Football as modern art, featuring Sam Powell-Pepper and Rory Sloane

Ken Sakata Columnist

By , Ken Sakata is a Roar Expert

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    Whole rounds of football are great. Individual games of football, exciting, sure. But art, true art, is found in the moments of football. Read on.

    “Don’t Argue” (2017)
    Artist: Sam Powell-Pepper
    Medium: AFL on Tablet on Mobile

    Please stay in your seats. Brief Q&A to follow.

    Q: What is happening in this piece?

    Sam Powell-Pepper gathers the ball in the midfield and dishes a filthy “don’t argue” on Lachie Neale.

    Q: What happens to Lachie Neale?

    It looks like Lachie Neale is a schoolboy asking for his lunch money back. Neale is playing his 94th game. Psychologically, this is a very traumatic event.

    It is a move so insulting, Lachie Neale’s knees refuse to be part of Lachie Neale. He slides into a shame pile in the midfield.

    Q: Are you worried about Lachie Neale?

    Very. He’s done a brain ACL.

    How do you recover from something like that? He’ll need to bring a service dog next game. Like an emotional support animal or something.

    Q: Are there more acts to this piece?

    That’s just Act One. Act Two, Powell-Pepper kicks the ball to a teammate. Freo’s Ed Langdon moves in on Powell-Pepper and tries to shove him off line.

    Langdon, late, pulls the shove at the last second.

    Q: Does it work anyway?

    Powell-Pepper still has enough balance to adjust his hair. Nah man, it doesn’t work.

    Then Powell-Pepper does the unthinkable.

    Q: What?

    Lachie Neale picks himself up from the ground. He’s done the necessary mental contortions to live the remainder of his life.

    Is his ego battered? Sure. But Neale’s a good player, a top-two midfielder in his side. A possession magnet. Life is still worth living.

    Then Powell-Pepper circles back to Neale.

    Q: Oh no.

    Powell-Pepper, having beaten Neale resoundingly at the contest, returns to give him a mocking whack on the arse. This is ludicrous. This is Sam Powell-Pepper’s second game ever of AFL football.

    If anyone knows Lachie Neale: No sharp objects. No time alone.

    Q: Is this a successful piece of art?

    Sam Powell-Pepper is a very exciting young artist. Prolific, aggressive, insulting.

    This is his best work so far. We’re living in a golden age.

    Sam Powell-Pepper Port Adelaide AFL 2017 tall

    “Contested Mark” (2017)
    Artist: Rory Sloane
    Medium: AFL via GIF

    A brief Q&A follows.

    Q: What is happening?

    Rory Sloane takes a mark over a host of Hawthorn players: Josh Gibson, Ben McEvoy, James Frawley.

    Q: Why is this significant?

    Rory Sloane (183cm) takes a mark over a host of Hawthorn players: Josh Gibson (189cm), Ben McEvoy (200cm), James Frawley (193cm).

    Rory Sloane shouldn’t mark this ball.

    Q: How does this happen?

    Clear the floor. Let me break this down.

    Q: Let’s start with Josh Gibson.

    Josh Gibson is a renowned one-on-one defender. He doesn’t mark the ball. His weapon is his fist. Here Gibson plays in front of his opponent to spoil, which is textbook.

    It’s just a poor effort. Out of all Hawthorn players, he comes closest.

    Q: Then there’s No.7.

    The ruckman – McEvoy. Mate, I don’t get it.

    Q: What’s wrong?

    He’s tiptoeing to get to the ball. My dude, tiptoeing is super not-the-move right now.

    It’s a contested mark. You have to fly for it. Jumping and stuff. Ruckman things.

    Tiptoeing. That’s like a stealth move, I guess?

    Q: James Frawley is jumping.

    Frawley looks the most disappointed of the three. He shouldn’t be, because he gives the least effort.

    This is the closest Frawley gets. Hands apart, he’s preparing to mark an esky two feet away. Nobody is tossing eskies.

    Q: What are the themes of this piece?

    Availability vs Ability.

    Q: Is this a success?

    Rory Sloane is a competitor. Sometimes he’s too short. But sometimes his desire turns opportunity into reality.

    I love watching Rory Sloane play.

    Ken Sakata
    Ken Sakata

    Ken Sakata is a sportswriter based in Melbourne, covering where sport and pop-culture collide with a keen interest in AFL. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @sakatarama

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