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My year in review: How the AFL narrowly escaped 2021's pit of flaming faeces

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Roar Guru
25th August, 2021
5

I’m sitting at my house in Melbourne, at the pigeons that my housemate feeds with birdseed and stale bread rolls.

I’m reading frantically the news that all Carlton supporters are furiously taking in: who’s at IKON (Princes) Park? Who’s not there? Are the players there? Has David Teague been fired yet? Has there been a mass sacking, or has no-one been moved on yet?

I’m hearing that media have been camped outside. We’ve had twitter updates by the minute from media, who I must assume are concluded essential workers in the theocracy of Victoria.

We’re being talked about – read, castigated, reviled, excoriated – by more media on talkback radio. Such gallant names: Gerard Healy, David King, Wayne Carey, Brian Taylor, James Brayshaw. One would think their achievements echo throughout the ages; one would think that, given their position and their desire to pontificate to the adulation of the multitudes who cannot work at the moment, they have something to add. But what you’re hearing – what you’re seeing – isn’t that.

What’s in a press release, in an article? Is it meant to be facts? What facts have been reported about Carlton’s review? What’s actually been said by Carlton about their review? That they’re doing one? Who they’ve gotten in to examine the football department? Do we know what they’ve even said to David Teague? Do we know who’s even seen the thing?

I’m a bit emotionally checked out. It’s been a tricky year and a bit. I live in a rooming house, and am not particularly close to my roommates. My life has been an 8’ by 14’ space, filled with my bed, a rowing machine, and a multitude of devices I wish I could do away with. I’m sick of staring at my TV.

David Teague addresses the Carlton players

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

I can’t go down to the park and kick a footy around, so I watch the news, jump onto social media and watch as the hysteria builds. It must be something in the water in Melbourne, that so much can be made of so little.

I can’t watch the games, and strangely I don’t know if I really want to; at least, not on TV. Used to be that once upon a time, I’d watch each and every game through multiple times, and it wouldn’t matter who was playing.

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Was a fan of footy before I was a fan of Carlton, but then that’s a bit to be expected given the first time I truly became aware of my support of Carlton was getting booed by adults for wearing a Carlton jumper at my primary school’s AFL day, barely a month after the Salary Cap penalties were handed out.

I would watch the game and would marvel at it. Commentators weren’t personalities so much back them. They were descriptive, analytical; they offered insight I lacked, which of course I did as a young human being.

I can remember games retrieved from the brink by Jason Akermanis, James Hird, Nathan Buckley; I have one crystal clear memory of a Buckley goal, kicked from about 51m out, hard up against the boundary line on his right foot. The ball sailed through gun-barrel straight, and I just sat up and marvelled at it. I can remember Gary Moorcroft’s mark, and that was the moment it became the sport for me.

Nathan Buckley #5 for Collingwood

Nathan Buckley (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

Here I sit in my little room, watching the pigeons. Must be nice to be able to go outside. I do wonder at a few things, though. I’m looking at the media now. They’ve got a duty, one would think; they’re allowed outside, shouldn’t they have to tell us what’s going on out there? As in, tell the truth?

What’s Damien Barrett go for these days? He’d be worth a pretty penny. Wonder if, in between the counting of all those lovely, lush lucre he could potentially find his way through to a consistent narrative.

In May, pressure was mounting on Carlton head coach David Teague; in August, Teague is hard done by. David King has a pretty big jaw. He still looks as though he’d go around okay if you plonked him at CHF. Wonder how he’d go in a coach’s box, if he’d be much chop; he certainly has a lot of opinions about it.

James Brayshaw cops an unfair amount of flack for his voice being abrasive. I think it’s probably a bit unfair.

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Wasn’t he a cricketer? He’d certainly be a better bat than me, but I wonder what qualifies him to commentate football other than a jobs for the boys attitude and being a good bloke to have a pint or ten next to. And I’m not much more than a stodgy opener anyway; they’re best not listened to, unless they’re the captain and you’ve no choice.

Gerard Healy used to work at the ABC, right? I can remember catching him calling a game, reading an article; used to be he was a capital J journalist, once upon a time. What’s he doing now? He works for Croc media, I think. Wonder at what point in your life your younger self would look at you and decide to take up knitting instead of making a career that would turn out that way. Can you stand for much more than that lovely shiny if your content changes to such a degree?

Then, we come to this website. Sure, The Roar’s not meant to be all that and a bag of chips. The editorial policy’s a bit hit or miss; you can submit an article and have no notification that it’s been declined or why, but it’s a user submits website where you can publish your own content.

That’s gold. It’s like a forum in which good young journalists – with a capital J – can use to get their content out there, get themselves going and notice; it’s where those with a passion for something can talk about it, air their thoughts in an acceptable way. It’s Triple J Unearthed, but for sports journalism.

But then you get articles telling me how good the AFL is. How good the umpiring is. How this year is the best in living memory. Makes me wonder, have you looked outside?

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Whether there’s pigeons out there or not, footy’s been on a tightrope above a pit of flaming faeces the entire year. Coaches can and have lost their jobs; kids who lived the dream of getting drafted last year got shafted due to no other reason than list downsizing, while the best paid players negotiated to maintain as much of their slice of the pie as they could.

(Photo by Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

You’ve had clubs shed coaches and support people from list management and football departments the way a Coalition government sheds public service. And you’ve got players doing it hard.

Fans have been kept away from games; broadcasting departments have been shedding players the way clubs shed coaches and support people. You get replays minutes later that show what you needed to see in the moment; you get longshots so long you cannot see who the players are, and no that isn’t my eyesight giving way.

You get shots of the bench, the goals, a particularly interesting looking seat or a spectacularly posed piece of advertising when the game’s going on.

Footy’s not been amazing this year. It’s been a silver lining maybe, but it’s not been the best year in recent memory without having the attention span of a goldfish.

About the only people who seem happy about all this is the media. Makes me a bit dubious, even if they’re allowed to go outside; I wonder if, while they’re out, they’ve taken the opportunity to look around. Do they notice the wasteland that is Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane?

I wonder if they wonder where all the people have gone.

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