The art of sledging, and when the Saints became sinners

Athos Sirianos Roar Guru

By , Athos Sirianos is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    The alleged comments made on Saturday when Carlton met St Kilda is not an issue of sledging, but rather a personal attack towards an individual with no relevance to the match at hand.

    We may never know what was supposedly said about Marc Murphy’s wife, however the reaction from the Carlton captain indicates that the comments made severely go beyond that of a typical sledge.

    Before everyone jumps in saying ‘whatever happens on the field stays on the field’ and that ‘society has become too precious’, let’s evaluate what a sledge first and foremost consists of.

    Sledging has been a large and often humorous part of Australian sporting culture, integrated and utilised as a means of mentally distracting opponents.

    A player often only has a split second which they can cleverly articulate a taunt which is simultaneously humorous yet degrading to whomever it is targeted towards.

    Chris Judd responding to his former West Coast teammates that his shoulder was strapped due to him carrying the Eagles for six years or Michael Voss pointing the blatantly obvious out to his brother that “My dad [slept with] your mum” are celebrated as classics for the sheer wit they respectively possess.

    It is considered an art. Like all art forms, sledging must be carefully illustrated, and achieve its sole purpose which is ultimately to verbally intimidate an opposition player.

    When a sledge is delivered, its intention is not to offend but to mentally distract the opponent, adding a bit of life and humour to what can often be a tenacious contest between bitter rivals.

    Sledging in its simplest form is a type of banter and it does not really get any simpler than that.

    This blurred or grey area that has crept into contemporary discussions about sledging is more of a myth than the Gods of Olympus.

    Personal and vile attacks on the field is nothing new in sport, but it’s instantaneous publicising on social media platforms is what has changed this ball game.

    This does not necessarily indicate that players have suddenly become ‘too soft’, but rather belligerent and unnecessary comments towards an individual’s personal life or attributes can be further publicised and condemned by a wider audience.

    Yes, we have become a precious bunch but this is not the time to bring up such an argument.

    The fiasco that was created around Carlton’s Round 1 banner and the AFL’s knee jerk reaction to everything ‘wrong’ with the game justifies that argument.

    But the line is drawn when an individual intentionally attempts to offend another using their family or personal attributes as the punchline of the attack.

    It all falls under life’s unwritten rules.

    If Marc Murphy was indeed offended he had every right to use social media in expressing his castigation towards what was said, as would any other individual.

    The alleged comments have been condemned by a variety of commentators and should be left at that.

    The last thing we need at this stage is yet another knee jerk reaction by the AFL asking players to sign some agreement regarding sledging.

    However, knowing the AFL, they will implement rule changes that prevents opposition players from verbally exchanging with one another without nominating themselves as the designated speaker.

    Players know full well that their own reputation is on the line whenever they open their mouths and with social media breaking news left, right and centre comments such as these will always be put out there for society to judge.

    The best sledges are those that get under the skin of opposition players whilst having that clever wit about it.

    It looks as though the airways have been cleared on this one and those involved (hopefully) learned their lesson.

    But please let’s restrain ourselves from restricting the banter between opposing players or opposing fans for that matter for without sledging there is no theatre.

    That fine line that distinguishes sledging from personal attacks has always existed but it is only now that we have only recently begun to acknowledge it.

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