St Kilda’s Mad Monday just bad for everyone

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Clinton Jones of the Saints and Jaeger O'Meara of the Suns in action during the 2013 AFL Round 22 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Gold Coast Suns at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on August 25, 2013. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media) Date: 2013-08-25 13:49:49 Clinton Jones of the Saints and Jaeger O'Meara of the Suns. Photo: Michael Willson

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No, this wasn’t a gag from the latest Hangover movie. This was real life. A dwarf set on fire by a professional footballer. Read it and giggle.

Come on, you know you want to. It’s funny. It’s a little guy! Right?

Surely this was something resembling the train of thought – if there was one at all – chugging along inside the head of St Kilda’s Clinton Jones, when he strolled straight into the top two of the Stupidest Mad Monday Acts of All Time countdown.

Nothing, not even this, will beat Joel Monaghan’s decision to invite upon himself a canine’s interpretation of fellatio. But gee, it comes close.

AFL supremo Andrew Demetriou had to be told twice that this incident was legit – that a dwarf entertainer did indeed have his clothes ignited at a Mad Monday celebration held by St Kilda players.

Even he had to bow to the hilarity of it all on Talking Footy, going into an uncontrollable giggle fit when Luke Darcy put the matter to him.

I guess if you enter the dwarf entertainment industry, at some level you accept everything you do is going to be considered hilarious by cavemen on a bender.

This understanding, however, does not include having your clothes set on fire by a bloke who was apparently trying to do it to his mates all day.

I remember a mate of mine was doing that at a gathering one time at uni. He was a dickhead. Jones was a dickhead on Monday.

Throw in the fact not only was he successful, but his target was a dwarf, and it would probably pass as a cheap joke in The Hangover. You can imagine it. Funny in a movie, a little bit.

But yeah, this is real life. A guy actually did this reprehensible thing. The CEO of the competition he plays in actually laughed out loud when he was told about it on live TV. And his club only fined him $3000.

Let’s stop there for a second. $3000. OK, there’s not exactly any case law that can determine an appropriate fine for a footballer who has taken a stove gas lighter to a dwarf’s costume.

He’s not about to get sacked or suspended. And it’s hard to conceive him being dragged in front of the AFL Commission to answer to the now-infamous rule 1.6.

But at the same time, it’s also hard to deny he hasn’t brought the game into disrepute. At least, the word ‘disrepute’ seems like a pretty liberal definition these days.

This was wet lettuce leaf stuff. In the statement released by St Kilda, the incident was ludicrously described as “inadvertent”.

Perhaps Jones was walking back after lighting the barbecue and tripped, fell, slipped and poor Blake Johnston was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“As a playing group we were engaged in end of season activities which in hindsight were quite childish. I made an error of judgement in including Mr Johnston in the activity,” he said.

You don’t say.

“I am embarrassed if this has caused angst and certainly had no intention to cause any harm to anyone, including the St Kilda Football Club and its members.”

Or, you know, Mr Johnston himself. Or Mr Big, which is the name he performs under.

But I digress. This was simply a dickhead act by a player we can now comfortably label a ‘dickhead’, on a day when dickhead behaviour is implicitly encouraged.

Dickheads are not exclusive to the AFL. There are dickheads everywhere. We’ve all been there from time to time.

I could regale you with countless tales from uni that would make Clinton Jones look like Mother Teresa. It happens.

There was even one student body-sanctioned event I did not attend – only because I was underage – that had dwarf waiters dressed as Oompa Loompas.

Young people are dickheads. Add alcohol and a desire to let loose after a long stretch at work and they become even bigger dickheads.

Dickheads play football at every level, from grassroots right up to the AFL, and a good 90 percent of them will have a Mad Monday, whether their club knows about it or not, because that’s just what you do.

People cross the line. It is what it is. It will only ever be stopped by an overwhelming stance against dickheadism from the inner sanctum of a playing group.

Good luck with that.

Jones had an absolute shocker and should be ashamed of himself, as a professional athlete and as a human being.

But it’s not just him who comes away from this with his image dented.

Demetriou needs to take a good, hard look in the mirror if he thinks laughing on TV is an appropriate reaction from the chief executive of the AFL.

His timing’s impeccable. The game has been only disgraced by an ongoing drugs crisis all season at the same time as his administration’s conduct and integrity has been questioned.

St Kilda, by the same token, should have given Jones a far bigger whack.

All a $3000 penalty does is belittle the victim, as if lighting a dwarf’s clothes on fire while off your chops is probably on par or only slightly worse than making reckless contact with an umpire.

I’m not sure what would have been a better penalty, but $3000 doesn’t feel like a great one.

Then again, nothing in this awful affair has been great. In fact, I think we all just need to settle down and have a drink.

Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard of the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. A Port Adelaide fan by birth, he now is a sports reporter for The Cairns Post.
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