The past couple of weeks in footballing circles have served as a reminder of the divisions and issues faced by our game. Old rivalries and attitudes have shown that they are as prevalent now as they have been in decades past.
The first issue is the Slater and Foster debacle, of which much has already been said. I call it a debacle as it crossed the line between spirited debate and something more destructive. Indeed, there have been follow-up articles as recently as today continuing this personal feud.
Both Robbie Slater and Craig Foster have contributed immensely to Australian football. However the latest feud is typical of our almost uncanny ability to shoot ourselves in the foot. Yet again, the broader Australian community is front row and centre as the footballing community airs its dirty laundry.
Yet again, this division in our code will be promoted and laid out for all to see, as the protagonists, caught up in a wave of emotion, seek to justify their ends at the expense of the game they and we love.
The second incident, or more correctly incidents, were a couple of articles by the great man himself, Les Murray. Of course Les’ contribution to Australia’s football is huge, and football would be all the poorer without his tireless efforts.
But his recent articles firstly attacked the anti-football media, and then the fans of the game who questioned his piece. He claimed many had become complacent, and that their belief that footballing bias had receded served as an indictment of attitudes that are holding our game back.
Is there an anti-footballing element to the media? I believe so, and I am sure many would agree. But constantly bemoaning this, year after year, in what looks like a victim mentality, truly serves no purpose.
In fact, it takes away time and effort that could be well spent addressing key issues of our beloved game. I would hazard a guess that fans are aware of the bias, they just don’t dwell on it. They see their time better spent enjoying their game and contributing to its development. As in any business or area, it is in your benefit to be aware of problems that exist, but to be consumed by them is to lose your direction and distract from your strengths.
Given the events of the past two weeks, my assertion is simple. Our ability to shoot ourselves in the foot, to bicker, to divide, and to subscribe to a siege mentality has done far more damage to Australian football then has any media element with an anti-footballing agenda.
Instead of thinking of our game as one being limited by others, we should think of it as one being limited by us. The sky is the limit, we just have to believe it.
Football debate is vital for our game. But often personal grudges and long-held animosities mean we can’t see what our game really needs.