Lost in translation: Fremantle runner Tendai Mzungu cops vintage Ross Lyon roast

Headshot of Gavin Box
Gavin BoxGeraldton Guardian
Dark day for Dockers: Round 22 v Geelong.
Camera IconDark day for Dockers: Round 22 v Geelong. Credit: Getty Images

It wasn’t funny for Dockers HQ at the time, but the Fremantle brains trust can see the lighter side of that dark day at Geelong in round 22 last year, when they copped a 133-point hiding.

Former Docker Tendai Mzungu has revealed at a sports breakfast in Geraldton how things got lost in translation between coach Ross Lyon and runner (Mzungu), on a day when lots of things unravelled for the Purple Haze.

Late in the first term, Geelong were in front, so the message came down to Mzungu to protect the ball and have the team move play to the other side of the ground.

Ross Lyon addresses his players during the game.
Camera IconRoss Lyon addresses his players during the game. Credit: Getty Images

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“So I run out and tell them, ‘boys, get the ball over this side’,” he said.

The message came back from Lyon: “What did you tell them? No, tell them to get the ball over this side.”

So out Mzungu went with another message.

This time, another message came back from Lyon, with a “bit more heat in the phone”: “What side did you tell them? The interchange side? No!!!”

Unlike other AFL venues, at Geelong the coaches box and the interchange bench are on the opposite sides of the ground.

In Mzungu’s words, it just went south from there.

Imitating Rossy

It’s said imitation is the highest form of praise – but what happens when a player finds himself sounding like his coach while having a deep and meaningful conversation with his partner.

That’s exactly what happened to former Docker Tendai Mzungu.

Tendai Mzungu.
Camera IconTendai Mzungu. Credit: Tamra Carr, The Geraldton Guardian

“I was on a drive with my heavily pregnant partner and she was having a moment, saying she wasn’t sure how she was going to go as a mother,” Mzungu said.

“I found myself saying to her, ‘don’t play it before it happens’.

“And then, ‘you’ve prepared really well’.”

He said it worked a treat.

“She seemed to buy it,” he said with a chuckle.

Rising Starre

The Dockers’ hot form in AFLW was a hot topic of discussion, with senior coach Trent Cooper admitting skills needed to improve after last season.

He also credited high-performance manager and dual Olympic hockey gold medallist Kate Starre for challenging the leadership to make athleticism a training focus.

Starre by name and star by nature. Kate Starre, who coach Trent Cooper credits for improving the club, addresses the Fremantle Dockers women’s side.
Camera IconStarre by name and star by nature. Kate Starre, who coach Trent Cooper credits for improving the club, addresses the Fremantle Dockers women’s side. Credit: Danella Bevis

“We want to be a side that can score heavily,” he said.

“We identified that six goals seemed to be the magic number — most sides that kick six win games.”

Multitasking on-field

Cooper admitted shifting gears when coaching women, acknowledging a difference in approach was needed.

He said women were more open to feedback, but wanted negative feedback one-on-one rather than in front of the team.

He also said they were better at knowing where to position themselves on the field.

“My wife says that’s because they can do two things at once,” he quipped.

Opportunity knocks

Women playing in the Great Northern Football League could have more opportunity to advance to the big league, with plans to increase the AFLW talent pool from 30 to 60 in WA.

“We’ve always got our ears open and we’re happy to send eyes up,” Cooper said, adding as a rider that AFLW was a big leap in standard from local competition.

“We’re not against plucking anyone from obscurity,” he said.

Speaking of opportunities, talented young Aboriginal footballers from the Mid West could find more pathways to the AFL under the academy program, with Mzungu saying there were plans to expand the academy program across WA next year.

The focus of the program is currently in the Kimberley and the Pilbara.

* DISCLOSURE: Gavin Box attended the breakfast as a guest of Skeetas

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