AFL should be about the game, not media

Dan Lonergan Columnist

By Dan Lonergan, Dan Lonergan is a Roar Expert


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    The AFL is a huge business and is getting bigger by the minute, with saturation coverage this off-season greater than ever before.

    While there was no footy, the longer trade period, introduction of free agency and the anti-drugs investigation that has engulfed Essendon were all big news items.

    It could be argued that the AFL would have been delighted with all the coverage of the draft and the free agency recruiting extravaganza.

    They could probably have done without the performance enhancing substances issue.

    However, with investigations regarding the matter continuing and so many people employed solely to cover the game, there will be many different angles brought up as the various media outlets try and stay ahead of each other to get the next exclusive or breaking story.

    It’s the job of many of the individuals at these organisations to break stories and it can’t be denied that these are pressure filled roles with editors and news directors breathing down their necks to stay ahead of the opposition.

    But as a long-serving member of the media I am concerned that the game is becoming more about media personalities, their egos, conflicts and clashing with other high-profile members of the media.

    In recent years there has been too many examples – in fact one is too many – of football journalists or broadcasters criticising each other because they didn’t like the way a story was covered, or they got the exclusive before them, or even made it about them instead of the game.

    We all got into the industry in the first place our love of and passion for footy – well I think that was the reason, wasn’t it?

    All of us who work in the media covering the footy need to remember that we are lucky to be doing what we are doing.

    It’s a pretty good life to go to a sporting event and not pay to get in and then actually get paid to watch it or write on it or talk about it.

    However, chief football writers or reporters have had a tendancy to make it about themselves.

    I am not sure why the Herald Sun’s Mark Robinson needed to criticise Damian Barratt, Craig Hutchinson and Channel Nine for the Dane Swan interview on the first edition of the season of The Footy Show last week.

    ‘Robbo’ is well-respected within the industry as a leading AFL journalist, but in some circles his column may have seemed like sour grapes.

    Barratt on the Austereo Radio Network the next day certainly thought it was and was personal in his attack on him as the new chief football writer of the Herald Sun, saying he wasn’t in the class of the man he replaced, Mike Sheahan, or words to that affect anyway.

    Ok! That’s his opinion and in the words of the late and great rugby league player, Arthur Beetson, opinions are like backsides! We’ve all got one, but it’s getting coverage and shouldn’t.

    We have a great game and product and if it’s the role of the reporter or journalist to go out and break stories and get a scoop, well, that’s great. Good on you.

    Your direct opposition then has to up the ante and find the next exclusive.

    I know that’s easier said than done from an ABC sports broadcaster and journalist, whose main role is to broadcast sport and I am very lucky to do it, but I still have the responsibility of trying to find a new angle for every on or off field story in the game.

    However, it’s not my sole duty and as outlined earlier it would be tough with so many journalists accredited, if that is your main role.

    The people who are in the position such as Caroline Wilson from The Age, Mark Robinson, Mark Stevens from Channel Seven and Damian Barratt wouldn’t have been given that duty if they couldn’t do it.

    There are many other experienced journalists and broadcasters, who have gained fine reputations for their news breaking in AFL footy along with their analysis and storytelling.

    But maybe even after 16 years in the game achieving my dream, I am still too ignorant to think that we could all leave our egos at the door and not get involved in public spats with each other.

    Just break the story or find the exclusive if that’s your go in the media or cover the best part of it, what happens on the field, if that’s what you do best or are employed to do.

    Like the onfield competition in the AFL, the media is extremely competitive, but that should be behind the scenes, it shouldn’t be the story.

    Dan Lonergan
    Dan Lonergan

    Dan Lonergan is one Australia's most respected and versatile commentators. In more than 16 years on ABC Grandstand he has covered AFL footy (including four Grand Finals), cricket, tennis, and three Olympic Games, including London 2012 where he commentated 16 sports.

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    The Crowd Says (15)

    • Roar Rookie

      March 15th 2013 @ 5:48am
      VerbosityAbridged said | March 15th 2013 @ 5:48am | ! Report

      Maybe my comment shouldn’t be about me but let me tell you a bit about myself …

    • March 15th 2013 @ 9:15am
      Happy Hooker said | March 15th 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      Yep, enough about me. What do you think about me?

    • March 15th 2013 @ 12:18pm
      Adrian said | March 15th 2013 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

      TO often we hear about off field issues on players if I am to hear from a sports reporter I want to hear about the sport not some outside issue Caroline Wilson has no ability to talk about the sport so i dont lisen or read anything she has to say let her write for a glossy mag not a sports page in a news paper !!!

      • March 15th 2013 @ 1:44pm
        Geronimo said | March 15th 2013 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

        Do you think its tough in Melbourne media.

        Heres a quote from a Rugby Union columnist in the Sydney Herald you know in a city where Rugby league is the big game

        “School’s in
        The latest education numbers from the Rugby Union Players Association are in and they’re extraordinary, with 43 per cent of contracted and national academy players enrolled at university this year, a figure almost double the enrolment numbers in the AFL.”

        No mention of comparable numbers for the the big code in that city Rugby League. Perhaps because they are a lot lower than the AFL. This is just one example of the Sydney herald writing stories that dont show the AFL in its brightest light – the Fairfax papers as they are constantly death riding the AFL.

        • March 15th 2013 @ 3:05pm
          Franko said | March 15th 2013 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

          Just as the Age are death riding A-league, and so it goes on…

          • March 15th 2013 @ 4:40pm
            Geronimo said | March 15th 2013 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

            I’ll have to take your word that the Age is death riding soccer as they call it but its stablemate Sydney herald is in love with the A-League/football (why do newspapers in the same family call it by a different name)) perhaps due to some strategic advertising….

        • Roar Guru

          March 15th 2013 @ 3:38pm
          Redb said | March 15th 2013 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

          Comparing anything to the AFL in Sydney is a win of sorts for the AFL.

        • March 16th 2013 @ 7:11pm
          Harry said | March 16th 2013 @ 7:11pm | ! Report

          Total and absolute rubbish Geronimo – back to the reservation for you.

    • Roar Guru

      March 15th 2013 @ 4:21pm
      Brodie Chivers said | March 15th 2013 @ 4:21pm | ! Report


      This frustrates the heck out of me. Give me ABC Grandstand or NIRS commentators during a game and give me pure sports reporting/ opinion online and in the newspaper.

      Great article man.

    • March 15th 2013 @ 5:10pm
      cuzza said | March 15th 2013 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

      Who are there people you talk about? I live in rural Perth and I love it.

    • Roar Rookie

      March 15th 2013 @ 6:50pm
      Reccymech said | March 15th 2013 @ 6:50pm | ! Report

      Our game is bigger than the personalities in it, be it player, administrator, and/or media. The home & away season cannot come quick enough, although in fairness, the NAB Cup has been an excellent intermission. Maybe, it’s just frustration of all the ‘circus’ events that have taken place since the 2012 Grand Final that has brought it to this.

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