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  1. #1
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    Tony Liberatore says son Tom is a better player than him

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    OF the myriad assessments — statistical and subjective — hoisted around Tom Liberatore, two stand out.

    Asked to elaborate on the qualities that have carried his son to elite standing, and the 100-game milestone against Sydney on Friday night, Tony Liberatore paused.
    “How do you sum up Tom as a player?” Liberatore Sr mused.
    “He has a real understanding of the team aspect, the team-first mentality and a real hunger for playing for the team.
    “For Tom, football is not about marks, kicks and handballs and if you go back through your own personal career, there would have been times when it was.

    “There are players who get the ball inside 50 and their eyes light up straight away. Tom’s not like that. He’s more likely to give it off.

    “Tom’s greatest quality, his greatest attribute, is that he’s the perfect team player.”
    High praise, indeed.

    But then, without hint of prompting, Liberatore Sr proffered: “I’ll tell you one thing about Tom. He’s better than me.”

    Given his standing as a Brownlow medallist and reverence as an athlete who wrung as much as possible from nature’s gifts, his observations are instructive.

    By any objective measure, Tom Liberatore, 24, has moulded himself into the prototype of the ideal modern footballer.
    Champion Data this week compared Liberatore to Joel Selwood, Nat Fyfe and Josh Kennedy after their first 99 games.
    The figures proved what Bulldogs supporters have long known — Liberatore is a competitive beast.
    While he averages fewer disposals per game than each of those club captains, he still returns an impressive 22.


    He edges Selwood in contested possessions and clearances, and there is a palpable sense there is more to come.
    Regarded as media-shy and unorthodox to the point of being undefinable, Liberatore happily defies convention.
    Ask many of his teammates to expand on what makes the midfielder tick and the response is likely to be a smile and a shake of the head.

    As evidenced by off-season activities in Asia, where he rucked briefly for the Vietnam Swans while sporting a “Friar Tuck” hair cut and knocking back the occasional beer, Liberatore marches to the beat of a different drum.

    “Tom does his own thing away from football,” his father said.
    “Media is not his cup of tea. I don’t think you’ll see him doing many interviews.”


    Proud dad Tony Liberatore with son Tom after the Western Bulldogs defeated Sydney in last year’s Grand Final. Picture: Getty Images

    Liberatore Sr played 283 games for the Western Bulldogs but, for all his hard-earned achievements — and there were plenty — he gives the impression the feats of his son mean much more.
    “For Tom to be able play footy from a young age with Mitch Wallis and (them) to be able to play AFL together is great,” he said.

    “He gets more enjoyment from playing with his mates than personal accolades.

    “Everyone understands how he plays, what he does inside, but I also think he’s an elite kick.”
    Recruited from Calder Cannons under the father-son rule in 2010, Liberatore made his mark quickly.
    Established as a leading inside player by 2013, he won the Bulldogs’ best-and-fairest the following season.


    A knee injury wrecked his 2015 before the glories of last season, highlighted by drought-breaking premiership and, individually, an AFL/VFL record 19 tackles against Melbourne in Round 8.

    The 2015 injury setback left Liberatore, a student of American literature, with time to ponder.

    “I learnt a fair bit from dealing with new injuries, it was a massive learning year,” he recalled.
    “It was a completely different year of footy to what my first four years were like before I did my knee.”
    FFC: Established 1883

    Premierships: AFL 1954, 2016 VFA - 1898,99,1900, 1908, 1913, 1919-20, 1923-24, VFL: 2014, 2016 . Champions of Victoria 1924. AFLW - 2018.

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  3. #2
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    Re: Tony Liberatore says son Tom is a better player than him

    If I could have a drink with any player on our current list Libba would be my first picked
    Western Bulldogs: 2016 Premiers

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  5. #3
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    Re: Tony Liberatore says son Tom is a better player than him

    Libba is quality and is so important to our team.
    "Footscray people are incredible people; so humble. I'm just so happy - ecstatic"

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    Re: Tony Liberatore says son Tom is a better player than him

    How good is this photo?


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    Re: Tony Liberatore says son Tom is a better player than him

    Tom and Tony Liberatore to achieve combined 500-game milestone at Western Bulldogs
    Tom and Tony Liberatore will achieve a special combined milestone in round 1 of the AFL season. They speak to GLENN MCFARLANE about their special connection to the Western Bulldogs.

    Glenn McFarlane, THE AUSTRALIAN
    5:00am March 16, 2024

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    It wasn?t to brag. It wasn?t a reach out for a compliment or approval.
    It wasn?t even for a pat on the back.
    It was to ask his dad one simple question.
    ?Have you ever been vice-captain??
    Tony Liberatore recalled the short conversation this week, which says much about the tight connection between father and son, as well as a hint of the parallels and career trajectories they have shared across two different Western Bulldogs eras.
    ?When he (Tom) was made vice-captain, he texted me, and said: ?Hey have you ever been vice-captain??,? Tony said.
    ?I said: ?No, mate.?
    ?Then he said: ?Ahhh, I?ve got one over you then!??
    There is a good-natured rivalry between the two T. Liberatores, just as much as there is an unbreakable bond that has at times been challenging, but remains tight as a bear squeeze.
    Tony can always say he won a Brownlow Medal, scoring with 18 votes in 1990, whereas Tom could quite rightly add that his 17 votes from last year didn?t even get him in the top 20.
    They can?t be split on Charlie Sutton Medals, having both won one of the Bulldogs? best and fairest awards ? Tony in 1991, and Tom in 2014.
    Tony played 283 games between 1986 and 2002, a tally that Tom ? who turns 32 in May ? reckons could yet prove a bridge too far for him and his once-troublesome knees.
    ?He might have me, I reckon,? Tom laughed when asked this week.
    Sunday?s round 1 clash with Melbourne looms as a special day for the pair from a history sense.
    It will be the 500th time there has been a Liberatore wearing the famous red, white and blue, with Tom set to play his 217th match putting them among the top bracket of father-sons in terms of games played.
    A close friend told Tom this week about the impending 500-game milestone; his dad only found out when this reporter called him to ask him about it.
    Both have always possessed a no-nonsense approach to their football, with a combative, aggressive attack on the ball. But as understated as they are, this milestone clearly means a lot of them.
    ?I didn?t even know that,? Tony, 58, said when told they would be joining a very select group of 500-game father and sons.
    ?It?s surprising, but it?s so good. There probably won?t be a banner for me to run through on Sunday, but I?ll be there.?
    Tom has never been one to look in the rearview mirror, he prefers to charge on forwards, but this unique games? connection to his father meant some brief reflection.
    ?I suppose when you pause and think about it, it is a proud moment for me, because I wasn?t going to play many games without him,? the tough midfielder said.
    ?He was able to get me on the list. It really speaks volumes about what he?s done for me.?
    Tom carved out a strong junior resume before the Dogs took him with pick 40 in the 2010 national draft.
    He wasn?t chosen because he was Tony Liberatore?s son, but his bloodlines unquestionably helped him to make his home at the Whitten Oval, a place he wasn?t unfamiliar with.
    He had spent much of his early years at the ground, as a young kid obsessed with the game, and deadly accurate when quizzed about players? numbers across the competition, while he watched his father in the second phase of his career.
    So what does he remember of Tony?s career?
    One moment sticks firmly in his recollections ? it was 2001 and as a nine-year-old he was sitting with his mum at the MCG when many of those around him started booing loudly.
    ?It?s the only day I really remember,? Tom said this week. ?I was about nine and I remember rolling into the ground (and then) everyone was just booing.?
    ?I said to mum: ?What?s that?? and she said: ?Sssh, it?s probably (about) your father.?
    It was the day when Liberatore landed a blow on the forearm of Richmond?s Matthew Knights, splitting it open, sparking some wild scenes at the MCG.
    Liberatore copped a five-week ban over the incident.
    ?He would have only been a little kid,? Tony said. ?He might have been (saying), ?Is that my old man???
    That was the second part of Liberatore senior?s career. The first was a triumph over adversity and knock-backs where he stunned the footy world by winning the game?s highest individual honour in 1990 as one of the Bulldogs? great success stories.
    Then he had to reinvent himself as a tagger after he was almost shown the door, making himself public enemy No.1 with opposition teams and fans with his negating tactics, but defended staunchly by Bulldogs fans.
    ?I went through stages when Terry Wallace said (in the documentary The Year Of The Dog) ?He has had a great career, but he has had his time, move him on?, but I ended up playing another six or seven years,? Tony said.
    ?I just changed my role and became a negating type player.?
    Tony sees some unmissable parallels between his career and his son?s pathway, given both suffered serious knee injuries and had to reinvent themselves after encountering mid-career hurdles.
    ?There are a lot of similarities actually, even with the battles we had with our knees,? he said.
    Tony endured two knee reconstructions, returning one time in 1998 after only 18 weeks; Tom has always had two, with the second bringing his dad to tears in the change rooms in 2018.
    ?He?s pretty cruisy, he?s actually pretty similar to Bevo (coach Luke Beveridge),? Tom said of his dad. ?He?s quite emotional when it comes to us (his family).?
    ?After I did my second knee, he was carrying on like a pork chop. It was up in Canberra and he came into the rooms balling his eyes out. I was like ?Shut up ? just relax, it?s all good?.?
    Tony maintains that Tom is just as emotional, but keeps it hidden.
    ?Deep down inside, he is the same, but probably doesn?t show it as much on the outside as I do,? Tony said. ?You know how much the club and his teammates mean to him.?
    Libba?s second knee came just two years after the extraordinary 2016 Western Bulldogs? flag ? the club?s first since 1954 ? where Tom claimed that premiership medal that so cruelly eluded his father.
    ?I?ve been very fortunate that Tom has given me a bit of an extension of my playing days, and obviously watching the 2016 grand final was mind-blowing,? Tony said.
    ?Sometimes I stop now and just think about it. I was so happy to see them win the 2016 flag, even though I didn?t play in it, but it was great for the supporters and it was great for our family as well.?
    The challenges that followed the flag for the Bulldogs ? and for Tom ? are well documented.
    Beveridge said recently the playing group didn?t handle success well, and it took some tough years and some even tougher conversations to turn it all around again.
    Tom?s commitment to the contest never wavered, but his commitment to what he needed off the field was not as rock solid.
    ?We?ve been through a bit, where there was a bit of a crossroads,? Liberatore said when asked about the tough conversations he had with Beveridge during his career trough that followed the premiership. ?Bevo has always been honest with me. I respect everything he said and it helped me in the long run.?
    He was dropped out of the team for a period during that time, and also dropped out of the leadership group.
    He said there was no flick of the switch behind his career renaissance in recent seasons, evidenced by two seconds and two thirds in the past four Sutton Medals.
    ?I think it was just the support from family, the support from friends, and the support from the club that helped me,? he said.
    Those closest to him have little doubt that becoming a father himself ? to son Oscar ? was a catalyst.
    Asked if parenthood had changed him, Tom said: ?Definitely, it changes you. I mean it has coincided with me playing a bit better footy again. It certainly helps.?
    That change, and his deep connection to a playing group that he thinks should be contesting for a second flag after a few frustrating years has seen him return to the leadership group.
    ?It?s quite humbling, and it means a lot to be recognised by your peers and to try and help out ?Bont? (captain Marcus Bontempelli),? he said.
    ?It?s been great ? coming back and playing every week after having a few years of injury and bad form in sort of (20) 17 and (20) 18, the knee injuries and all that stuff. (It is good) to be playing consistent football and it all sort of flows on from there.?
    Tony said: ?(Tom) gets the team-first aspect more than any other player I?ve seen.?
    ?Most players when they first start out, it is all about them. But Tom got the team aspect from day one and that?s why he has been voted by his peers into the leadership group.?
    Libba couldn?t be any more different to the polished Bontempelli, but there is a mutual brotherhood between the pair.
    Insiders will tell you Bontempelli was more chuffed than Liberatore with the way the players? vote went,
    ?We?ve always been pretty close,? Tom said of his connection to the skipper. ?He was two or three years younger than me, and we have played a lot of footy together.?
    ?To be alongside him (as vice-captain) is pretty special to me. I am just grateful to get the opportunity (again) to be under his tutelage.?
    His father said: ?I went to the practice match against Hawthorn (last month) and he was the captain for the day (with Bontempelli playing in the later VFL game).
    ?Just the way he instructed and supported a kid like Ryley Sanders, telling him where to run and where to stand, and it was good to see. He cares about this team, he cares so much about the club.?
    Liberatore will be alongside Sanders when the teenager plays his first AFL match on Sunday, and he can?t wait to see how the kid fares.
    ?His (Sanders?) appetite and diligence around training has been incredible, just the way he goes about it gives the old boys a push,? he said.
    Liberatore is in the final year of his current deal.
    The Dogs will be hopeful that he has more miles left in his knees, given his impact on the team.
    He says he is managing his knees well at the moment and is driven by the chase for more success ? for his current teammates who weren?t there in 2016 as much as anything else.
    ?The main (driving) factor is getting the supporters another one (a flag), and getting these young players I play with now to do what we did,? he said.
    ?I?d love to share it with the blokes who weren?t there (in 2016). I was lucky enough to get one after six years; I?d love some of these boys to do the same.?
    His competitive nature is still strong: ?I just love trying to win and I love having a laugh with my mates at the same time.?
    That last part is in the Liberatore DNA.
    "I'll give him a hug before the first bounce and then I'll run into my pack and give them orders to rip him apart."

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  9. #6
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    Re: Tony Liberatore says son Tom is a better player than him

    Seriously. How good is the father and son rule. Love this interview. Loved Tony. Love Tom. Both legends of our footy club.

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