The nation was in a state of shock upon hearing news of the death of Adelaide Crows coach Phil Walsh. The horrific crime was brought to bear in a domestic family dispute.
When a homicide involves a high profile individual, particularly in the southern states, it does reinforce the fact that a celebrity who excels in the field of sport is not immune to been victim of domestic violence.
The AFL quiet rightly cancelled the Adelaide versus Geelong game with each team receiving two points. It allowed the Adelaide players some private time to grieve and the AFL also sent a message that football needs to be put into perspective.
The remaining AFL matches went ahead as planned.
On the same day when Walsh was murdered, Collingwood and Hawthorn were due to play. Prior to the match starting there was a minute silence dedicated to the fallen Adelaide coach.
There was hardly any murmur or a squeak from the crowd. It prompted sports journalist Dan Elsom to report about the sombre funeral-type atmosphere at the MCG. However, not all of the article was written with the best of intentions in mind.
Elsom gave praise to the crowd by repeating what Bruce McAvaney said in commentary: “You could hear a pin drop, so respectful.”
But later in the article, Elsom stated this: “The moment was a stark contrast to the performance put in by rugby league crowds a few Wednesdays ago, but the less said about that the better.”
Elsom was referring to the State of Origin crowd at the MCG where a few idiots in a 90,000-plus strong crowd couldn’t control their behaviour during a minute’s silence tribute to track athlete legend Ron Clarke.
Now, over the years, especially on this site, we have had various code war articles comparing the two major football codes, AFL and NRL.
Comparisons between the two football codes have included crowds, TV ratings, and TV deals. Now, thanks to Elsom, you can add a minute’s silence to that list.
Where do we draw the line here?
When a person passes away from terribly tragic and brutal circumstances, we do need to put trivial matters aside. To use a cricket terminology, we have to let that go to the keeper.
Comparing silent tributes is very disrespectful to the families of Walsh and Clarke.
Was the article written on the basis of a point scoring exercise to make one code (NRL) embarrassed, humiliated and ridiculed? Or was it written to generate page views and hits?
Whatever the motive or agenda, it is disappointing on both counts.
Yet the irony here is that the match Elsom was referring to with regards to crowd behaviour was held in Melbourne, at the MCG, a venue synonymous with AFL.
Whether those fans were from interstate or Victorian born, at the end of the day, they were idiots who should have known better.
Although credit does need to be given to Elsom for mentioning in his article that last Friday night’s NRL match between Penrith and South Sydney did hold a respected minute’s silence to honour Walsh.
This author will further add that every NRL game last weekend observed a minute’s silence and on each occasion it was done diligently with all crowds behaving in the right accordance.
Which is kudos to all NRL fans. Prior to Walsh’s fateful demise, the majority of those crowds would not have heard of the AFL coach. But they did give respect to a life that had been lost and were sending thoughts and prayers to the deceased family.
If anything it has shown that communities from multiple sporting codes can unite, grieve and share upon reflection.
Honouring and paying tribute to a person’s life should be done with respect and dignity. It is not the time and place to compare football codes and hence start a code war, all in the name of page views and hits.
The families of Walsh and Clarke deserve better.