Somewhere in a splendiferous mansion in the exclusive Melbourne suburb of Toorak, a man with a crooked smile and wicked chuckle sits awake at night and dreams up ways to ruin your life. He plots and conspires scheme upon scheme in a bid to undermine the fabric of Australian culture.
He has risen to prominence through deceit. A corporate game player whose true colours are only now being seen as he uses his position of influence to spread his dark agenda across this country’s sporting landscape.
Or so we would be led to believe…..
Much is made of the direction the AFL is taking. Even with the baby-faced and young-bodied Gold Coast Suns now playing actual games of AFL, the league’s aggressive expansion project is still in its infancy.
It’s a project that has many outside of the code, as well as some within it, as apprehensive as Robbie Warnock shooting for goal with the game on the line.
As the AFL’s most prominent administrator, Andrew Demetriou is right at the heart of it all.
As the AFL has gone from strength to strength, Demetriou has been accused of everything from trying to sabotage Australia’s (real) football World Cup bid, trying to run rugby league out of its heartland, getting grossly overpaid, refusing to cut a fair pay deal for AFL players, and insulting your Mum. (True story. I wouldn’t take that if I were you.)
Despite all of this I can assure you of one thing. Andrew Demetriou is not evil. He has not been sent here by the devil to undermine the AFL or any other sport for that matter.
Like any person who rises to a corporate or political position of influence, Demetriou has a fairly big ego. Not ego in a Wayne Carey I’m-going-to-take-whatever-I-want sort of way. More in a Bono I-want-to-be-remembered-for-making-a-difference kind of way.
What are people like this concerned with? Legacy.
Andrew Demetriou is primarily concerned with what will his legacy be to the great game of Australian Rules football.
Demetriou has decided in his infinite wisdom that the expansion and establishment of the game in traditionally non-AFL centres is what he wants his legacy to be.
Now I am sure Demetriou is a learned man and takes advice from even more learned men, but this decision is a gamble. A calculated gamble, but a gamble nonetheless. I’m not talking a 50-50 bet. The odds are probably somewhere in the region of 70-30 in Demetriou’s favour, but the success of this plan is no sure thing.
Even if it does come off, is the decision to expand the AFL for the good of for the existing AFL fans?
The main reason that I fear for the AFL game is sheer logic dictates the quality of play will be lower. More teams equals more players are required, thus meaning the very best players will be spread across more teams.
It’s kind of like when your parents only had one bag of Sherbies and 10 bags of ‘Black and Gold’ brand jubes to split among 18 lolly bags for your friends at your birthday. Everyone will only get one Sherbie each; 2 if you are lucky. The rest of the time you and your friends were stuck chewing on rock hard jubes.
Imagine the league from the past 5 years with every team missing 3 of their top 10 players and then those players distributed between two other teams (with the rest made up of players from state leagues). Does that make the quality of play stronger?
Would Carlton versus Collingwood be a better game without Judd, Carrazzo, Waite, Swann, Cloke and Thomas? That’s about as hard to answer as, ‘Does Malcolm Blight ever make any logical sense?’
‘Quality, not quantity’ is a mantra well established in our society. A mantra Demetriou and those at AFL House appear determined to defy.
As a comparison, the NBA in America has arguably suffered through 15 years of substandard play due to the over-expansion of the league through the late 80s and 90s.
Only now does it appear that the talent base is deep enough to provide quality play across all 30 teams – the current NBA playoffs are already being considered the best in a generation. The NBA’s depth in talent has occurred in part due to the rise of international players. This is a luxury the AFL won’t have anytime soon.
I am sure Demetriou breathed an almighty sigh of relief when the Gold Coast defeated an insipid Port Adelaide side in round 5. He would have slumped despondently into his chair the very next week, as Essendon made Gold Coast look like the Frankston under-12s Tuesday evening girls’ calisthenics group.
And after the Suns got over the line against the Lions in an entertaining yet mistake-riddled match (they should rename it the Qlang Clash), Demetriou would have been so ecstatic I picture him acting like Balki from Perfect Strangers… “Now we are so happy we do the dance of joy!”
All this before GWS have even kicked a ball in a full AFL match.
Such is the life of a gambler. There will be highs, there will be lows. Ultimately, gamblers are good people who simply have misguided means to an end. Being misguided means they can hurt those that care about their success the most.