James Sicily can’t help but chuckle.
Try as he might to shed the ‘bad boy’ tag, there always seems to be a camera watching when his fiery side comes to the fore.
Case in point: His scuffle at training with young teammate Sam Butler earlier this month.
Watch every match of every round of the 2023 Toyota AFL Premiership Season LIVE on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
Till 2025! May inks new Dees deal | 00:53
“The training incident, I didn‘t actually know the cameras were there. If I knew they were, I wouldn’t have done anything,” he told foxfooty.com.au, knowing how the incident would’ve been perceived given his history of on-field blow ups.
“It literally went for about five seconds, it was a wrestle. I actually wasn’t angry at the tackle, or Sam, I was angry at the fact everyone on the field was wearing two different jerseys and we had bibs on both teams and I hated getting tackled by the bib. That was the final straw.
“I was more ‘angry’ at Adrian Hickmott, the coach who set up the teams and then got it wrong and we were all wearing bibs and training jumpers. It was a minuscule thing that just built up.
“Butsy was on the receiving end, but he ended up decking me and beating me anyway. I don’t hate Sam!”
For some seeing the headline and still frame, Sicily’s reputation as a ‘hothead’ would’ve been further entrenched in their mind.
As is often the case in sport, however, who you see on the field is not the person people know off it.
Sicily is aware of this more than most and has come to terms with it as he enters his 10th full year in the competition.
“I’m quite comfortable with who I am. I do chuckle about it. It only takes one little thing for people to revert back to, ‘he’s this hothead guy’,” Sicily said.
“I understand I’ve made my bed and that’s always going to be the narrative with me. I’m comfortable with that, because it’s not necessarily who I am. It’s easy to go to that headline of ‘hothead’.
“I’m quite comfortable with where I sit at the moment, and it probably will still happen, but the consistency of it is less regular.”
Tempering his emotions has been one part of a long-term development, which at times has served up significant challenges, the most obvious of which was his ACL injury that sidelined him for a season-and-a-half.
“It was less about what’s happening on the ground, I could take a step back, observe, learn some different things about coaching and taking on more responsibility without having to play, which I think really helped me also.”
Making his development off-field even more impressive was his return to playing in 2022, which saw him play every game and ended with selection in the 40-man All-Australian squad, with the 28-year-old perhaps unlucky not to be included in the final side.
As Sicily has grown exponentially as a player over his career, so too have his leadership credentials.
He looks a red-hot favourite to be selected as captain for the side heading into 2023, which is not a position he ever envisioned being in.
“I definitely would like to do it and want to do it,” he said.
“It‘s a bit of a funny one. I never really grew up with any sort of ambition to be a leader, but over time I’ve just sort of felt this sense of responsibility and duty to do it along with a lot of other teammates that I have to get us back where we want to be. I’d love to do it.
“I do feel more responsible. Time in the game does make you more mature. I‘ve had a lot of people that have been really patient with me, invested a lot of time, love effort, perhaps when it could have been quite easy to say ‘this kid’s crazy, just get rid of him’.
Stengle to remain a Cat until 2024 | 00:57
“They doubled down and saw something in me that I perhaps maybe didn’t see myself and they’ve sort of really nurtured me and guided me into a position where I can be comfortable being a leader.”
Should Sicily get the nod, he would lead a list that has been stripped bare of veteran talent heading into the 2023 season – the second under coach Sam Mitchell.
Almost 1400 combined AFL games have been lost, with just one contracted player over the age of 30 remaining and six over the age of 25.
“On face value, it‘s quite easy to say we’re in for a tough year, but I feel like it’s put us ahead another year in terms of – you can use the word rebuild, I suppose – it sort of jumps us a year ahead,” Sicily said.
“It’s hard to say that because a lot of those guys are good friends of mine. But that’s the direction the club’s heading in and I completely understand it. And I think it’s going to be a good decision purely based on getting a year ahead of the rebuild.”
Story Credit: foxsports.com.au