Jason Akermanis can have no complaints after being sacked by the Western Bulldogs yesterday. His failure to play by the team rules and to win the trust of the club left the Dogs with no other option.
There’s no doubt he will have a fair bit to say in his Herald Sun column today, but it’s hard to miss the strong parallels between his mid-season exit at the Dogs and his exit at the Brisbane Lions only four years ago, where a number of comments in the media put him at odds with the coaching staff and senior players.
Once again, he had the chance to heed the club’s warnings and he didn’t take it.
The official line out of Whitten Oval yesterday was that this decision was not related to the star’s media commitments and the controversies that have arisen because of them this season.
Rather, as club president David Smorgon said in a statement yesterday, it was to do with the leaking of sensitive information.
“Jason has over the past eighteen months been involved in a number of incidents in which matters confidential to the inner sanctum of our football department and players have been the subject of inappropriate disclosure outside the club,” Smorgon said.
“In most instances, Jason has admitted these breaches and sought to remedy his behaviour. But the breaches have continued.”
One such breach played out publicly quite recently. Footy Show host Sam Newman two weeks ago made reference to a meeting between Akermanis and the Bulldogs playing group, the details of which were not meant to go public.
Newman used last week’s Footy Show to apologise and revealed an overheard conversation between Akermanis and radio host Steve Price, who they both work with at MTR, was the source of his information.
Other than this, no other instances of sensitive information being leaked come to mind. But coach Rodney Eade said yesterday there were a number of incidents with Aker that the club did not make public.
You have to wonder what some of these other incidents were and whether they will come out in time.
At any rate, the effect of Akermanis’ media commitments certainly wouldn’t have helped his case when board members were discussing his future yesterday.
His controversial newspaper column urging gay footballers to stay in the closet set off a series of events that were just as puzzling as the column itself.
Although Aker was well within his rights to express his opinion in that piece, when it came out he misled the club over how it was edited – after originally claiming the final copy was altered from the version approved by him – the Dogs rightly gave him a stint on the sidelines and initiated a short ban from media work.
If ever there were a time to heed the club’s warning, then would’ve been it for Akermanis. But the headlines simply did not go away.
After playing for Williamstown as part of his punishment, he labelled his VFL opponent Alistair Smith “some dribbler who can’t play at all” on Melbourne radio.
Having the Newman incident hit the news didn’t help either.
Now, at 33, the career of Jason Akermanis appears over. The colourful champion claimed a Brownlow medal and three premierships while at the Brisbane Lions.
He will be remembered not only for these accolades, but also his freakish abilities in front of goal – who could forget those two goals in two minutes on that wet afternoon at the Gabba? – and, of course, those famous post-game handstands.
It’s a sad way for such a storied career to come to an end.
For the Western Bulldogs, they can now move forward (as a certain member of their supporter base would say) and make their run towards September without any Aker distractions.
It all starts this weekend against Fremantle at Etihad Stadium, a crunch game if ever there were one. If they want that final spot in the top four, they simply have no choice but to act this week.
No doubt the board were thinking the same thing yesterday.