shots at goal fatigued."
Stiff won a record six titles in the NBL (and famously played a Wookie in a Star Wars movie) and is the Pies’ high-performance coach.
Cloke has been offered plenty of unconventional methods to help his goalkicking, but has embraced only one.
THE iPod to simulate crowd noise has combined with a refined technique and a hell of a lot of repetition.
"I used to drop the ball high and lean back and, being a left-footer, just bang it in there," he said.
"Getting more mature, you understand the importance of technique.
"I looked very closely at Jack Riewoldt last year. his goalkicking is fantastic and I have tried to put a bit of his technique into mine."
Cloke has occasionally looked mechanical, yet Riewoldt is relaxed and has a flowing action.
"he is very smooth – a couple of walking steps, a couple of running steps, and he kicks it," Cloke said of the Tiger.
"he is very cool and relaxed and it shows you don’t have to run in at a million miles an hour."
As Scott observed on Fox Sports this week, Collingwood’s tactics have helped Cloke, too.
He is closer to goal, being isolated through clinical disposal, and has benefited from Dawes’s ability to draw opponents out of his zone.
"Collingwood (was) absolutely elite (last week) – and it was only one area, mind you – but it was an area they killed us. They put it to Cloke’s advantage every single time," Scott said.
What is remarkable is that Cloke has tapped into this form despite a limited pre-season.
Various niggles kept him off the training track until January. Instead he wiled away the hours on the stationary bike in the club’s altitude room.
Most players preach simplicity as a reason for renewed form, but for Cloke it is the opposite.
"you train hard and play better, but I am doing things in the community and working with the Salvation Army, and a month ago I took the big step and moved out of home(in the outer eastern suburbs)," he said.
"(Brother) Cam has moved in and there is a lot more responsibility to get up and clean the house and cook dinner or lunch.
"I miss the ease of living at home with Mum doing everything for me, but at the same time it has made me grow up quicker and take responsibility."
His house in Richmond is minutes from the club, even if he was given a reminder of the perils of inner city living by thieves who smashed his car window and stole his belongings last Saturday.Cloke said there were drawbacks associated with living so far from the club.
"On our day off I never used to come in. it took too long to come in and then I was in here for an hour and had to drive home. I was doing recovery in the pool at home and it all got hard.
"Now I walk to training, pop in and out, catch up with the boys and the younger kids as well and see what Melbourne is about."
And it all could have been so different. Had Cloke accepted a four-year offer late last year, he would be commuting to Windy Hill. But he does not regret giving up the cash to stay at a club on the verge of consecutive premierships.
"The offer was there, but the big picture is you want to be a successful player. there are so many players who have been around for a long time but haven’t played finals, let alone won a premiership," he said.
"there is a lot of money getting chucked to players to go elsewhere. at the end of the day it’s money – but it doesn’t give you happiness.
"When you look at the numbers you say, ‘Gee, that would be nice to have sitting in the bank or spending it on a house’.
"But we are young and can be successful and have a lot of our life to build that wealth. if you are wise with your money, you can still set yourself up for life."
Cloke’s two-year deal, brokered by his father and manager David, means he will be among the first batch of footballers to become limited free agents after next season.
HE wants to stay at Collingwood, even if he is smart enough not to give the rolled-gold promise of commitment that might dull his market worth.
"I want to be successful and this is where it’s at, and I hope I can stay here," Cloke said.
"it is going to be interesting to see how (free agency) works. The first person who throws their name in, that will be groundbreaking, but it’s still 18 months away.
"I am sure if I keep playing good football, things will take care of themselves."
The drawing and art that once might have been a career has now become a hobby.
Brothers Jason and Cameron – both former AFL players – are builders, and Cloke plans to start his apprenticeship soon.
Sister Teigan is in Adelaide, with David and Julie, chasing her volleyball dream as she represents Victoria in a national tournament.
The only permanent artwork in his life is the extensive tattoo inked on his back that includes a set of wings capped by the slogan, "Strength, Determination, Belief".
That is all fine, as long as he doesn’t emulate teammate Dane Swan.
"I have thought about the sleeves, but Mum keeps saying, ‘No, don’t touch the arms. you can cover up now’," Cloke said.
"The way I see it, I can’t see any of it now. I have got a few little ones with meanings and numbers and quotes – things that mean something to me and the writing on my back, which Cam has got as well."
There is no way to elegantly transition into my next subject, so I shall not even bother to try. The Heights theater is playing “Freaks” tonight, and, if you haven’t seen it, it’s a must see — unless you get upset at movies, in which case it is a mustn’t see. the film is by Tod Browning, who helmed the original “Dracula” in 1931, and made this film a year later, only to see it almost immediately banned and denied any sort of public showing for most of his life, and for most of the 20th century. It was long one of those legendary underground pictures that everybody talked about and nobody saw. I recall hearing about it from childhood on, and did not manage to see it until I was in my 20s. I own a copy now, but will still see it in the theaters when I get a chance, because it was denied theatrical showings for so long. What’s the big deal, you may be asking? Well, Browning had some history with sideshows, and so created a sideshow parable based on an especially vicious short story called “Spurs,” which was impossible to find for years and so I went ahead and created a PDF of it about seven years ago, which is still available online. the story tells of a tragic midway love triangle, or quadrangle, more properly. a heartless trapeze artist and her strongman boyfriend conspire to have her marry a little person and then poison him for his money. Eventually, the other sideshow performers find out. On a stormy night, lit by flashes of lightning, they exact a terrible revenge. Browning made the mistake of casting actual sideshow performers in this film, which may be part of the reason it was banned. But once you have gotten accustomed to the movie, you can appreciate was an extraordinary cast he actually put together. there are the Hilton sisters, conjoined twins who are sweet, soft spoken, musically talented, and who formed the basis for the musical “Sideshow.” there is Johnny Eck, who was missing the lower half of his torso and so walked around on his hands, and who had a boyish, striking face and later retired to Baltimore to create paintings on screen doors, which is a sort of folk art in Baltimore. there is Angelo Rossitto, a dwarf whose film career was extraordinary, spanning 58 years and culminating in a roll in “Mad Max: beyond Thunderdome.” And there were a group of performers with microcephaly, Schlitzie, Elvira Snow and Jenny Lee Snow, whose appearance in the film in dresses and bowed hair inspired the look of the cartoon character Zippy the Pinhead. Cast members have complained about Browning, mostly, as I recall, because they feel they weren’t paid enough, but in the text of the film itself he shows great respect for his characters — they aren’t treated as being monstrous until the climax, and their violence then has been carefully justified. the climactic scene in the rain is genuinely harrowing — more frightening than the entirety of “Dracula,” which was stagy and creaky. And the film has one other sequence that has entered the lexicon of popular culture, even if, for years, people didn’t know its source. During the trapeze artist’s marriage to her victim, a loving cup is passed around the table, and the sideshow performers begin to pound on the table, welcoming the murderous woman into their fold with a chant of “Gobble gobble gobble, we accept her, we accept her, one of us.” the punk band the Ramones later worked a half-remembered version of this into the refrain from their song “Pinhead,” singing “Gabba Gabba Hey,” which ended up being one of the catchphrases of the band, and of the punk movement in general. All this is either going to convince you that you must see the movie, or must stay the hell away. I wouldn’t blame you if you choose the latter. I’m just glad the movie is available in theaters, so you can make the choice, rather than having it made for you.