Walking into the 2018 grand final, a surreal optimism filled me.
I was reading Darren Jolly’s Age column on sledging this week when I came across a reference to his former Collingwood teammate Josh Fraser: “I’m sure if he’d had a better attitude, we could have had a good ruck combination and he would have continued at the Pies for a bit longer.”
Jolly was referring to what he thought was Fraser’s “acrimonious” response to his arrival at the club from Sydney towards the end of 2009, possibly inspired by a serious bout of sledging Jolly had engaged in when they last played each other.
It smacked of arrogance: he was the greater ruckman, so Fraser had to go. It also suggests he may have been partly responsible (Jolly was made a member of the Fraser-less leadership group almost immediately on his arrival from Sydney) for Fraser’s departure at the end of 2010.
But the worst was to come, as Jolly compared Fraser to current new teammate Ben Hudson: “When I found out he [Hudson] was going to be my teammate, like with Josh, I wondered how it was going to be.
“But from the moment Huddo walked through the Collingwood doors, he has been nothing but a great bloke. He’s the perfect example of a prick on field and great bloke off field.”
So the not so subtle insinuation is that Fraser is a prick both on and off the field.
Alienating and demeaning Fraser by complimenting Hudson continued unabated: “I enjoy working alongside Huddo because he’s someone who enjoys a laugh with the boys and loves hearing what the boys thought of him when they played against him and can have a laugh at himself.”
The thought of “Huddo” and “Jolls” having a laugh with the “boys” at the expense of poor Fraser, who apparently wasn’t one of the boys, was making me feel nauseous.
It must have spawned an anger in Fraser that his tweets only hinted at: “I could not care less, I have bigger priorities than to engage in a slanging match.”
And then the final nail in the coffin of Fraser, who I assumed was a Magpie favourite – among the fans, at least – came with:
“He [Hudson] has a great attitude and that’s one of the reasons Collingwood wanted him”.
So Collingwood didn’t want Fraser because he had a poor attitude, and not because he had ruined his body over a 200-game career which had begun too early on account of Collingwood’s poor ruck stocks in 2000.
The topic of sledging is an interesting one and some examples given by Jolly (eg Dane Swan’s ‘Stop playing mate, you’re no good’, ‘What’s your name spud?’ and ‘What time does training finish?’) are great but the arrogant and vindictive treatment of Fraser soured the whole article.
Jolly makes no attempt to understand why he thought Fraser responded to him the way he did. Dale Thomas said he could understand why Fraser would have been angry over Jolly’s recruitment but didn’t notice any poor behaviour from Fraser at the time.
Interestingly, when asked if he supported Fraser, Thomas denied it but brought up the possibility of Jolly writing an article about him: “Jolls is a current teammate of mine so there is no point in me potting him and him writing articles about me, no one wants that.”
Choosing to sledge a former teammate (ironically in an article on sledging) was a poor decision by Jolly. It is bad for the morale of a club that is struggling and on the verge of dropping out of the eight.
More importantly, it reflects poorly on Jolly himself. If the online comments are anything to go by, many people, including some Pie fans, suspect he may be a bit of a prick off the field himself.