Only two weeks ago the Melbourne AFL club was immersed by an atmosphere of dignity and respect. Jim Stynes, the greatest hero of a club that has produced some of the game’s finest, had died after a long illness and the football fraternity was seen at its best, honouring a champion player and outstanding humanitarian.
A week later at his funeral, Stynes was farewelled with heartfelt reverence, affection and good humour.
Another week on, and all of those worthy emotions have been shoved aside by disgraceful, attention-seeking nonsense from a corporate executive, an AFL official who has behaved appallingly, the desire of a former coach to peddle scuttlebutt and someone else whose identity the league is protecting.
Melbourne, a club that’s been around almost as long as Victoria itself, is in the middle of possibly the most unfortunate mess to descend on it in decades.
And the club itself isn’t to blame for any of it.
The unhappy situation Melbourne is in began with a report by an unnamed person to the AFL’s curiously-titled Community Engagement Manager Jason Mifsud that Melbourne coach Mark Neeld had perpetrated a racial slur against his indigenous players.
Mifsud won’t reveal who told him, but says his informant is now denying Neeld did anything wrong.
In the meantime, Mifsud told his friend, the former St Kilda coach and TV commentator Grant Thomas, of Neeld’s alleged slur.
Thomas included the uncorroborated, and subsequently denied, information on an internet blog, in doing so maligning Neeld and severely embarrassing the club.
On the same day that the club dealt as best it could with that issue came the revelation that Ben Polis, the CEO of Melbourne’s major sponsor EnergyWatch, had posted several outrageous and explicit racial and social slurs on his Facebook page.
He says the posts were merely jokes between friends.
Polis’s “what could possibly go wrong” mentality typical of egotists who need to express their every thought on social media, has put a large hole in the budget of a struggling football club.
It has also interrupted the reminiscing of so many Melbourne Football Club people who would surely prefer to still be talking about Stynes.