Tough ask for DockersConnolly’s live blog, Monday noon
We’ve heard a lot about integrity in football these past seven months, and the Essendon drugs saga and its attendant fallout certainly had the potential to challenge a principle that should go without saying.
But it would be nice to think that those running the game make a habit of practising what they preach. That their own integrity would be beyond reproach, so that cynical questions about just why decisions are made could be avoided.
That’s a rod the AFL has made for its own back in recent years with its preparedness to wheel and deal and drive agendas in the name of expedience. And a perception it continues to foster with arrogant, heavy-handed and fly-by-night administration, particularly over the past few days.
I don’t have an issue with clubs that finish high enough on the ladder hosting finals on their home grounds. But I have a big issue with the lack of transparency and notice that was evident in the decision to allow Geelong to play Fremantle at Simonds Stadium on Saturday.
Football clubs and their supporters, until last Thursday, were under the impression the only appropriate venues for finals were the MCG and Etihad Stadium. Even then, once AFL general manager of scheduling Simon Lethlean publicly floated the idea of a Geelong home final, it seemed far-fetched. Geelong chief executive Brian Cook still seemed to think so that evening.
By Friday, as is becoming a habit, AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou was beginning to condition the sceptics to the idea. And by Saturday, it was official. Four finals in Melbourne had been a distinct possibility for at least the past two months. Could there not have been a little more warning?
As a consequence, people are going to ask whether the basis for such a decision is simply extra revenue as a result of a Simonds rather than Etihad final.
Of course, the Dockers are going to be angry about a decision that will have a significant impact on their premiership hopes sprung on them at the last minute.
And, of course, they’re going to be dismissive of the response that a Cats-Dockers final at Etihad would attract no more than 30,000 people when their elimination final at the MCG last year drew over 44,000.
Demetriou the same day admitted he was ”troubled” by Fremantle’s decision to rest half its best side for its last game against St Kilda, and the AFL was looking at legislation to avoid a repeat.
But it’s had just on three years already to do that, since the Dockers did exactly the same thing against Hawthorn in the second-last round of 2010. Actually, four years, if you recall St Kilda resting nine players, also in Tasmania against the Hawks, a game the Saints still managed to win. What is the AFL doing, exactly. Waiting for a fourth occasion?
Now to a couple of issues that will be dismissed as relatively insignificant, but shouldn’t be. Alternative strips have been part of the AFL scene for at least 15 years. So why do we still suffer the sort of comic misjudgments that end up having clash jumpers exacerbate a problem they’re supposed to solve? And Saturday produced the worst example yet.
Once Port Adelaide had arranged to wear its traditional SANFL jumper, how on earth could Carlton have been allowed to wear its away strip? The two guernseys, with predominantly white backs, were almost identical from behind? Someone has to tick off weekly on these matters. How is it possible to cock up something so spectacularly?
Perhaps, though, the most galling incident of the weekend came at the MCG on Saturday night, when a middle-aged woman was harassed, humiliated, and eventually stripped of a small token protest about the handling of the Essendon drugs episode.
Her small cardboard sign read: ”AFL can take whatever it wants, but it can’t take our passion.” Unbelievably, two MCG security staff demanded she remove it.
After being rightly howled down each time they attempted to confiscate the sign, police, even more incredibly, were called in. Spectators nearby were told by security staff that the instruction to get rid of the sign came from the AFL.
For a brief moment, the MCG might have been Lenin Stadium in the mid-1960s.
What an appalling look for an organisation that increasingly comes across to its public as dismissive, uncaring and wallowing in its wealth and power. The dictionary definition of integrity reads: ”adherence to moral and ethical principles”. Far too often lately, the AFL’s own definition seems to have a sub-clause which reads: ”when it suits us”.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.