A hypocrites guide to the line

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It started with a sledge.

Yes, St Kilda vs Carlton officially became #sledgegate, a series of sledges, they said mean things about my wife, he screamed in the face of an injured player. He rehashed an old Twitter rumour, he might have spat in his face if you squint from one of Fox Footys awkwardly placed cameras. And he walked off in a foul mood, and they won the game. The quintessential football afternoon – winners, losers, grunt, aggression, sore throats, hurt feelings. And by Australian lore, that’s the end of it. Players code, blokey blokes, “stays on the field”. One day we’ll look back and laugh, perhaps over a few “froffies” – maybe a chapter in Trevor Marmalades “Funny Blokes and Funny Lines” with a foreword from Eddie McGuire and drawings from Andrew Fyfe…hey, did you hear when he said “…she gives me a biscuit”…

Except, of course, that it wasn’t. Societal change has come over football. I mean, not actual societal change, not genuine respect or tolerance, not respect enough where the womens footballers of St Kilda get to train on the ground before a game or Sarah Perkins isn’t broke at the end of a footy season. Not enough to have the womens footballers be allowed at the desk on AFL 360 instead of standing awkwardly at the side like camera crew. Not enough to give a women a position of real relevance within the game and not enough to stop deriding Caroline Wilson under every Youtube comment for her looks. Oh no, not THAT kind of change. But the best kind of change – high minded morality that doesn’t involve DOING anything. Sledging an injured, motionless player? Maybe spitting on him? Nah, that’s fine, fuck that guy, he’s only Jake Carlisle!

Sledging is ugly, it’s neanderthal, but it’s condoned, encouraged, coddled into the DNA of the game. Except when it isn’t – when it crosses a line, and people who don’t REALLY care get to play the morality game. The kind of commentary that laughs off camera at Mel McLaughlin but on camera tuts and clucks. You know, THOSE kind of carers. The kind that decide St Kilda hate women, but don’t have a strong opinion on Justin Murphy attacking his partner with a blowtorch. And this isn’t a blog post about sledging, it’s a post about them…

Over the course of one swift, unbelievable whitewash, Marc Murphy screaming in the face of an injured player never happened. No spitting. No problematic incident there. St Kilda were the aggressors, the agitators, the blackest of black hats. Oh how they reached, they clawed, they clamoured to their soapboxes. By weeks end Jon Ralph had somehow managed to tie the whole incident unbelievably into St Kildas gay rights advocacy (advocacy which was just honoured, in a story not coming to a Herald Sun near you). SEN footy, the SEN that gives Garry Lyon a pay cheque, decided St Kilda hated women. Wayne Carey (more on that later) got to comment on women, Carlton, the club that gave us Josh Bootsma, Heath Culpitt, Justin Murphy and Nick Stevens, took the moral high ground. After all, it’s JUST St Kilda…

And this is how we got here

The transition

If there is a lesson to be learned from this week, broadly, it’s that old footballers becoming patron saints of morality becomes a problematic, gaudy exercise, and that this week officially (if you didn’t know) marked the end of news as a viable commodity in the AFL. Old footballers are seen as the best purveyors and analysts of the game – those who have “been in the field” are best at describing it. Well, not really. The superlative Emma Quayle for instance can describe drafting, player recruitment and the journey of young players with amazing clarity. Yet on draft night, Fox Footy don’t call on her, they call on the Johnnos, the Lynchys, the Vossys – the old boys. Those who know the game. Those in the field…it’s always struck me as problematic that footballers get to the head of the analysis chain. Melbourne in particular, being a footballer opens doors. Money, power, prestige, access to a microphone. They just hope you don’t think too hard about who’s doing the talking…

Dealing with the former first, Paul Roos was the first to exclude Carlton from the story, “slamming” St Kilda in an article that began the process of “Murphy good, St Kilda bad” narration that dominated the week. Roos began the process of taking a news story and reshaping it, coming up with a story that had no basis in factual merit. Only one person sledged? Only one club attacked? Oh well, Roosy said it! Good old Roosy! Good old Roosy who appears on a League Team promo as the Ultimate cleanskin! That Roosy – however, even with Paul Roos, we run headlong into the hypocrisy. After all, Roos once ran onto the field in an underage game in 2011, and, quote – ” They paint a picture of a bloke who was ranting and raving at the 15-year-old boys and trainers before he was red-carded by an 18-year-old umpire” – that’s the problem with old footballers. They are so embedded in the “line”, “the players code”, that put them into any situation that involves morality, they lose credibility. We’ll get to the ultimate example in a moment, but unchallenged, regardless of their past, old footballers get to set tone, agenda, listened to in awe by acolytes. It’s Roosy! “Here it is!” – no one challenges, no one questions, no one asks questions…

To take a random show – let’s say On The Couch – shows this weird duality that old footballers live in. Jonathan Brown? A fiercely proud, loud competitor who ran out with Michael Voss, Aker, The Scotts bumping injured players shoulders. Personal sledges? Let Pikey, Vossy, and the lads loose, no limits. Put Ryan Lonie on the “most courageous player” ballot when, spoiler, he wasn’t? Brilliant, get us a pot while you are up there Pikey! David King? A swaggering, overbearing presence in the Melbourne nightclub scene, running on to the ground with “The King”, giving everyone lip, now reborn and purveyor of fuzzy stats and questionable logic (hello Jade Gresham). Jason Dunstall? A taciturn, quiet man, sure, not prone to sledging, but he sat in on the team meeting where it was decided, team rules, that Chris Lewis would be targeted by Hawthorn – racially, physically, nothing off limits. Sure, claim “different era”, societal change as Garry Lyon does (more on him later), but in their hearts, they would still do it. Player code, drink cards, “boys being boys”, sledging to win? For a Premiership?

Actually, to shift tack a little bit, Dunstall is interesting. Dunstalls most popular segment on The Bounce after all is faux anger over dribble kicks, during which he calls players who miss with a dribble kick shot at goal “tools”, “snapperheads” and “flogs”, before promising repeat offenders they’ll be drummed out of the game. This sometimes leads to a throw straight to Danny “Spud” Frawley, the man who on Triple M once proudly boasted “we invented getting personal on Triple M!”, to host a segment once called Coach Killers, now Don’t Come Mondays. As it implies, it shows the biggest blunders of the week. Now, consider this – suppose a player doesn’t play along. Suppose unlike “DCM” captains Jack Fitzpatrick and Joey Montagna they don’t turn up to laugh at themselves, or a dribble kicker takes to Twitter to snap back. What happens then? If AFL has a Javale McGee to it’s Shaquille O Neal? Where does the media sit then? A player depressed, on the edge of being dropped, after all, is by definition vulnerable. Suppose they feel bullied, that the attacks are personal? Will the Browny/Kingy/Lakey purveyors of fun listen, or tell the player to pull their head in. This is not to suggest a sense of humour bypass, nor judge the morality or levels of sledge, but to show how quickly the game can change. Do you REALLY think Triple M thought their Caroline Wilson skit was any different to 200 skits before? The humour of football, the humour of the sledge, the “we all cop it brotherhood” – it makes at best the line very fuzzy, and certain people unqualified to judge it…it’s a code that makes no sense to outsiders…

In the brief, fleeting moments when “The Sounding Board” podcast threatened to be interesting, before it disappeared up its own ass, Craig Hutchison, in a strangely honest moment, laid the game out. There’s no money in news. The masquerade that journalism exists? Forget it, it’s gone. Hutchison spelled the game out – opinion is where the money is. The pretence of “#1 news breaker in the game!” or Anthony Hudson crossing to Jon Ralph for “all the news” is shot. No journalism exists, not as you knew it. What’s left is a race to the Mark Robinson chair on 360 – opinion shapers. Agenda pushers. No story written without comment, no reader trusted to make their own judgement. It’s why Jon Ralph “covering the news” gives his opinion on how long a player will be suspended for. It’s why Mark Robinson gets an interview with the St Kilda president then spends the second half of the interview writing free prose on his own opinions. It’s why an entire Channel 9 show (Footy Classified) seems to physically loathe games of football. Breaking stories doesn’t matter, journalism doesn’t matter. Break the story about the Wildcard round? Who cares? Have 500 words on how rubbish it is? Brilliant…as long as Peter Fitzsimons can make a career out painting a world in black or white depending on who bought him a coffee, or Patrick Smith and Caro can fight to see who is really angrier, that’s all that matters.

Ralph had already moved on to wondering on Twitter “what would happen if Ump Eleni gets sledged? On with KB at 10” – not even news, not even opinion on the news, but opinion on the news that hadn’t happened yet. It’s an insane genius…

Interestingly, Ralph, Robinson and others collect a cheque from Fox Footy and the Herald Sun, the family of Murdochian media, the isolator of individuals, the most personal of attackers. You can select your own definition of irony that someone cashing a Murdoch cheque is judging who hates women and who doesn’t. I digress. The point is, as a series of Ralphs, and Robinsons and Kingys and McClures and Hutchys got dissecting the “story”, you were left wondering – who can I turn to that isn’t a hypocrite or a faux journalist? Who’s going to just give me…news? Stories?

I know where you wouldn’t go…

The “MMMs”

Let’s be honest – Damien Barrett and Garry Lyon have seen better days. If you want to really bed down on the demise of news and the hypocrisy of old footballers, you get straight to the Triple M alumni of old…

The former traded in any pretence of journalism a while ago. Maybe around the time he wore a Gilligan outfit on the Footy Show. Or the time his big newsbreaking story of 2016 was a personal and constant barrage of innuendo and rumour about Tom Rockliff. It could have been when he took a seat up the back of the Triple M bus, giggling as Danny Frawley and James Brayshaw attacked a rival journalist or program. Or was it when he began palling around with players, letting Bernie Vince ruffle his hair and steal his glasses on an end of season trip? It was certainly long gone by the time he decided at random Sean Dempster retired because he was miffed about being dropped, not because of concussions, then clung barnacle like to the story long after its discredit. Or was it in the last 24 hours when a story about Ben Cousins was again proven to be wrong? In truth, mocking Barrett is easy, but he’s made the transition, the curve – news? Who wants to break news? You want to have influence, power, shape opinion, have your voice heard. News? That gets swamped, other people clamouring to take credit? Become “Purple” young man, swallow a fly on the boundary line, sit up the back of a private jet with Wayne Schwass…that’s the life.

The latter? In Lyons glory days, he was the swaggering sherriff. Backed by his acolytes and his gang and his #wolfpack, no one was off limits. He got to belittle, berate, control. Anyone who challenged the humour of Triple M was given a serve. Footy Classified, the most moralistic, and yet “modern” of football shows, a football show that rarely talked football, that got rid of Glen Archer because he wasn’t controversial enough, was another of Lyons domains. And then there was the blokes playpen that was the Footy Show, a show that flirted with progression from time to time (Shane Crawfords run for instance) only to start each show showing a good looking woman in the audience for Sam to notice and approve of, or drag out a mannequin for a blokey laugh. Lyons glory days promoted a competitive, sledging first atmosphere. Alpha Males, strong opinions, ratings success bullying prettied up as entertainment….

And then? Well, you know…Caroline Wilson, depression, “cut from the herd”, don’t touch another mans wallet, breakfast ratings low…you know…

Barrett and Lyon have seen better days, but they have one competitive advantage – they are first. Not first with news, or anything that matters, or anything worth listening to. Just first. The earliest of the parade of agenda shapers. Their only rival, Mark Robinsons “The Tackle” is hidden behind a paywall, and by the time it gets into print, well, no one reads newspapers anyway. By getting their “Access All Areas” on to the AFL website first and early on a Monday, Barrett and Lyon can relive their glory days, setting agendas, settling scores and joshing around like the good old days, “Nice work from you Damo” “Thanks Garry”. Barrett even upped the ante, getting a quick pre lunch column out two hours before Roos got to shape the narrative. In fairness to Barrett, there was at least a slight reference to Marc Murphy doing something wrong, but it did contain, even for him, a jaw dropping sentence…

“No other professional workplace in the world would tolerate the rubbish which too regularly spews from the mouths of footballers.”

There was a professional workplace in the world that tolerated that “rubbish” – encouraged it. Nurtured it. Prided itself on it. Stated openly they invented getting personal, sledging, abusing. It was Austereo, the home of Triple M. The station Damien Barrett was once allowed to say of Mark Robinson “at least unlike him I can lie straight in bed”, that chortled fatly at defectors, that offered to drown Caro…that hired and redeemed Wayne Carey…

“The King”

Ah, Wayne Carey. Where do you begin? Let’s keep it simple, with a sentence from an article on AFL.com.au

“Past greats including Wayne Carey said the sledging code was simple: if it’s personal, it’s wrong.”

This was the point where everything went surreal. Normally, I hate mis-use of the word “surreal”, but look at that sentence. Think of everything that’s wrong with it. That someone wrote it down, or taped the quote. That it was put onto the website. That not a single person questioned it. Not one. It passed without comment. Wayne Carey. WAYNE CAREY – he got to announce something was wrong. Got to decide “the line”. Got to say to you, out there, this is our code, and I’m telling you what’s wrong.

Wayne Carey who told a woman once “get bigger tits” after grabbing her

That told Andrew Denton when he apologized to that women he wasn’t sincere

That slept with his team-mates wife (gasp! The footy code!)

That had Sam Newman support him by saying Kelli Stevens wasn’t particularly good looking

That has books, legends, footy nights built around his personal sledges

That broke a wine glass in his fiancees face

That told depression sufferer Nathan Thompson on TV to “neck himself”…

Tom Lehrer once said satire died when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize. For me, it’s when Wayne Carey said “if it’s personal, it’s wrong”…

“St Kilda vs everyone”

So where does that leave us?

St Kilda don’t matter, that much we know. The media told you that this week. No matter how hard we work, no matter how hard we try, it’ll never change. It’ll always be Saints Disco, and midgets, and now this. The hypocrisy is enraging. “We don’t deserve a womens team” now – the Bulldogs had a womens team despite Will Minsons personal sledges. The Brisbane Lions got one in spite of Tom “she was a 3 out of 10” Rockliff. West Coast are in the mix despite Daniel Kerr, North Melbourne despite Carey and Boris The Chicken. St Kilda fans are outraged this week at the lies, hypocrisy, double standards, double dealings and mis-reporting that has come out this week. It’s left us in a St Kilda vs the world mood, energised, but defiantly anti media…

But in general, there’s nothing left to achieve. Turn to old footballers clogging up the airwaves, and they bring agenda, baggage…turn to “journalists” and they climb over themselves for some of that sweet, sweet Skip Bayless “say anything” money…and they’ll come for your club too…they’ll find angles, motives, your turn will come. You think it’s just “silly old St Kilda, you’ve got wooden spoons LOLZ” – just wait, the game changed this week. Fundamentally changed. A story was totally mis-reported, 1/2 reported, twisted and contorted by people who shouldn’t have the authority to do so, and if you don’t get what that means, you’ll find out soon. As for St Kilda fans, we were fed into the content machine – contribute and reply, you give them what they want. Ignore them, and your club is left to be whacked with unfounded reaches and stretches from hypocrites. We’ve chosen to nurse our wrath to keep it warm. The most important thing that happened though this week? You saw through it, and you realised journalism in this town, it’s all done…

It really is over. It was the week old media truly died…

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30 thoughts on “A hypocrites guide to the line”

    1. Cheers for the comment – frustration is the key word. It got so out of hand, and so over the top, it was ridiculous. Journalism is officially dead mate, no stories will be factual ever again, just a race to the opinion! #fakenews is definitely appropriate…

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    1. Wouldn’t surprise me at all, we’re an easy target at the Saints, it’s easy to deflect and distract when we’re involved…had to stand up a bit for a club, as well did this week.

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  1. Awesome piece. Too sad that so many sheeple would dismiss this as biased support for one club and not realise its true premise. Thanks

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    1. Thanks heaps mate, been mostly positive feedback, but yeah, a few “oh this is just for St Kilda fans!” – I think the loss of journalism as we knew it, it’s worth everyone keeping an eye on…every club

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  2. You articulated all my gasping ‘I can’t believe I’m hearing/reading this’ rage so very eloquently and completely. Thank you, I’m so glad somebody took the time to thoroughly call out these pathetic excuses for journalists and their faux moral outrage for what it is. Great work.

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    1. Thanks mate, I appreciate it a lot – I’ve learned a lot just from writing it! Appreciate the comment – I don’t know that journalism even exists anymore. Everything is opinion, over-reaction and narrative. Has to be challenged, but I’m heartened they really got called out this week and questioned.

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  3. Great read – the problem is that it will be dismissed as ‘just another St Kilda supporter sprouting their defeatist agenda’. I do not think that we are keeping our wrath warm, I think that we are privately seething, but publicly accepting of the situation – think a puppy that has had his nose whacked once too often – see “Whispers in the Sky”, Siren-gate, Schneider Clapping the umps” If we stood up for the blatant libel of Stephen Milne by Malthouse we would have been reamed again, if we arced up about the Geelong hit the post etc we would have been reamed – being a St Kilda supporter means supplying your own Vaseline! Look back at history, has any club had so many “unlucky” events happen to them in their history, and not had the right to dispute them [but yet rules get changed AFTER the lightening has struck]. This goes beyond journalism – this goes to the heart of the AFL – we are the poorer cousins and the more we take, the more that individuals and organisations feel that they can give out. If indeed St Kilda sledged Marc Murphy about a situation that has been bubbling under the surface for 18 months, then surely we were not the first, but it appears that we were the first that Marc lost his cool over, and heaven forbid that Caarrlton’s captain could be at fault for spitting at / sledging a player that had been hit / kicked / kneed in the most tender of places. Oh well – another year as a St Kilda supporter – another year looking to the sky saying why us – another year of being the AFL’s whipping boy – at least if we were Richmond the pain inflicted would be of our own doing.

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    1. I think that’s one thing that I’ve been heartened by re: the media part of this post, I think most people have been supportive, they recognise THAT part of it is happening to all clubs. You get caught up in the “narrative” and you can’t get out. The media openly has an agenda (ie Barrett vs Rockliff). I think even they realise we’re on to them. It won’t change anything, but you can see “journalism” is dead, quite openly. I think a lot of us that support the Saints took this as the last straw, and we’ve pledged as a group to keep on them and call out their lies. Our media and PR department is much better than before, if, alas, not as connected as “Eddies media squad” – but as a fanbase, I was so heartened that we’ve kept on them this week. Line in the sand this week, time for a fightback.

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  4. Well written expressed my frustration on this issue perfectly. I am still annoyed on the inaccurate media treatment and reporting on Stephen Milne and the so called StKilda school girl incidents. Saints appear to be an easy target for the media garbage.

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    1. It is definitely something for all clubs to be aware of that you might find yourself on the wrong end of the media narrative, but there’s definitely a “whipping boys” element to St Kilda. Saints disco, the hounding of Plugger in the day, Hutchison naming Kosi wrongly, the way the Malthouse/Milne clash was swept under the carpet – we know them all by now. I get so frustrated SEN Footy get to say “Oh St Kilda hate women!” – I mean, that can’t go unchallenged, it’s an absolute lie! That’s the kind of thing I had to get off my chest. There’s elements that are broad to this (media shifting to opinion) and bits that just our experiences as a club and fanbase…

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  5. Brilliant read. Succinct. Love it. I want this to be read by all footy supporters, not just Sainters.
    The media feeds us bullshit and tripe. I don’t eat tripe and I certainly don’t eat bullshit. Thank you

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    1. Thanks mate, appreciate it a lot. Bullshit is right. It’s become trolling, like us against them. It’s nonsensical – if you aren’t writing clickbait, you don’t have a career! When did that happen, and when did people settle for it? Depressing…

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  6. Excellent piece. One reason that media is dead is journalists started making the news about them, words being exchanged by the likes of Barrett, Robinson and Wilson etc on why the others and no good. People don’t care about the journos having a go at each other, they want to know whats happening in football. When there are this many journalists reporting on one sport, news has to be invented to justify their own jobs, slow news week…invent a storm in a tea cup. Also, the topic of the sledge is not mentioned here once, is that a bigger issue? And if what was alleged in said sledge is true does that make it less wrong?

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    1. That’s a very good point – I didn’t get to the fact that journalism wars are now part of our daily diet of “news” – I think at one point there was an accredited journalist per every two players? You are right, slow news day CAN’T exist…people sitting around, thinking of agendas. Interesting. The sledge itself, that’s interesting too – I wouldn’t have minded if the story was reported accurately. People have mis-construed this as a blind defence of St Kilda – if someone accurately told me “they said this, Marc Murphy said that” – fine, but the story ended up in agenda land. THAT is what I find objectionable, making a story one sided. That always needs to be called out.

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  7. Shocker. St Kilda do have a problem with disrespecting women and this piece is just an attempt to deflect. Hard enough to explain what happened and what St Kilda were saying to Murphy to my daughter, now people are making up parallel stories where St Kilda are the victims… Spare me

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    1. Actually, nothing of the sort – St Kilda are very socially progressive when it comes to women, of all the clubs in the AFL, no one has worked harder without credit to change their image. I can assure you there isn’t a football club in the AFL that is a respecting women clean skin. This blog post was about what happens when your club gets to be the villain in a narrative construct. Media wakes up the other way, Marc Murphy is the villain. There’s no “story”, just agenda. Whoever you support, there will be a day when you get the same.

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  8. Magnificent piece Becca Hay. Love your work. This is nothing to do about attempting to deflect blame from our own players’ conduct, and everything about how the broader, real issues got lost in a totally self serving media pile on. Happy to have a sledging “inquiry”, happy to have our players scrutinised even further in an appropriate forum; just don’t tell me it starts and stops with the Saints in Round 8 2017.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, 100% this, a fair, balanced story with facts would be fine – but as soon as Paul Roos changed things with his pile on, any notion of Marc Murphy spitting or sledging was lost. It was the one sided story that is being mentioned here. It was my club (our club) yes I defended here, but you’d be naive to think it couldn’t be your club next (if you aren’t a Saints fan) – it’s a toss of a coin who the “villain” is in any story, a media guess as to what sells papers.

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