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AFL's new challenge: the media's rampant cesspool of bullying and vilification that threatens to become a tsunami

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Roar Guru
23rd June, 2022
48
6988 Reads

The latest Jordan De Goey saga has thrown up an interesting juxtaposition.

There are those who believe that De Goey has messed up, and that the media has been just in exposing and condemning him.

And there are those who assert that De Goey has committed no wrongdoing, and that the media have been exploitative and opportunistic.


De Goey himself wrote a statement that alluded to trial by media and the damage that it could do a player’s mental well-being if they didn’t have the sort of support network that he did.

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Yet, days later, the Collingwood Football Club announced that De Goey would be taking ‘personal leave’, showing support can only armour you so much.


It really highlights an interesting question that hasn’t been asked: what is the media’s responsibility to the game, to the individual, and to the public?


Kane Cornes recently proved that persecuting Collingwood’s Jack Ginnivan for four rounds was no aberration when he immediately targeted De Goey, raving about his rap sheet, and arguing with his fellow panellists on the Sunday Footy Show about his integrity and the Magpies’ obligation to keep him in check.

It’s important to note that there were panellists who disagreed with Cornes, so his view was not part of a consensus.

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>> READ: Media bullying of Jordan De Goey has been a disgusting witch-hunt


Mark Robinson had the temerity to suggest De Goey might be ‘the dumbest player of his generation’ in the Herald Sun. That’s strong language. While footballers are always going to be open to critique of their ability and their performance, this speaks directly to De Goey and devolves to a personal level.

Robinson, naturally, tries to couch it in that disarming rambling everyman vernacular for which he’s renowned.


It wasn’t that long ago that Robinson backed the Western Bulldogs’ Bailey Smith for his courage and honesty after his indiscretion for taking an illicit substance. It’s an interesting oppositional view – support on one hand, and vilification on the other.

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Where do you fall? Let the judge, jury, and executioner in Robinson decide. I wish we could all be as virtuous as him.


Jon Ralph is yet another who’s chased Twitter infamy by whacking De Goey – Ralph’s an exemplar, in my view, of finding and speaking to the lowest common denominator as a means of appealing to the mob.

On the flip side, Hawthorn legends Leigh Matthews and Luke Hodge were both bemused at the uproar. It’s interesting to note the opinions of two people who have no vested interest in driving public consumption to their media.


This posse mentality amounts to hysteria that’s often founded on melodrama, yet are we actually that surprised? It’s not new to the industry and has, in fact, been going on for years now – arguably ever since we elevated the media’s standing and thrust them into the limelight on various soapboxes, rather than consigning them to remain anonymously behind some keyboard.

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Brody Mihocek and Jordan De Goey of the Magpies celebrate a goal

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)


When Nathan Buckley was coach of Collingwood, he clashed with Footy Classified’s Craig Hutchinson about players being door-stopped. Go further back, and Dean Laidley jumped as then-coach of a struggling North Melbourne because he wanted to beat a hasty retreat before the AFL media had stirred a frenzy about his coaching future – you know, the sort of behaviour that ultimately harangued then-Carlton coach David Teague out of a job.


There are plenty of examples of journalistic bloodlust that showcase media hounding players and coaches, inciting public animosity, and dictating a narrative that has less basis in reality, and more in agenda.


If this cadre of journalists were functioning in Hollywood with celebrities, we’d label them ‘paparazzi’. Or ‘tabloid’. But, somehow, in the industry of the AFL, most of them have pulpits from which they wax evangelical as purveyors of truth and denouncers of the unworthy.

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The reality is footballing journalism has become the weaponisation of every form of airwave to generate ratings, because that’s all it’s about for so many nowadays.


It’s not about facts, integrity, and responsible reporting. It’s about the clicks.


Collingwood has punished Jordan De Goey. Fans will argue over the merits of the penalties, but ultimately the 26-year old has been held accountable. Players mess up, and they answer to their club. De Goey – whether you agree with the severity of his penalty or not – has now done that.


But does the AFL care that there’s a rampant cesspool of journalism threatening to become a tsunami? Who holds these people accountable? It’s certainly not their employers, because they’re benefiting from the wipeouts.

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Some might argue that with broadcast rights, the media are an integral cog in the great AFL machine. They’re not. Consider this hypothetical: kill the game, and where do these people go? They become redundant. But if, on the other hand, you eliminated them, what would happen to the game?

Nothing. It’d still exist, and all we’d be left with are those journalists who decry the muckraking and report purely on the game.


The AFL is often challenged with issues to ameliorate – rules, declining attendances, struggling clubs, the list goes on. But this has become a very real thing: irresponsible reporting that elevates into the strata of bullying and vilification. What does it take for the powers-that-be to recognise and address the problem?


Whatever you think of De Goey, he did have a point in his statement: it’s just a matter of time before the media’s unrelenting and selective castigation and blatant sensationalising torments a player – or coach – to an end none of us want to see.

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