I was absent during the post-season last year and as such, wasn’t present to do any end of year wraps, sift through any of the grisly bits nor pay homage to departed servants. The changes were fairly modest and obvious: the expected retirement of Daniel Wells; the delisting of Sam Murray and Ben Crocker; the shifting of Lynden Dunn to the rookie list and of course, the retirement of the subject of this piece, Tyson Goldsack.
Despite being a long time servant, some might find it a little strange to dedicate a piece, so belatedly, to a player who was never a guaranteed fixture in the senior line-up. I’m partial to certain types of players – those who often fit the unsung hero category in particular – and whilst Goldsack had his detractors at times, I’m fairly confident that like myself, a majority of the faithful had a soft spot for the rangy utility.
Goldsack came to the club via pick #63 in the 2006 draft, after spending a year as an overage player with the Gippsland Power. Gippsland had already proven a happy hunting ground for us in the previous draft, where we unearthed both Pendlebury and Thomas in what perhaps still remains as Hine’s best one-two punch. Goldsack was given his chance in round 8 of 2007, where he took his opportunity with both hands and remained a staple amongst a side that would punch well above its weight, falling agonisingly short of a Grand Final berth after losing by less than a kick to one of the best teams of the modern era.
There was a lot to like about the young Goldsack and as was Malthouse’s habit, he was not spared any baptism of fire whilst finding his feet. Throughout the course of that 2007 season Goldsack was thrown some daunting missions, including the likes of Michael O’Loughlin and a young Lance Franklin. In all instances, Goldsack gave his all — his best performance for the year coming in round 21, when he kept Mickey O to a single goal whilst gathering 25 disposals himself.
Some might say that given what he displayed so early, when all was said and done at the end of 2019 an unforgiving retrospective assessment might have suggested that Goldsack did not become the player that many were hopefully projecting during that exciting 2007 season. This, I feel, would be wide of the mark for a few reasons.
It’s a common occurrence that players exceed expectations in their debut seasons, particularly late selections for whom such expectations are modestly set. As such, when players coming from so far back manage to cement themselves within a senior line-up in year one, future projections have a tendency to become a little too optimistic, if not unrealistic.
It was understandable in Goldsack’s case, as here we had a player possessing above average pace and enough height to make him a versatile prospect. He often managed to rack up mid-teen disposal numbers, occasionally pushing the 20 bracket, which also suggested that he was more than just a lockdown defender. Above all, it was his tenacious approach to the contest for such a lightly framed youngster – the unwavering commitment with which he approached any role he was given – which won him adherents early.
As his career unfolded, some shortcomings did become apparent in Goldsack’s game. Despite his height, he never became an intercepting prospect as a defender. His hands weren’t the best overhead, whilst he occasionally wasn’t as clean as he would have liked off the deck — every so often succumbing to a bout of fumbles. His kicking was something of an enigma, as he could shank some midrange passes but was also capable of spearing the occasional bullet. He had some serious penetration on his kicking, able to carry zones comfortably when given license to do so.
What remained however was the tenacity, the intensity, the devotion to the cause. The versatility was also no myth, a facet that came to the fore increasingly in the second half of his career.
In 2012 he was moulded into a forward during Buckley’s first season at the helm, playing a primarily defensive role during a period where manic forward pressure was still in vogue. Despite not being a natural forward, Goldsack managed to return 24 goals for the year whilst averaging 3 tackles a game. It was the nature of many of those tackles though which made for a pleasing highlight reel, particularly for those who enjoy the physical side of the game.
Hitting blindsided opponents with the velocity of a Great White’s polaris breach; running down prey like big cats on open plains; those multiple efforts when his initial target passed the package, the recalibration and lunge, the entangled embrace of wiry limbs — Kraken meets trireme. Memories come to hand of those moments when he displayed almost Archimedean nous when it came to using leverage, channeling his own momentum to bring a man down in a deathroll that left more than a few players with post-match whiplash.
We all pray for a mind like Archimedes when organising a defence, but lest we overlook a soldier like Goldsack outside the walls of Syracuse.
Who could forget his efforts in 2017 against the Dockers on their home deck, when a hobbled Goldsack saw out the game on one leg to help get us over the line. Likewise his heroic efforts to return as swiftly as possible from a knee reconstruction in 2018, covering the loss of Lynden Dunn and the unavailability of Darcy Moore, battling manfully as a severely undersized key defender.
History shows that we were exposed for height down back in that Grand Final, but that we even got there at all given our losses down back was a credit to the defensive coaches, not to mention the efforts of Goldsack and company.
What stands out in my mind however are those cold suburban grounds where Goldsack spent a fair portion of his time during his career with our club. Often relegated to the VFL as he awaited a role, Goldsack applied himself no differently at the lower level. He had some long stints with our VFL team during a period where the opposition would often be parked in our backline. I would become fatigued just watching Moneybags throw himself at every incoming contest: the echoing clap of cold skin colliding; the thump of a Sherrin reliably sent 60 metres to the safe flank with every kick-out he took.
His was a career of humility and hard work, of dedication and loyalty to the club. He found himself on more than one occasion in contract limbo as a season ended – not to mention on the radar of some opposition clubs who may have offered him a little more senior level security, with the remuneration to match. His time at the club traversed periods of revolution and the accompanying turmoil, along with his own role being in flux and demanding regular reinvention, yet he remained.
Fortune wasn’t always elusive, as he was able to benefit from the capriciousness of fate when he found himself replacing Leon Davis for the Grand Final replay. Not only did Goldsack become a premiership player, but he famously kicked the opening goal and secured his Mum a decent return at 80-1 in doing so. Given the increased scrutiny on gambling over recent years – and the illustrious history of our players in this realm – such a flutter is generally ill-advised.
But even if he did push the boundary a little with some insider knowledge, the fact that he took care of his Mum in the process is just another testament to the lad’s character in my opinion.
Goldsack announced his retirement prior to our 2019 finals campaign, well aware that he would only get a look-in via injury. He kept himself ready for the call-up should it come, no matter how unlikely that was, and let his career settle with little fanfare once the year was done and dusted.
I’ve often made a point of the need for role players – even Hawthorn had a Matthew Spangher – and Goldsack was a fine player in this mould. A fantastic club man who applied himself equally in front of 80,000 at the G, or a couple thousand amidst the winds of Williamstown. After 13 seasons at the club, he left everything on the field and provided a lot in the locker room.
Tyson Goldsack, to you I tip my hat.