Ablett is unhappy. Is Shaun Hampson happy?

An essential exploration of Shaun Hampson’s happiness.

Gary Ablett Jnr wants to go home. News broke earlier this week that he had requested a trade away from the Gold Coast this off-season. It was confounding. Is it money? Ablett is well-paid, one of four footballers to earn a million dollars per season. Is it regret? Ablett has defended his move to the Suns on multiple occasions. Is it legacy? Ablett has won two Brownlow medals, two premierships. Ablett is in the conversation as possibly the best player ever. Yet somehow, Gary Ablett Jnr is not happy.

Which logically leads us to the next question: Is Shaun Hampson happy?

Shaun Hampson grew up in Queensland. He has always played poor-average football for poor-average teams in Victoria. He is not football-famous, but mildly famous-famous because his partner is a supermodel. Fundamentally, he is the opposite of Gary Ablett Jnr. But is he happy?

Answering the question is (a) to understand Shaun Hampson, and (b) to understand happiness. Admittedly, I have a tenuous grasp on both, but I don’t see anyone else doing existential think pieces on Shaun Hampson.

The psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1953) looks something like this:

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s idea is that humans are driven by needs. Once we fulfill certain basic needs, we are motivated to fulfill higher needs. We fulfill those, we move up the pyramid, on and on until we achieve self-actualisation. Once I reach self-actualisation, I will be a football writer who covers Gary Ablett Jnr, not Shaun Hampson.

Physiological (Food, water, shelter, rest)

We will assume that Shaun Hampson has access to food, water and shelter. A cursory Google image search reveals that Shaun Hampson also owns clothes, which is another need met.

He is 201cm, 102kg with a handspan of 25cm. A junior swimmer and soccer player, Hampson had not seriously considered AFL until he was sixteen years old. Within a year of picking up the sport, Hampson was the starting ruckman for his local football club. Within two, he was a professional footballer — picked 17th in the 2006 AFL draft, the second best ruckman in his class. If anything, Shaun Hampson is a physiological marvel. He goes to the next level.

Safety (Security, safety)

Shaun Hampson is Richmond’s number one ruck. Which is like saying your dad is your number one dad. Which is like saying Delta Goodrem is your number one uncontroversial white woman. (Nando level: Lemon & Herb.)

Shaun Hampson is by no means the best ruck in the game. He does have his core skills locked down. Hampson produces impressive tapwork on the back of athletic prowess alone, averaging 32.6 hitouts a game in 2016, a top-five player in this regard. Whether these taps translate into meaningful play is debatable. His work around the ground is less than stellar, averaging 7.9 disposals/2.5 marks/0.2 goals a game. I was surprised to learn he has had Brownlow votes (three, all in 2012), because Shaun Hampson is the equivalent of a 102kg tennis ball feeder.

At Richmond, that still puts him ahead of Ivan Maric, a more dynamic but broken player rolling towards retirement. Richmond has recently acquired young Toby Nankervis from the Sydney Swans, which should make things a little bit spicy (Nando level: mild). But as it stands, Shaun Hampson is Richmond’s alpha ruck, recently signing a two-year extension. His job is safe.

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Love (Intimate relationships)

Megan Gale is a very good-looking woman. (I know.) Shaun Hampson should be happy because — have you seen his missus? She’s a fucking supermodel! (Sure.) That body! (Yup.) He probably gets to touch it! (Ok.)

Predicting Shaun Hampson’s happiness based on Megan Gale’s body is meaningless. I once dated a girl who works in media. She wielded an exceedingly good body. On the first date, unprompted, she told me about a sexual encounter with a colleague (good). On the second date, she requested the next date be at my place (great). There was no third date, because she never showed up (what). Alfa Romeos are beautiful cars, but not all Alfas are daily drivers.

So we don’t know. By all accounts Shaun Hampson is in a committed relationship with a successful woman. They have a child. He seems happy.

Esteem (Prestige and accomplishment)

This is tricky. Richmond haven’t won a final since 2001. Shaun Hampson will probably retire without a premiership, a Brownlow or a Coleman. He has yet to receive a top-ten finish in a best-and-fairest. He likely won’t. In that way, he has not had a prestigious career. Somehow, I don’t think this disappoints Shaun Hampson.

Despite a wholly one-dimensional approach to his game, Shaun Hampson has demonstrated tremendous tenacity. His game has survived ten seasons of AFL football and several reinventions of the ruckman. Hampson has accomplished what most players haven’t. He will play his 100th game of AFL football next year, a total that puts him ahead of sixty percent of all players drafted since 1995.

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Self-actualisation (Realising personal potential)

Is Shaun Hampson living his best life? Making a case for Hampson is like making a case for elite mediocrity. Can you be very good at well, not being very good? If so, is Hampson one of the best at it?

In 2013, it was reported that Hampson signed for $250,000 a year, roughly the average wage at the time. Assuming his latest extension isn’t dramatically different, it makes him one of the more affordable starting ruckmen in the AFL, in a time where no-one really knows what to do with rucks anyway. Re-classifying Hampson, not as a ruck-forward, but as a reliable, inexpensive hitout machine is probably a truer reflection of his value. Role-players like Hampson on short-term contracts allow Richmond to chase bigger, shinier players like Josh Caddy and Dion Prestia.

Shaun Hampson will play out his career in a role where he can perform consistently, for a team that knows and appreciates his value. When he’s done, he will almost certainly be remembered fondly. In those circumstances, anyone can feel fulfilled.