The Roar
The Roar


Honesty a fading concept in AFL charade game

27th August, 2015
1839 Reads

Does the constant moralising by AFL bosses and the unfair expectations placed on players and clubs by the wider football community encourage truthful dialogue? I don’t think that it does.

In fact, it actually produces a sub-culture based on lies and deceit.

Gillon McLachlan’s need to express his disappointment at the way player Lachie Henderson parted company with the Carlton Football Club illustrates my point.

For those who don’t know, Henderson told Carlton last week that he wants to leave. Although he would have been happy to play out the last three games of the season, the Blues have decided that they won’t play him, preferring to protect their asset from injury to ensure better bargaining power come trade time.

Although it is not an ideal scenario, the beauty of the situation coming to a head early is that it cuts out all of the rumour and innuendo that would surely follow. We all remember the constant speculation that haunted Gary Ablett and Lance Franklin in their final seasons for Geelong and Hawthorn.

The weeks of denials and double talk leading up to the announcement of their signings by Gold Coast and Sydney respectively did everyone’s head in. It was less than healthy.

So for McLachlan to come out and publicly berate Henderson and question his loyalty is quite astounding, and hardly an encouragement for others to attempt to resolve their differences in an open and transparent manner.

I would go further and question the need for McLachlan to have been involved at all. Where in his job description does it state that he has to offer his personal opinion on anything?


When it is all said and done McLachlan is an administrator. Yes, he is an important administrator, but he is still an administrator. In a nutshell his job, along with his AFL House cohorts, is to ensure that the game is put on each week and that it will continue to be put on in coming weeks and for years to come.

Henderson leaving Carlton does not threaten that premise, so was it really necessary for McLachlan to comment at all? Even if asked his opinion he could simply have said: ‘That’s a matter between a player and his club, it has nothing to do with me.’

Of course that is a simplistic view, but surely the controlling body of a sport is there to manage day-to-day operations, not to take the high moral ground on every single issue that arises. All that does is force what are relatively minor matters underground, which in turn sparks another cycle of unhealthy rumour and innuendo.

It is not just the league’s administration that is at fault either. The industry as a whole needs to step back and not be so quick to criticise. This includes the life blood of the sport – its fans.

Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury copped a barrage of criticism after the Pies went down to Richmond by 91 points at the weekend. It wasn’t his on-field performance that drew the mob’s ire, but his comments after the game.

He stated in a radio interview that it was the first time he had played in a game that didn’t mean anything. Oops, red rag there, and didn’t the bulls love it!

But with the finals being out of reach for the Pies, he spoke the absolute truth. For his team it was a dead rubber.


Why can’t we just take these sound grabs at face value? Yes, Collingwood were poor that day, lamentable in fact, but to read more into the comments of one of Collingwood’s most dedicated and respected men is just ludicrous.

Did the Pies lie down? Of course not. They were outplayed by a far better team on the day. Did their approach to the game suffer – even sub-consciously – because finals were now an impossibility? Probably, but that is no crime. It is called being human!

If Pendlebury thought he got the rough end of the pineapple for being honest, spare a thought for Essendon’s besieged captain Jobe Watson.

Watson is the only player to talk publicly of what happened at Essendon during Stephen Dank’s now infamous injection regime. Two years ago he sat in the Fox Footy studio and spoke openly about the substances he believed he had been given, including the then suspect AOD9604.

He was not the bad guy in the whole saga, but when he ran onto the field in Perth to take on the West Coast Eagles the following weekend you would have thought he was an axe murderer.

He was booed relentlessly by the rabid crowd and the backlash he faced on social media and talk-back radio was as vindictive as any footballer has experienced. He would have been better off denying all charges or not commenting at all.

So why do we continually punish the people in our game who are actually trying to speak honestly?


I don’t know, but it has left us with a system that does not encourage truthfulness.

The scrutiny that players, coaches and officials are placed under is so severe that even a minor indiscretion or mistake can quickly be overplayed by what is a cannibalistic industry, and in that I include the administrators, the media and the fans.

As a result, no one wants to be seen as the squeaky wheel, that one person who stands up and says what he really thinks, lest he be lambasted by everyone from the highest powers residing at AFL House to the twit on social media and everybody in between.

It is a shame. Openness at press conferences has been replaced with blandness. Thinly veiled deceit takes the place of honesty. When we hunger for information we get a tiring game of charades with players or officials trying to tip toe or dance their way around the issues of the moment.

And who can blame them? Why would anyone want to tell the truth in this game any more?