Well you better get used to the way the ball bounces…

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Another day of media monitoring, more to get depressed about…

  • The discomfort

Across Round 9, 2017, umpire Andrew Mitchell slammed the ball into the turf at Etihad Stadium as hard as he could, only to see the ball bounce roughly one metre into the ground. This was helpfully and cheerfully explained on “Bounce” as an occurrence caused by “re-laid” turf. During the game between Collingwood and Hawthorn, the Hawks suffered two mysterious and little discussed decisions. One when Lynden Dunn, standing on his own, punched the ball under no pressure out of bounds – no deliberate was paid, with the umpire stating “he (Dunn) was in a marking contest”).

There was also a key point in the game where a Collingwood player, returning the ball to his Hawthorn opponent, threw the ball far over his head with no 50m penalty paid. The umpire in charge muttered something about “you could have got it!” to which the commentator said “only if he was 11 ft tall!”. That’s on top of the non 50m penalty involving Jeremy Cameron going over the mark, which required an orienteering map and compass for the AFL to explain away. All part of the usual Sturm Und Drang of umpiring, debate and conversational narrative that flows into a Monday morning office discussion, other games would have their talking points, depending on what you saw (Jack Newnes for instance) – and Eleni Glouftsis struggled to bounce the football, resulting in her having to throw the ball up in the second half. On the same turf Mitchell struggled with his bounce, 24 hours before.

Only one of these things made a senior journalist “uncomfortable”…

To wit, Eleni Glouftsis was the first female field umpire in AFL/VFL history. Naturally, this instantly did two things. Firstly, it was put into the paper as a positive role model story – after all, positive stories about umpiring are few and far between, and the opportunity for a little positive PR is always taken. Glouftsis had after all earned her promotion through her form in the VFL, and the first of any gender to do something will be a positive news story. It also sparked the usual “political correctness gone mad” Twitter botherers who think the AFL is socially engineering an entire competition just to annoy them, and the era when women manned the canteen and were judged in Queens Quest competitions is harked for nostalgically. Glouftsis story was told, she went out to Etihad stadium, in classic umpiring style paid some free kicks that were questionable but technically there, and as above, struggled on the turf to bounce the ball. All fine to question her performance, as long as it was on umpiring. Able to shut out the Twitter trolls, AFL ticked off performance, done and done.

Then Ralph happened.

Jon Ralph decided that watching the game, he felt “uncomfortable” with Glouftsis performance. As Tweeted out by SEN…

“I watched Eleni, and I was uncomfortable because she didn’t umpire well, and if we were judging her like others she’d be in the VFL”

The use of the word “uncomfortable” was striking and depressing. To be very clear, Glouftsis debut – no problems with her decision making being scrutinised. If there was an obvious shocker, a truly terrible decision like, let’s say, the rushed behind paid against Michael Firrito last year, or the “not 15” calls St Kilda copped against Hawthorn last year, she should be scrutinised. That’s umpiring. But to use the word “uncomfortable” was…patronising? Is that the right word? It’s hard to put into words…it felt like “that little lady and her bad bounces, it ruined my footy!” – there hasn’t been a single umpire singled out for “uncomfortable” – not even Razor Ray at his overbearing worst was ever singled out as making anyone “uncomfortable”. It’s a word that, ironically, instantly makes this reader uncomfortable. Was Glouftsis SO bad that she made you physically uncomfortable. You must have really been squirming during some of the latter days of Darren Goldspink then. Oh…

After all, the above mentioned Andrew Mitchell paid what was described as “the worst free kick” of the year during the Adelaide vs Hawthorn game when David Mackay had a free kick paid for a push in the back on Paul Puopolo. The comparison between Mitchell and Glouftsis is worth monitoring – Mitchell has had a shoulder reconstruction, and struggles to bounce the ball as a result. It was Mitchell who bounced the ball no further than 1m off the ground as discussed above. Mitchells “shocker” was referred to with only a single mention of the umpire by name in the Herald Sun article. Ralph never specifically referred to Mitchell as making him “uncomfortable”, but for two bad bounces and a couple of 50/50 decisions ticked off by the AFL, Glouftsis was specifically named and ticked by Ralph for demotion. It was, yes, “uncomfortable”…

It’s also worth noting – Tyson Edwards was “uncomfortable” watching womens football and the tackling involved. Garry Lyon was “uncomfortable” with Erin Phillips taking her kids onto ground. Now Ralph has stated he is “uncomfortable” with the performance of a female umpire. It’s becoming a codeword, and not a particularly pleasant one…

  • Dale Simmons

Remember what I said about the strain of people, Twitter trolls and blokey blokes who always have an 1980s footy show panel idea of women in football? You could probably come up with the stereotype in your head. I’ve had conversations with them, especially being (gasp!) American as well. There’s usually a tilt of the head, some sort of joke about kitchens, babies…that’s over and above the rotation of male banter. “Lighten up love”, “just banter”, “something about political correctness”, “out of context”, “don’t understand the joke” and of course “I have great respect for women!” – it’s true that football humour is based around banter, sledging and isolation. Believe it or not, we are aware of that – not every comment is taken offence too. However, even if you are a believer in the most blokiest of sledging based humour, take a moment to stand back and appreciate the “fight against political correctness” this post has (and afterwards, be sure to tell me to “lighten up love”) – step forward Cervantes Tiger Sharks president Dale Simmons, the king of banter, fighting the good fight for good, old fashioned humour…

Mr Simmons labelled umpire Eleni Glouftsis a “dopey mole [sic]” and a “stupid bitch”, and said she would change her mind on decisions because she was female.

Do you get it! It’s a joke! She’s a dopey mole! And women are EMOTIONAL – she’ll probably need a day off each month! Ha ha! Oh lighten up love! What’s wrong with just having a LAUGH!

He has previously used Facebook to denounce the role of women in the sport, referring to female AFL players as dykes, saying the mother/daughter rule should only apply to the canteen roster, and mocking the notion of equal pay for AFL players.

Ha ha, the canteen! That’s where you belong! Selling hot dogs! Leave footy to the blokes love! Hey don’t be sad! Your lippy is looking lovely these days! Besides you’d be a dyke if you played footy! Like the rest of them lezzos! Oh come on, lighten up!

In truth, Simmons is a crass stereotype of what exists in every football club – at least once. Within every football club, there will exist thoughts that women players are all lesbians, that women should stay quiet, knit jumpers and man the canteen. Maybe sell some raffle books. Be recognised on “ladies” nights with 1/2 off white wine at the social club. We get that. It’s worth confronting, it’s worth highlighting, it’s absolutely worth condemning. There will now follow Simmons apology bingo – “he’s a great bloke”, “done wonders for a club”, “he has great respect for women”, and of course the old favourites “poor attempt at humour” and “taken out of context”. His Facebook will become private, and the footy club will “rally round” and note his doubtless years of service and time preparing the oranges or something, as if that makes it all OK.

But in truth, Simmons is obvious and easy to condemn and call out. Subtle examples of the boys club are harder to monitor, for they can pass without mention. And one really, really did…

  • Dermott

Part of my job in PR is media monitoring – I do this as an extension of my job this blog, but I did miss one particularly troubling incident. And I’m kind of interested in why some things stick, and some things don’t. Dermott Brereton back in April, questioning AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan on the womens league. Brereton asked Mclachlan openly on air “Is there grooming in the AFL Womens League” – and to be honest, as far as something making me “uncomfortable”, the audio of Brereton digging into the big bag of womens sporting stereotypes and asking a question at random about grooming?

“In that area, I have heard of – and I hope it is not true – but I have heard of situations within that women’s league of grooming. Has that come to your desk? Have you heard about it?”

This wasn’t a joke, a parody, it wasn’t presented with examples or evidence, live on a radio station. Like Simmons, it came from the depths of a 1980s footy club rumour mill or footy panel pre Grand Final lunch 1986. This was a question asked straight faced, based on “three sources” asking Dermott about it. Because if this was an issue, I wouldn’t go to the police, I’d go straight to Dermott. Presumably after tipping off Greg Dear and Gary Ayres? And above all else, grooming? So the older players are playing to lure younger players to their evil lesbian ways?

Weirdly, this is a barely known happening – this really horrible, accusatory question was asked without foundation or substance. Gil answered it, but didn’t follow up or question the hell he was on about? The AFLW didn’t condemn the question – the media didn’t report it in the mainstream? For all the stereotypes involved, it’s deeply disturbing, dipping into the worst of “lesbian predator footballer” stories that are whispered in footy clubs manned by, yes, Dale Simmons. It’s a truly ugly question…

Maybe it was just too uncomfortable to call him out on it mainstream media. There’s that word again…

 

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2 thoughts on “Well you better get used to the way the ball bounces…”

  1. A week or two later on the same SEN show, Dermott admitted that he hadn’t watched a minute of the AFLW. I just can’t countenance the idea that he could then have such proper ‘information’ to go with that in public.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I didn’t know that, I was staggered such an accusation was made so casually, like 3 people with that information went to Dermott and not the police? It’s ridiculous…I’m pretty staggered as well this didn’t go mainstream. It’s such an ugly comment…like an ugly stereotype based guess

      Like

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