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The art of sledging, and when the Saints became sinners

Athos Sirianos Roar Guru

By Athos Sirianos, Athos Sirianos is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger


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    The alleged comments made on Saturday when Carlton met St Kilda is not an issue of sledging, but rather a personal attack towards an individual with no relevance to the match at hand.

    We may never know what was supposedly said about Marc Murphy’s wife, however the reaction from the Carlton captain indicates that the comments made severely go beyond that of a typical sledge.

    Before everyone jumps in saying ‘whatever happens on the field stays on the field’ and that ‘society has become too precious’, let’s evaluate what a sledge first and foremost consists of.

    Sledging has been a large and often humorous part of Australian sporting culture, integrated and utilised as a means of mentally distracting opponents.

    A player often only has a split second which they can cleverly articulate a taunt which is simultaneously humorous yet degrading to whomever it is targeted towards.

    Chris Judd responding to his former West Coast teammates that his shoulder was strapped due to him carrying the Eagles for six years or Michael Voss pointing the blatantly obvious out to his brother that “My dad [slept with] your mum” are celebrated as classics for the sheer wit they respectively possess.

    It is considered an art. Like all art forms, sledging must be carefully illustrated, and achieve its sole purpose which is ultimately to verbally intimidate an opposition player.

    When a sledge is delivered, its intention is not to offend but to mentally distract the opponent, adding a bit of life and humour to what can often be a tenacious contest between bitter rivals.

    Sledging in its simplest form is a type of banter and it does not really get any simpler than that.

    This blurred or grey area that has crept into contemporary discussions about sledging is more of a myth than the Gods of Olympus.

    Personal and vile attacks on the field is nothing new in sport, but it’s instantaneous publicising on social media platforms is what has changed this ball game.

    This does not necessarily indicate that players have suddenly become ‘too soft’, but rather belligerent and unnecessary comments towards an individual’s personal life or attributes can be further publicised and condemned by a wider audience.

    Yes, we have become a precious bunch but this is not the time to bring up such an argument.

    The fiasco that was created around Carlton’s Round 1 banner and the AFL’s knee jerk reaction to everything ‘wrong’ with the game justifies that argument.

    But the line is drawn when an individual intentionally attempts to offend another using their family or personal attributes as the punchline of the attack.

    It all falls under life’s unwritten rules.

    If Marc Murphy was indeed offended he had every right to use social media in expressing his castigation towards what was said, as would any other individual.

    The alleged comments have been condemned by a variety of commentators and should be left at that.

    The last thing we need at this stage is yet another knee jerk reaction by the AFL asking players to sign some agreement regarding sledging.

    However, knowing the AFL, they will implement rule changes that prevents opposition players from verbally exchanging with one another without nominating themselves as the designated speaker.

    Players know full well that their own reputation is on the line whenever they open their mouths and with social media breaking news left, right and centre comments such as these will always be put out there for society to judge.

    The best sledges are those that get under the skin of opposition players whilst having that clever wit about it.

    It looks as though the airways have been cleared on this one and those involved (hopefully) learned their lesson.

    But please let’s restrain ourselves from restricting the banter between opposing players or opposing fans for that matter for without sledging there is no theatre.

    That fine line that distinguishes sledging from personal attacks has always existed but it is only now that we have only recently begun to acknowledge it.

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • Roar Rookie

      May 18th 2017 @ 9:07am
      Dan said | May 18th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      If it was such a hurtful sledge (and for all we know it could be a statement of fact) why didn’t the other 21 Carlton players come to the aid of their captain? Why didn’t Murphy confront the taunts when Carlisle was standing up? Why didn’t he go to the Saints captain in Geary and say, “listen mate, as one captain to another that’s just over the mark”?

      Because he waited until a player was injured and prone (and for all Murphy knew had a broken neck) to retaliate and spew his own venom.
      I’m not condoning the verbal attack of either player, but simple fact is: One player abused an opposition player and captain on an even playing field the other (the Captain) abused an opposition player when he was injured and prone.
      After that the media jumped on board and beat this storm in a teacup into a frenzy to sell papers or get clicks.

      All this is, is an absolute beat up and I would be filthy if a Saints player abused an injured player like MM did – its disgraceful from a captain.

      • May 18th 2017 @ 9:21am
        Birdman said | May 18th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

        this says more about Carlisle’s obviously dispectful views on women than Murphy.

        It’s disappointing that the Saints didn’t sanction him IMHO particularly after he liked a post about Murphy being a whinger even after the inappropriate sledging had been addressed with the players earlier in the day by the club – it’s clear Jake’s as dumb as a box of hammers.

        • May 18th 2017 @ 3:16pm
          Redstar said | May 18th 2017 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

          “Jake’s as dumb as a box of hammers” – meet a deaf/mute person and you will understand how hurtful your comment was.

          • May 18th 2017 @ 3:24pm
            Birdman said | May 18th 2017 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

            Although dumb meaning ‘not able to speak’ is the older sense, it has been overwhelmed by the newer sense (meaning ‘stupid’)

            English Oxford Dictionary.

            • May 19th 2017 @ 2:44pm
              Redstar said | May 19th 2017 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

              Context of remarks is everything regardless of the definition.

      • May 18th 2017 @ 11:33am
        ken oath said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:33am | ! Report

        Get your hand off it Dan,

        If someone had been lippy all day then the karma bus hits them hard and they get injured, giving it back to them when they are hurt is just deserts.

        Think everyone complaining about MM running past and giving it to JC as he is on the ground are the ones being precious.

        It was opportunistic (not like you and others state that he waited, c’mon) he was in the right area (not like he ran the length of the oval) and close enough that he thought he would give it to him, and from all accounts, rightly so.

        No one knows what was said – but for MM who is quite reserved to beeline JC and to have a passing word as he is down is fine with me.

        • May 18th 2017 @ 11:38am
          Birdman said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

          agreed – Carlisle is not a victim

          • May 18th 2017 @ 11:54am
            ken oath said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:54am | ! Report

            Furthermore Dan – would you be “filthy” as you state should a St Kilda player was saying derogatory comments about an oppositions wife?

            Perhaps using your own language, you just wouldn’t “condone” it….

            Take into account she is someones daughter, granddaughter, possible sibling ect.

            What is more “disgraceful”?

            Once again – pull your head in.

            • Roar Rookie

              May 18th 2017 @ 2:52pm
              Dan said | May 18th 2017 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

              Honestly Ken, no I wouldnt be “filthy” if a Saints bloke was saying derogatory comments about a blokes wife. If a player is that insecure about his partners previous sexual life, especially if that life is public knowledge in the footy world then more fool him.

              As i said at the top, thanks to the media now every player in the league knows how to get under Murphs skin and put him off his game if they so choose. They should have left it on the field.

              The issue is; Carlisle was being abused all game about his pre season drug shenanigans and Murphy was getting his back about his missus. But only 1 of those blokes chose to give it to an injured player.
              That’s the point I’m attempting to make, I don’t care about who said what – that’s all my opinion and no one else s – but a player, the captain no less, ran and abused another player when that player was prone and injured.
              For mine that act alone, in isolation to everything leading up to and thereafter, is the absolute worst thing a player can do on a field of play.
              At least when Barry Hall smashed Brent Staker he was standing up

        • Roar Rookie

          May 18th 2017 @ 2:42pm
          Dan said | May 18th 2017 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

          I totally agree it was an opportunistic moment – he did it at a time when Carlisle couldn’t respond, he couldn’t have planned for Carlisle to go down at that or any stage of the game.
          He saw a wounded player that had been giving him an earful all game and he proceeded with his drive by.
          Captain material first class there…

          • May 18th 2017 @ 2:47pm
            Birdman said | May 18th 2017 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

            “drive by”? hahah – nice bit of hyperbole there, Dan.

            I doubt Carlisle even heard MM as he was too busy massaging his plums and grimacing.

          • May 18th 2017 @ 3:03pm
            ken oath said | May 18th 2017 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

            And JC and the rest knew that it doesn’t matter what they said to MM as he wouldn’t lash our out and belt them and do weeks over it.

            Yep all class.

            • Roar Rookie

              May 18th 2017 @ 3:09pm
              Dan said | May 18th 2017 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

              But he did Ken – he was sledging JC.
              Also, there is plenty he can do without getting weeks from the tribunal (as per my original post)
              Look, we obviously see this from different points, so we’ll agree to disagree.

    • May 18th 2017 @ 9:35am
      andyincanberra said | May 18th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      Regarding Carlton’s round 1 banner. I don’t think that it was regarded as a fiasco, rather it was met with a collective eye-roll as it was seen as an attempt to emulate the wit in the Bulldogs’ banners, but ultimately it fell flat. I think for the most part people like the light-hearted digs at the opposition on the banners.

    • May 18th 2017 @ 10:00am
      Carl said | May 18th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      I personally always kept my mouth shut when playing team sport, which was a long time ago. That’s due to the fact the I was a quiet insular person who kept matters to oneself. For alpha males, it’s a totally different scenario.

      No one has all the correct answers, even though some of us think we do. Just don’t say things in private, one on one chatting, that you would be embarrassed or ashamed if it got out in public. But some people are more brazen than others ( ie Clive Palmer ).

      To digress, one of my favourite comebacks from a sledge is from Mervyn Hughes. Bring it back Merv.

      Merv Hughes (Australia) to Javed Miandad (Pakistan)

      Javed “You should be a bus driver, you are to fat to be playing cricket”

      A few overs later Merv dismissed Javed.

      “Tickets please”, Merv called out as he ran past the departing batsman.

    • May 18th 2017 @ 10:39am
      Joe B said | May 18th 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

      When the AFL introduced penalties for players who used racist, religious, or sexuality slurs this was not because every player engaged in this behaviour, most players know better, it was to address those few who didn’t know better. Self regulation doesn’t work if you are not on the same page to start with. Introducing a law to address this issue is no different to what has been done before, and will have no impact on the majority of players who exercise common decency.
      The shame in all this, is that the AFL should have condemned misogynistic comments like this on the week it was spruiking the first female field umpire.

    • Roar Guru

      May 18th 2017 @ 10:54am
      Paul D said | May 18th 2017 @ 10:54am | ! Report

      Pretty sure it was one of the Selwoods with the my dad slept with your mum sledge

      • Roar Rookie

        May 18th 2017 @ 11:16am
        Dan said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

        Definitely Michael to Brett Voss – although the Selwood’s may have done the same.

      • May 18th 2017 @ 12:01pm
        andyincanberra said | May 18th 2017 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

        Adam Selwood’s sledges were much worse. Remember Des Headland.

    • May 18th 2017 @ 11:34am
      Carl said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

      It was Michael Voss. Others have followed. Originator vs imitator.

      2. Michael Voss to Brett Voss (AFL)

      One of our favourite sledges of all time occurred when Brisbane Lions triple premiership captain Michael Voss first played on his younger brother Brett – who had left the Lions for St Kilda that off-season.

      Brett was lining up for a shot on goal 20m out straight in front, when Michael walked up behind him and said: “My dad f—— your mum.”

      Brett then proceeded to kick the ball out on the full…

      There is a video about sledging from The Grill via