An ill-informed comment, Mike Sheahan and an ivory tower

Stuart Thomas Columnist

By Stuart Thomas, Stuart Thomas is a Roar Expert

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    As I continue to bask in the glow of the Socceroos’ wonderful achievement last week, there is a two-fold sense of enjoyment.

    Firstly, after number crunching over the last two years and finding every logical reason why and why not, in regards to the qualification campaign, the national team have made the big dance.

    Secondly, the qualifying games held so much drama and intrigue that they distracted me from nonsense in the media after the first leg, which displayed an infantile understanding of the game.

    That was fuelled by veteran AFL journalist Mike Sheahan. His vitriol garnered a response.

    There isn’t a more eloquent or convivial commentator on Australian football than Fox Sports anchor Simon Hill. His work is lucid, poignant and often brilliant.

    His candid response to Sheahan’s comments pulled on many a heartstring, enraged some south of the border, and enunciated further the fear around and subsequent aggressiveness towards football.

    Hill’s response was in direct reference to the comments made by Sheahan and his appraisal of the first leg between Honduras and Australia as “rubbish”.

    The comment was not only the thoughts of one spectator expressing his disappointment at a goalless draw, but also the agenda-driven opinion of an individual with little or no understanding of the game.

    It was an inaccurate and ironic appraisal, considering some of the football dished out by the Brisbane Lions and the Carlton Blues throughout the course of 2017.

    I’m sure Sheahan would agree these teams produced rubbish on a regular basis. However, the difference between Mr Sheahan and I – even considering the fact that many would like to box us into corners and see us come out fighting for our codes – is that my love and passion for football doesn’t motivate me to deride other sporting endeavours.

    My multi-sport contributions on The Roar are born through pure interest and engagement with the different codes.

    Hill concurred in his response, stating his simple strategy when it came to the plight of other codes of which he is no expert, saying, “I don’t comment on them.”

    Sheahan seems a cookie cut from another mould.

    The motivation behind his comments is baffling. Much like Eddie McGuire’s cheap shots at A-League crowds and football as a whole, Sheahan’s comments reflect the fears and concerns of individuals still embedded in Australia’s more traditional and colonial games; those wary and suspicious of football’s growth.

    I blogged numerous AFL games this season. The Adelaide versus Collingwood draw was a highlight, while some finals matches were outstanding, yet there were duds along the way too, during which I nearly dozed off. (Don’t tell weekend editor Josh Elliot or I might be out of favour for season 2018.)

    Despite the variations in terms of game quality and interest level, unlike Sheahan, I never once felt the need to question the integrity of and methodology behind the entire code.

    I may have called the match lamentable, disappointing or bland, yet the report that followed was always filled with perspective and a level-headed understanding that the game wasn’t to blame, merely the particular eventualities of the day.

    Dayne Beams Brisbane Lions AFL 2017

    Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images

    The reason is simple, I enjoy the game immensely, and hope to watch it for years to come. Additionally, through my membership of an AFL team, keen viewing of every match through the season, and my love of blogging, my opinions or comments might even have some value or relevance.

    Can the same be said of Sheahan’s football jibe? I think not. Moreover, Hill’s comments were reactionary and well deserved.

    Hearing Hill speak on Sydney radio 12 months back, I was proud when I heard him respond to Talkin’ Sport host Graeme Hughes, who had referred to football as ‘your game’.

    Hill suggested it was ‘our’ game and not a divisive endeavour played by the proverbial shielas, wogs and poofters. To his credit, Hughes concurred and this is what Hill does best.

    He picks up on those who comment, pontificate and pass judgement on a game that he loves and they themselves know little about.

    Hill reacts to the negativity and bias and never seeks to stir the pot through inflammatory comments from an ill-informed perspective.

    My favourite Eurosnob, neighbour Dave, brought me a freshly clipped article from a ‘well respected’ Sydney newspaper earlier this week, just to make sure I was well aware that the A-League ratings were down since the start of the Rugby League World Cup.

    This was all in an attempt to ensure that us ‘soccer folk’ kept in our box and realised that the A-League is rubbish.

    Two days later, he followed it up with Greg Baum’s article from the Age, Decoding the football wars between soccer and Australian rules, that clearly addressed the issues raised by Hill.

    It appeared Sheehan had found a supporter, as Baum reflected on the conspiracy theorist football fans who unfairly label the ‘yokels’ (his word not mine) as being at the helm of a masterplan to keep football in its rightful place.

    In a specific reference to the AFL, he sarcastically attempted to suggest that the football community may be a little paranoid in thinking that the AFL have a specific plan to damage the game and keep it in its deserved minority position in Australian sport.

    Strangely, he then suggested it was highly likely that the AFL had plans to impart the same “influence” on all the major codes in the country.

    Was it only me who read this as the reasoning behind Sheahan’s comments?

    In the triad of commentary on the game, it was clear that – as usual – a negative comment from a footballing novice like Sheahan had caused a reaction from a well-respected football commentator and provided a vehicle for others to climb aboard the gravy train of ‘football negativity’.

    Maybe Hill wears the chip proudly on his shoulder, as many of us do – Baum’s piece certainly seems to infer that suggestion.

    However, it is hard not to think that the instigator in this nonsense was given liberal scope to, once again, portray football and its most astute minds in a negative light.

    I, for one, will defend Hill to the hilt. He didn’t start it, ask for it, or contribute to it. He just reacted to and questioned the involvement of someone who dislikes the game he loves.

    A game which an increasing number of people are becoming ever more fearful.

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.

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    The Crowd Says (67)

    • November 22nd 2017 @ 6:23am
      Not so super said | November 22nd 2017 @ 6:23am | ! Report

      those wary and suspicious of football’s growth
      Is football growing?

      It’s a bit of both – fear and insecurity on one side and paranoia on the other

      So what if Hughes said your game- that’s accurate.

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 7:33am
        Fadida said | November 22nd 2017 @ 7:33am | ! Report

        I agree. Football is my game, AFL yours

        Don’t have a problem with that at all

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:41am
        c said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        football is growing

        • Roar Rookie

          November 22nd 2017 @ 1:47pm
          Grobbelaar said | November 22nd 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

          It is.
          It has been growing for nigh on 135 years now.

    • Roar Rookie

      November 22nd 2017 @ 6:42am
      Stevo said | November 22nd 2017 @ 6:42am | ! Report

      Well done SFC and I reckon you had one too many ginger beers last night 🙂

      Sheahan is just one of the old guard journos who was brought up on a staple Melbourne diet of bagging football that included, sometimes, none too subtle digs at ethnicity. Johnny Warren’s account of the past is accurate. Greg Baum spent an eternity getting stuck into Hill’s comments but spent far fewer column inches dissecting Sheahan’s ill informed thoughts. But Sheahan is stuck in the past and the younger folk today don’t carry that baggage and are more open to following multiple sports. The most important thing is for the FFA and the football community to focus all their energy on creating a compelling local competition. It won’t rival the top leagues of European but it can be entertaining and provide a springboard for local talent. It can continue to attract OS gems like Broich, Berisha, Fornaroli, Ninkovic, Castro, etc. It can be a fantastic future but we shouldn’t get stuck on the comments of a few dinosaurs.

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 7:07am
        Waz said | November 22nd 2017 @ 7:07am | ! Report

        Well said. It’s easy to get distracted and fight past battles but when we sort our own house out, and we will, we’re actually in a good place with a great professional league that’s capable of expanding, record commercial revenues, wealthy owners prepared to invest in the game, an excellent annual 700+ knock out competition, Socceroos & Matilda’s, an emerging second division, and an outstanding participation rate. Challenges yes, internal
        bickering and disagreement, yes; but in a good place all the same.

        • November 22nd 2017 @ 7:28am
          punter said | November 22nd 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

          Well said Waz, we have our problems no doubt, especially with governance, but I was at game last night & some good football played by both sides & the crowd though small was right into it.

          • November 22nd 2017 @ 7:49am
            spruce moose said | November 22nd 2017 @ 7:49am | ! Report

            It was a fantastic game last night. 3 good goals and Sydney really should have scored another 5.

            Small crowd, but an excellent atmosphere

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 7:09am
        LuckyEddie said | November 22nd 2017 @ 7:09am | ! Report

        Your right Steve particularly in regard to getting both the womens and mens leagues to a high standard backed up by the football community and FFA. WC qualification is great for both men and womens teams but just cannot rely on a few games over 4 years to provide any lasting and meaningful impact. Similarly the friendly games from Liverpool etc. might have a bit of impact but once the circus leaves town coverage of football drops off the radar.

        Similarly with womens football while it’s great to see them getting the recognition they deserve the crowds at W-League games are poor. Even when the women play a double header with the men the crowd that arrives early to watch the women is poor. Market the game to school State and private all girl schools. The women are getting bigger crowds for friendly Internationals but like the Liverpool etc. games the event goers disappear pretty quickly.

        Realistically it is hard for the FFA to get the coverage in the media because the media owns sport and will push it’s products first e.g. Nine with NRL etc. etc. But the emphasis must be on HAL (mens and womens) that is where we need a strong base. To all football fans it’s pretty simple if you want a good solid league go to games the one thing advertisers and the media cannot ignore are big crowds. A big crowd at an event game once every four years will not do it.

    • November 22nd 2017 @ 7:18am
      AR said | November 22nd 2017 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      My word.

      And on it goes.

      After we secure WCQ – and the *morning after* the FFA Cup Final – the Football tab continues to obsess over a single off-the-cuff comment from a retired journo almost 2 weeks ago.

      And not to be outdone by Tuckers’ ironic “insecure” charge (which had seriously impressive clicks – Bravo Mike), Stuart’s piece finishes with a modern take on SMELL THE FEAR.


      • November 22nd 2017 @ 8:52am
        Post_hoc said | November 22nd 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        obsessed? Really? I suppose you AFL types might have trouble walking and chewing gum, but us football lovers we can and do hold multiple thoughts on a multiple issues.

        I count 3 articles on the FFA cup match last night, I also see a great article by Midfielder on engaging with the associations to build the bridge, which ties in very nicely with post FFA cup.

        Now AR once again, if you don’t like whats on this tab, there is the door, use it. We wil continue to talk about what we want when we want.

        Now you clearly don’t have anything to add on the FFA cup match or any of the other topics, YOU seem drawn to these articles, clearly the problem is with you. Stop projecting and just leave.

        • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:11am
          chris said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

          But AR has been to multiple World Cups! He just loves football.

        • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:15am
          chris said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          People like AR have no problem with the Mike Sheeans of the world. They would never criticise anti-football comments. But as soon as football supporters rebuke the garbage, in comes AR and his ilk and telling us to be quiet and stop commenting on it etc etc. Is that about right AR?

        • November 22nd 2017 @ 10:37am
          Caltex Ten & SBS support Australian Football said | November 22nd 2017 @ 10:37am | ! Report


      • Columnist

        November 22nd 2017 @ 9:23am
        Stuart Thomas said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        Hi AR,

        Always respect your voice here mate, just a few things to point out. You seem to be insinuating that despite all the good things happening in football, fans are more interested in starting WW 3 over this issue.

        I can issue you, as I pointed out at the start of the piece, I have been to busy to worry about his comment. With a blog of the first leg and attendance at the second, the Honduran matches were gripping, a blog of the FFA Cup final last night, working on the RLWC matches and coverage of the Matilda’s tonight, my plate has been full, however, the ‘off-the-cuff’ comment made by the ‘retired journo’ (surely an attempt to downplay it’s weight) needed to be pointed out and Simon Hill shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of an attack which implies that he began the fracas.

        That is why I wanted to express my feelings on the issue. I watch Sheahan regularly and love his musings on football, however, his opinion on football isn’t needed nor informed.

        Cheers mate, just wanted to explain the thinking.

        • November 23rd 2017 @ 7:58am
          AR said | November 23rd 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

          Hi Stuart, sorry, didn’t get back to this site yesterday.

          To respond…

          “the ‘off-the-cuff’ comment made by the ‘retired journo’ (surely an attempt to downplay it’s weight)”
          – Yes, absolutely. How much weight should we give it? In my opinion, almost none.

          “Simon Hill shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of an attack which implies that he began the fracas.”
          – first, Hill is not “bearing the brunt” of anything. This absurd discussion should have been out to bed last week.
          – second, again, what “attack”? That time a retired journo was asked his opinion and gave it?
          – third, and again, weight of all of this *should* be downplayed. That’s my point.

          I think we agree this is all a bit silly.

          • November 23rd 2017 @ 11:19am
            chris said | November 23rd 2017 @ 11:19am | ! Report

            Yes but the almost daily snipes by MSM hacks (angry white men over 55) continues unabated.
            We have ignored it for years because there simply wasnt any medium to respond and we didnt have journos (apart from Johnny Warren) who would stand up to it. Now we have the medium and we have the journos who snipe back.

    • November 22nd 2017 @ 7:41am
      Fadida said | November 22nd 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      Well done Stuart. Referencing AFL or those within it’s circle will generate many clicks.

      I’ll be struggling to keep my tablet charged enough to keep up!

      Honestly, I don’t know who Mike Sheehan is. I therefore don’t care what he says. Whenever an AFL “identity” (are they an identity if we can’t identify them?) makes negative comments I put it down to their fear of the game and it’s potential, jealousy because we have a World Cup. Why else would they want to expand internationally?

      I await the knuckle draggers joining the debate, grunting about “pure manly physicality” like the half wit yesterday.

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:53am
        mattq said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        spot on Fadida. Never heard of this bloke. Who cares what any AFL ‘identity’ has to say. why can’t we just ignore it. Do we think we’re winning people into our corner by being provoked?

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:53am
        c said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        sheehan is a knuckle dragging bogan

        • Roar Rookie

          November 22nd 2017 @ 1:48pm
          Grobbelaar said | November 22nd 2017 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

          and he’s about 80 years old an long retired

    • November 22nd 2017 @ 8:38am
      striker said | November 22nd 2017 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      Stuart whatever they are saying its not working, this game will only get stronger that’s a fact, let them stick to plying Ireland in there World Cup which is a joke, its obvious there scared of Football, the NRL media in Sydney are no where as bad as the AFL in Melbourne as most have a soft spot for our game, you only have to drive around Sydney on any day and Football is Booming, Kids playing in the there tens of thousands and very passionate about the game.

      • Roar Guru

        November 22nd 2017 @ 9:39am
        AdelaideDocker said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        And there’s thousands of kids very passionately playing Aussie rules on ovals in Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth.

        Let’s face it: both sports are popular, both sports have some brilliant competitions and both sports are great (in my view).

        This sparring, constant attacks from both sides is just pitiful now. I’ve got no doubt there’s some in AFL circles who are some combination of “jealous/annoyed/fearful” of football, but there’s probably some in football circles which are enviable of the AFL. Who cares, really.

        Let those people – who are probably in the minority – wallow and complain about the ‘rival’ league, whilst the rest of us either go back to loving one of the sports, or, like Stuart and I, go back to supporting both sports and seeing magic happen on the respective ovals/pitches.

        Enough of all this rubbish. I’ll be honest though, I’m being deliriously optimistic if I think anything will change. Some users on here are too ingrained to just argue at every turn.

    • Roar Guru

      November 22nd 2017 @ 9:18am
      Rick Disnick said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      I can’t believe Mike Sheahan’s name has made it into the title of an article on the Football Forum. Fantastic stuff.

      Rick’s Challenge

      Show discipline for the first time in your lives football fans. Do not comment and keep this trash piece to under 20 comments.

      If you people truly want to stop this rubbish occurring on the Football Forum, stop commenting on these types of articles.

      Of course, I suspect many (if not all) enjoy it. If so, comment away.

      It will outrate the A-League TV ratings & attendance figures for the week at the very least. 🙂

      • Columnist

        November 22nd 2017 @ 9:27am
        Stuart Thomas said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        I thought you would be proud Rick. Sheahan is a well respected man and I have enjoyed his thoughts for years, no agenda with him yet his comment was as weighty as the single opinion of a parochial fan.

        • November 22nd 2017 @ 5:26pm
          Jack Russell said | November 22nd 2017 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

          Assuming he actually watched the game, I don’t see what the problem is.

          He was right, it was an ordinary game played on a terrible surface. If Simon Hill said the same thing you probably would have agreed with him.

          • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:29pm
            Aligee said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:29pm | ! Report

            I would agree

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:54am
        Post_hoc said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        why do you only appear for these types of articles, Rick?

        • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:19pm
          Aligee said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:19pm | ! Report

          One could say the same for you MR fight club!

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