A fine line

(Cath Durkin is a first year journalism student, and a footy fan)

 

A passionate man is Eddie McGuire. Keep an eye on him next time you’re playing the Pies if you happen to find yourself on the second level of the Members’ stand at the ‘G and I promise you, you’ll see it. Red-faced and stormy-eyed he’ll be – yelling and screaming and barracking away like the rest of us. I don’t know what it’s doing for his blood pressure but I guess that’s not the point. I get it, he wants to compete, he wants the Pies to win and I like that about him. It’s the same for me with my beloved Tiges.

As president of the Collingwood Football Club, he couldn’t be any other way. Bleeding black-and-white and seeing the world in a one-eyed fashion are in the job description, I’m sure. And I love that about the man. It is this sort of passion and excitement that really make the game what it is. The Pies are lucky to have him.

But when I sat down yesterday and saw snippets of Eddie’s interview with Liam Jurrah, I felt uncomfortable – almost as uncomfortable as Liam looked.

For I didn’t see a prestigious and well-drilled journalist, which is what Eddie is in his second life, asking the man-of-the-moment hard-hitting, and news-breaking questions. No. Instead I saw a footballer – an extremely vulnerable and tired looking footballer –probed by that same vocal supporter from the back corner of the Members’.

Eddie asked all the right questions, of course, and Liam gave all the answers you would expect to hear,

“It’s tough at the moment, but I want to keep my (AFL) dream going.

For me, family comes first, but at the moment I just want to make my family proud by playing footy.

I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing, keep training and stick to the routine at the club,”

Nothing wrong with that.

But, to me, it is irrelevant what was said and how it was said – the content of the interview is not what troubled me. It was the scenario itself. The idea that one of the AFL’s most prominent CEO’s had the sheer audacity to conduct an interview with another club’s player, without their knowledge, and air it as part of his self-titled show on Fox Footy is just astounding.

And it seems I’m not alone in this. In a heated exchange with Kevin Bartlett on 1116 SEN radio, Kevin put to Eddie the conflict of interest. Eddie retorted

“The point is this – I’ve been a president and a journalist for 12 years now. Wake up and smell the roses.

If we all know I am the president of the football club – I’m sure that Liam Jurrah is aware of that as well – and he is still happy to do so – what is the issue?”

I understand that Eddie is also a journalist and this, in essence, is what a lot of journalists do – track down exclusives and milk them for all their worth. But surely he saw the conflict of interest here. Surely there was a moment – fleeting though it may have been – in which he thought to himself,

“Maybe someone else should be doing this.”

It is very difficult for the media to be objective, I know that, and perhaps some of the best stories do indeed come from journalists who are willing to personalise. Ones who take risks by accenting stories with their own personal connections. However, I struggle to see how anyone thought it appropriate for Liam Jurrah of the Melbourne Football Club – a player in such a delicate situation as it is – to be interviewed by the ardent president and supporter of the Collingwood Football Club in Eddie McGuire. I reckon it’s just wrong.

About Catherine Durkin

Catherine Durkin, who has been writing for the Almanac since her high school days, is now a reporter and presenter for Fox Sports News, based in Sydney

Comments

  1. Dave Nadel says:

    I didn’t see the interview and I have conceded that Eddie has had a conflict of interest for twelve years but you don’t have the full story Catherine.

    Liam Jurrah was originally brought to Melbourne by Bruce Hearn Mackinnon -academic, musician and fifth generation Collingwood supporter – and Rupert Betheris – former Collingwood player and artist. They arranged for Jurrah to play with Collingwood VFL team in the hope that Collingwood would subsequently draft Liam. This did not happen for a number of reasons (including poor judgement by Derek Hine and Gavin Brown) and Liam Jurrah ended up at Melbourne.

    Liam lived at Bruce’s house, not only when he was paying with Collingwood but also in his early days at Melbourne. Liam has effectively become part of Bruce’s family and Bruce has become part of Liam’s. While Bruce and Rupert wanted Liam to play for the Pies it is quite clear that their primary concern is Liam’s welfare and Bruce has worked closely with Melbourne Football Club officials in Liam’s interests.

    Much of this information is in Bruce Hearn Mackinnon’s book “The Liam Jurrah Story”(2011). Part of Melbourne’s difficulty dealing with Liam’s current problems is that many of the Demon officials who understood Liam in his early days are either no longer at the club (e.g. former coach Dean Bailey) or no longer in leadership positions (e.g.Jimmy Stynes)

    As I understand it, Eddie’s interview with Liam Jurrah was arranged through Bruce and Rupert. I can only assume that that means that they or Liam believed his position was not being put by Melbourne Football Club and/or the rest of the media. Bruce and Rupert’s first concern is Liam, not Collingwood, not Melbourne and certainly not Eddie; Liam. If the current Melbourne leadership had loooked after Liam as well as Jimmy Stynes and Dean Bailey had I doubt that Eddie would have got near Liam Jurrah.

  2. You’re right I was completely unaware as to that aspect of the story and it does certainly add more understanding as to how Eddie obtained the interview and how it came to fruition.

    Having said that I still believe that Eddie’s position as president of the Collingwood Football Club made him a poor choice to interview Liam Jurrah. Whether Liam was willing or not is not necessarily the point, it feel it just crossed a certain unwritten code between clubs. That being that CEOs should not be conducting interviews with players from other clubs and presenting them on national television – especially if the club is only alerted to it half an hour before showtime.

    There are plenty of journalists out there with no affiliation to AFL clubs who could have been contacted to conduct the same, if not better, interview, if Liam and those around him felt that his voice was not being heard. The boys from “On the Couch” or “Morning Glory” to name a few. Eddie McGuire was not the man for this job.

  3. Of course that is just my opinion!

  4. Mark Doyle says:

    The mainstream media coverage of this Liam Jurrah story is a circus with most of the media buffoons making ill-informed, judgmental and mischievous comment. It seems that Jurrah has got himself into a bit of a pickle and has been charged with a criminal offence for which the Northern Territory court will deal with in due course. I do not believe that Eddie McGuire has a conflict of interest in this case because Jurrah is not connected with the Collingwood Football Club and the issue is not about his football; it is a welfare issue. People who perceive a conflict of interest do not understand the legal meaning of conflict of interest. McGuire’s primary motive for doing this interview was publicity for his new TV show. I suspect that the motive of Jurrah and his family in doing the interview was to answer the media’s negative and sensationalist reporting of the Alice Spring’s fight.

  5. Good topic Catherine.

    I think its safe to say that if it was another journalist, they probably would have taken the
    same opportunity as Eddie did. Especially these days, its a competitive world for journos
    trying to get the public’s attention and break the current stories.
    Eddie stated he was invited over, so he brought his tv crew along too.
    If Liam had any ojection, its his house he could have told Eddie he wasn’t comfortable with the situation before any questions were asked.
    For those who argued with Eddie with that ‘what if he was a collingwood player card’ im sure many stories leaked out to the media out of Collingwood’s control and without thier permission too.
    i personally have no problem with Eddie juggling his presidency and journalism jobs. Only when i see signs of strain with the club will i reconsider my feelings.
    As Eddie said- “get over it”

  6. Andrew Fithall says:

    From Wikipedia: conflict of interest (COI) occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other.

    In the original, the word “possibly” is in italics. Eddie McGuire definitely does have a conflict of interest. Regardless of his motivations, or the intent of the minders of Liam Jarrah, or LIam Jarrah himself, it is the multiple interests of EMcG that bring the conflict of interest to bear. For Mark Doyle to say it is not about football is to ignore that it was conducted for the purpose of a football show on a channel that is exclusively about football, and the reason LJ was being interviewed is because he is a footballer.

  7. I’m sorry but I think you may have missed my point a little.

    Firstly, I take issue with the fact that Eddie bypassed club protocols and got the interview without its permission. That is factual. Melbourne have said they are unhappy with McGuire’s actions as he was out of line and should have at least contacted the club. Doesn’t matter if Liam was willing. Doesn’t matter if he felt comfortable (although he looked otherwise, perhaps I was perceiving shyness as discomfort.) I, as do many others, believe it was wrong.

    Secondly, I take issue with the idea that “he was invited to his home so he took his tv crew along.” As Patrick Smith said on SEN radio yesterday morning, “Do you take your TV camera and crew along with you every time someone invites you into their home?” – or words to that effect

    Thirdly, I struggle to see how this isn’t a football issue. It is. Liam Jurrah is an AFL footballer. Eddie McGuire is an AFL president. They were discussing Liam’s return to the AFL someday. How is that not a football issue?

    And just to clarify, Eddie would care if the roles would reverse. He can swear all he wants to the contrary, but, at the end of the day, if another club’s CEO came and did an interview with someone at the Collingwood Football Club, who was at the centre of a huge story that the club itself was trying so incredibly hard to maintain and deal with out of the media gaze, he would most certainly take issue.

    I appreciate Dani that you as a Collingwood supporter have no issue with Eddie juggling his presidency and journalism jobs and that’s great, but what about the signs of strain this may cause for OTHER clubs.

  8. And yes, thank you Andrew, conflict of interest is used in this article in its more “human,” state. Conflict of emotions, conflicts of allegiances, conflict of ideas etc.

  9. I am aware that Eddie did not ask for the club permission, but if people are saying that is wrong then they are’nt they saying that Jurrah was wrong to have agreed to it? He also must have known that his club didn’t approve any interview.
    It takes two to tango.

    Yes Eddie took his cameras, although i believe that statement by Smith was petty. No you wouldnt take a camera crew with you everytime someone invites you to thier home. But a journalist who has the intention of using the fottage of an interview agreed to by the player would, obviously.
    No one could physically put Liam infront of the camera and make him speak, this was his own choice and Eddie as a journalist would, took advantage of the situation.
    If Jurrah was unwilling to participate at any time he had the freewill to do so.
    Since everyone is going on about protocol, perhaps if Melbourne had better educated thier players about what the club allows when it comes to journalists Liam may have not particpated at all, but the point is he allowed the interview to take place.

    Other clubs can deal with Eddie as they wish, to them he’s just another journalist.

  10. See this is where the conflict of interest lies. To other clubs, Eddie isn’t just another journalist. He is a journalist who is also a club president who therefore has contact with people within the AFL world that other journalists do not. It works the same for other journalists. Eddie isn’t just another club president. He is a club president with access to media outlets and avenues of self-presentation that other club presidents do not.

    When you combine these two things, you come up with a conflict of interest. Where do you draw the line as to what information and facilities you can and can’t, should and shouldn’t use either way?

    If you read Rohan Conally’s article in yesterday’s paper he reports on the conversation between Smith and Mcguire – ”I’m not going to have another five years of this nonsense about being president of a club, which is being a glorified chook raffler these days … The only people doing it for free are the presidents.”
    To which Smith had a decent, and pertinent comeback. ”But Eddie, you’re not doing EMT [Eddie McGuire Tonight] for free”

    The overlaps here are such that, to other clubs, Eddie is certainly not just another journalist.

    And yes maybe Liam should take some of the blame, but that still doesn’t detract from the fact that what Eddie did was wrong – two wrongs don’t make a right.

    As Eddie said ”I don’t care if it’s a conflict or not. In this situation, there’s a conflict if you go on your TV show and don’t do the best you can to talk about an issue.” And that’s true, but not if you have vested interests in a competing club and especially not when you’re using your PRESIDENTIAL contacts to create a JOURNALISTIC story.

  11. If Eddie said “wake up and smell the roses” then he also has a conflict of idioms to deal with. I think he needs a coffee.

  12. lets just agree to disagree lol

  13. Haha I think we might have to.

    And yes, Gigs. Early morning radio got the better of him, shoulda had that coffee!

  14. Not the worst decision he’s made… who thought Mieke Buchan on breakfast radio was a good idea!?

  15. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    The real issue here is that Eddie wants to win that elusive Gold Logie that pesky Collingwood has deprived him.
    Really, he used LJ to promote his new footy show. At some level he may have had LJ’s interests at heart but flogging his new vehicle by capitalising on the story of the moment far outweighs concerns for LJ’s welfare.

    Eddie is a journo when it suits him and president when it suits him. I’m with Catherine and Patrick Smith on this one. Sorry Ed…and Danni.

  16. Phil – I’m with you. Whether Eddie can explain his position or not is irrelevant. It is the perception that condemns him.

    And how crazy (or maybe just slack) were the Dees to let ANY journalist near Jurrah, let a lone Eddie.

  17. I’m with you, Dips. It reflected very poorly on the Demons that this occured without them aware.

  18. John Butler says:

    Catherine, your piece and the conversation it has prompted are all fair enough as far as it goes.

    But I personally think the whole Eddie vs Melbourne thing is a sideshow distracting from a much bigger and more consequential story. It says something about how parochial and self involved the football ‘industry’ can be at times that this theme has commanded so much attention.

    The real story is Liam Jurrah. The fact that he’s playing AFL football at all. The very different culture and circumstance he comes from. The lack of understanding we pretty much all have for that culture. And, as a connected issue, the inclination of some to turn the recent travails of certain black footballers into grounds for sweeping generalisations.

    As for conflict of interest in football? If we’re serious, I wouldn’t know where to start, or where to finish.

  19. Good debate to get started Catherine.

    The double standard condemns Eddie. The old do as I say, not as I do senario.

    Whether Eddie has a conflict of interest or not (and I believe he does) there is a perception that he does and that cheapens Eddies image in the eyes of many thinking people.

    I hope that next time one of Eddie’s little helpers crosses the line in some way (it is not a matter of if but a matter of when) I hope that the proticols are broken in an attempt to get the 360 scoop.
    He will scream.

    No matter what ‘holier than thou’ approach Eddie takes at this time he has through his own actions lost credibility in the high moral ground department. He shall always be a hypocrite with self interest the justification in my view.

    Where does he stand with respect to contempt of court on this issue or does he stand above common law as well?

  20. Dave Nadel says:

    I agree with JB. The story is Liam Jurrah. Even though he is one of very few people playing football whose ancestors have been in Australia for longer than a moment, the journey he has taken to play AFL football and the cultural gaps that he has had to cross are as big as those facing Majak Daw. What happens to Liam in the next few months will also be a test of how much AFL football has grown in the last few years.

    I am sorry Catherine, but Eddie, his TV show and his conflict of interest is a second order issue. Of great interest to media junkies with their heads up their a*ses but of little consequence in the real world. A more serious issue is the nature of support that Melbourne Football Club are giving Liam Jurrah or the lack thereof. As I said in my previous post, if Stynes and Bailey were still in charge I doubt whether Eddie would have got near Liam. The fact that Bruce Hearn Mackinnon and Rupert Betheris felt the need to offer Eddie an interview is a comment on Melbourne’s handling of the media. Bruce and Rupert are the only people in this saga that I am sure put Liam’s interest ahead of their football club.

    JB is also right that the AFL is riddled with conflict of interest. Yes Eddie has a conflict and so does his fellow President James Brayshaw. Ian Collins when he was President of Carlton and CEO of Docklands had a bigger one. Without doubt the most egregious conflict of interest this century was when the late Ron Evans was Chairman of the AFL while also Managing Director of Spotless – the company that does all the catering for MCG and Docklands. I am sure that Evans behaved scrupulously and did not use his AFL position to assist Spotless but on paper his conflict of interest was much worse than Eddie’s

  21. At the risk of being controversial (never on this website) I’m a bit disturbed by the cotton wooling of Liam Jurrah. Yes he has had a difficult time, yes his journey has been difficult, and yes we need to tread carefully as a society to consider his position, but not a word have I heard nor read about the bloke he allegedly belted with a machette.

    We can talk about cultural understandings and cultural differences but I fail to see what is cultural and worth protecting about putting a bloke in hospital over what is deemed to be a family dispute. Violence is violence.

  22. Dave,

    So now we are down to working out the degrees of conflict of interest?? That’s fine so we all agree there is one. Giving Eddie his own footy show (again), this was always going to happen so probably good that he has kicked off the “debate” before the real footy (and stories) start.

    I don’t buy the Collingwood connection to Jarrah as being justification. Eddie’s prime concern was to get the biggest story possible at that time – which he did. The question is really whether he followed correct protocol in getting that story- it appears not. Or at very least, he has used poor judgement in gaining agreement from a person in a very fragile and susceptible frame of mind.

    I agree it was slack of Melbourne to not have primed Jarrah up to get any such interviews agreed to by the club before the event but suspect his mind is, understandably, not fully occupied with following correct Footy Club protocols at present.

  23. Fair point Dips. Suspect most other players charged with attacking someone with a machete would have been up for de-registration (think Ben Cousins).

  24. John Butler says:

    Dips, I don’t see much cotton wool being dispensed.

    Legal restraints prevent any real discussion of what happened. In any case, what do we really know of the events? Reports have only been general in nature. It would only be supposition at best, and there’s enough of that already.

    I haven’t heard anyone suggest Jurrah won’t have to account for the charges. Not him. Not Melbourne. Not his community. Nor anyone here.

    Nobody’s condoning violence. So I don’t really get your point.

  25. John Butler says:

    Budge, even though Cousins wasn’t picked up by AFL processes, he had admitted a drug problem by the time the AFL de-registered him.

    Nothing is proven in Jurrah’s case.

  26. Dave, I understand that the big story here is indeed Liam Jurrah’s welfare as both a player and as an individual. Never said that it wasn’t. BUT (and of course you could hear the ‘but’ lurking) the Eddie McGuire interview, while being a secondary issue, is still a rather large issue – one that, as you can see, evokes varying debate and opinion

    And I agree, there have been similar conflicts of interest in the past and present – perhaps I would have been better to mention that. But Eddie’s actions are a recent demonstration of the problems and questions such conflicts can raise. The fact that other people may be in similar conflicting situations doesn’t magically justify Eddie’s situation. As I said I like Eddie, I respect him as a journalist, as an extremely influential figure in the AFL and as a passionate supporter. But his decision to use his presidential contacts to gain access to another club’s player, without that other club’s knowledge, and then use that interview to sell his brand-spanking new footy show just does not sit well with me. As I said before, just my opinion.

  27. Catherine,
    This is where we disagree. I doubt that Eddie needed to use his “presedential contacts” to get the interview. He is quite capable of getting the interview on his media credentials alone.
    It will be an interesting season as there will no doubt be some collingwood ‘drama story’ at some point so will be fascinating to see how it plays out.

  28. But, if we are to take what Dave said in his first comment, that being –

    “Bruce Hearn Mackinnon -academic, musician and fifth generation Collingwood supporter – and Rupert Betheris – former Collingwood player and artist. They arranged for Jurrah to play with Collingwood VFL team in the hope that Collingwood would subsequently draft Liam….As I understand it, Eddie’s interview with Liam Jurrah was arranged through Bruce and Rupert.”

    Doesn’t that mean, with Eddie being the president of the Collingwood Football Club, that the contacts Eddie corresponded with to create the interview were ones obtained through his presidential duties? Making them presidential contacts? This is a genuine question, I myself am starting to wonder where the line is drawn! It is such a tricky subject.

  29. Very intriguing debate you’ve brought here, Catherine.

    It’s really good you’re taking an interest in this in your first year of university, because you’re going to spend the better part of the next three or so years talking about ethical issues in the media (trust me, I’ve just graduated with a journalism major). We can acknowledge the ‘conflict of issue’ issue isn’t anywhere near as big or consequential as the Liam Jurrah story, but as students of journalism it certainly is a tasty morsal for us to pick apart.

    Personally, I think this may have been a conflict of issue, but – and yes, this is a resounding ‘but’ – there are so many other things to take into account. As many have pointed out, Eddie wasn’t the only party involved. He couldn’t get the interview without Jurrah’s permission. Melbourne might not have done its duty in “guarding” Jurrah, but how are they to know everything? They can’t keep an eye on him 24/7. Somewhere along the lines, communications broke down between at least two of the parties. Very far from ideal.

    And in Eddie’s defence, he is a journalist. Not a semi-journalist. Not a token journalist. A journalist. While this is perhaps a story he should have steered clear from, would JB receive as much heat if the footy show got an exclusive interview with Jurrah? Granted, in such a situation, you’d hope the club would be well informed. But from a conflict of interest point of view?

    By the way, that is a genuine question. I’m curious what people think.

  30. Yes exactly! A tasty morsel is a good way to put it, after spending the last two weeks dissecting the media and its ability to be objective I leapt at this!

    In regards to The Footy Show, if they were to gain exclusive rights to an interview with Liam, I doubt it would be JB conducting it – Hutchy or Damien Barrett would probably get a guernsey.

    And yes I agree, many parties at work here, but Eddie’s role was one of the more significant.

  31. Mark Doyle says:

    This conversation is going nowhere. As I said in a previous post, most of the replies do not understand the legal meaning of conflict of interest. Someone even tried to justify their understanding of the meaning of conflict of interest by reference to the less than credible wikapedia website. People are accusing Eddie McGuire of a conflict of interest because of some mickey mouse AFL communications protocol. If the Melbourne Football Club think that Eddie McGuire has a conflict of interest they can initiate legal action, but I believe such action would be unsuccessful.
    Liam Jurrah will have to justify his recent actions in Alice Springs to the Northern Territory court.
    I believe that some of the comments about Liam Jurrah have been patronising. It seems to me that Liam Jurrah has adjusted to life in Melbourne pretty well since arriving a couple of years back, especially with the support of blokes such as Bruce Hearn McKinnon, Rupert Betheris, Jim Stynes and Dean Bailey. He is lucky to be a talented footballer to get this support and earn a good quid.
    The real issue that people should address is that most of us in Australia live an affluent lifestyle, but there is a significant number of people who are marginalised. These marginalised people include aboriginal people in remote areas who do not have acceptable standards of housing, health, education and job opportunities. It also includes people in the outer suburbs of our urban areas who live in dysfunctional households where education standards are poor and domestic violence is common. There is anecdotal evidence that the number of these marginalised people is approximately 20% of the population or in excess of 4 million people.

  32. Is this about Eddie or Liam? If it’s about Liam, it is an issue for him, his manager and his club (not necessarily in that order). If it’s about Eddie, it seems to be whether he breached any journalistic code by approaching Liam, or any agreements or protocols to which he is a party in his capaciity as the President of Collingwood.

    For what it is worth, the legal and common definitions of a conflict of interest are, in substance, much the same – are you able to give full and undivided attention and effort to more than one party in any given circumstances without compromising the interests of any one of those parties. I can’t see how Eddie’s dual roles as journo and President of Collingwood create a conflict, in absence of any agreements which bind him to act or not act in a particular way. The conflict then would be between his obligations and his actions.

    The same debate raged when he wanted to be a match day commentator, including for Collingwood games. The difficulty there lay in two respects; first, his assertion that he could call a game ‘professionally’ without being in any way biased and, secondly, whether we expect the commentators not to have both latent and more obvious affiliations. As to the first, my opinion is that he failed; as to the second, only the very best leave us guessing who they support. I don’t think this issue was a conflict of interest either, unless there was an obligation imposed upon him (other than his professed capacity to be unbiased) not to allow his affiliation to colour his call of a game. Tthat didn’t mean that I liked it at the time, and I’m going off for a good lie down to ponder how I find myself defending the man.

  33. Andrew Else says:

    In 1994, when I watched The Footy Show, Eddie McGuire was Eddie McGuire – TV Host and journo. He had the scoop on Carlton changing their jumpers, he hosted The Logies, he hosted other specials, he did it all. True, he was clearly a Pies fan, but was no different to Huddo and the Cats, Sam Lane with The Blues, Rohan Connolly with The Bombers etc

    Last week, when I watched EMT (funny enough, becuase I knew Sheeds was going to be on. No idea about Jurrah), all I saw was Eddie McGuire – Collingwood President. The same President who I see on the TV barracking for the Pies in the stand, the same President who constantly barked about the Brisbane Lions cap concessions, who would stick up for Dids/Heater/Maxwell etc and who constantly mentions Collingwood.

    That’s why I couldn’t watch the full episode and why I will rarely watch it. When I see him, I see Collingwood. It doesn’t bother me from a moral perspective, just from a viewing perspective.

    When there are so many other footy shows out there, I’m happy to avoid the one hosted by (and named after) the Collingwood President.

  34. Mark, it’s a fair point you make about Conflict of Interest – a great point, in fact – but I think people are referring to it more in the ethical sense than in the legal sense . All (or at least, the vast majority of) journalists sign ethical codes of conduct when they join with a media company. While Eddie may have a conflict of interest in the legal sense, people who know about journalism ethics are the ones bringing up the issue that perhaps the greater public might not view in the same way.

    And just to nip this in the bud, no comments about media ethics from the peanut gallery, please, or this will soon become the never-ending thread :p

  35. may not* have a conflict in the legal sense

  36. Peter Baulderstone says:

    Very thoughtful debate. Thanks for initiating it Catherine.
    I think there are 3 intermingled issues arising from the Jurrah incident. I agree with JB that by far the most important is the ‘person/footballer’ dichotomy, which has a whole range of life implications on and off the field. The Jurrah story is a high water mark, because a tribal aboriginal brings more cultural divergence to the game than most. But to a lesser degree this is an issue played out across all clubs and all workplaces – is a well rounded person a better performer, and how do you encourage this? To what extent is that an employer’s duty? The Jurrah story just has higher stakes and higher visibilty.
    The second issue is the legal limbo, when a person is charged but not convicted? How do we judge and treat them? In public life, people are often suspended from duties on full pay. Is that viable for a football club, when the legal process may take half the playing life of an individual? Can a player perform under the pressure of pending charges? What happens if their contract expires during the protracted legal process?
    The third and least important is how this all plays out in the media and public debate. These are important social issues, that suddenly get prominence because we care more about a footballer. So we do need to discuss them because they shed light on community not football issues. I get my footy news from the sketchy West Oz and the Age. The stuff I have read has all been scupulously fair. Martin Flanagan and Peter Hanlon’s pieces were insightful, if a litte ‘bleeding heart’.
    As for Eddie I haven’t seen his interview. But I don’t see that the Jurrah interview is any more a ‘conflict of interest’ than any of his other comments affecting other clubs in recent years. Just a higher profile one. ‘Conflict of interest’ operates at many levels – not just the legal one. I think the Eddie/LJ one is more about unequal power relationships. More like Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky – or any situation where a wordly older person interacts with a relatively naive younger one. Who has most to gain and who has most to lose in their dealings? Who is the adult who should exercise more responsibility and who is comparatively the child?
    But at the end of the day, Eddie was just the cleverer lead shark in the pack encircling Jurrah. And from reports it seems the questions and answers were predictable and relatively benign. The criticism should be aimed at those more worldly people who have Jurrah’s interests at heart – both Melbourne FC and the Mackinnon/Betheris advisers who allegedly arranged it. Given the legal and police processes underway, Jurrah (or any accused) could say nothing substantial or convincing about the events that he has been charged over. He just protests his innocence – leaving most of us to wonder what really happened. It will take years, if ever, for us to find out. And as for explaining the complex culture of broad shifting family alliances, retribution (tribally ‘justified’ or vengeant), superstition (or religious beliefs – take your pick) and booze that surrounds the events – how could a shy, inarticulate young man explain those forces to a largely uncomprehending audience. Better to have wiser spokesmen or generous commentators (like a Martin Flanagan) do that on his behalf. Jurrah could better have demonstrated his resolve or innocence through strong, calm actions on the training track or playing field or in his local community.
    A life or a reputation takes decades to build, but when the planets collide they can tragically be extinguished in a moment’s carelessness, recklessness, stupidity or misfortune. Who can say which is the cause in this case. But it it applies to all of us – black or white. Othello or Hamlet.

  37. pamela sherpa says:

    What bothered me most about Eddie conducting an interview was just the lack of plain human decency.
    If was also foolish of Jurrah to speak to the media in my opinion. His advisers and friends should have known better,
    The courts are going to deal with Jurrah and others involved how they see fit. How the football world deals with that will be another saga.

  38. JB – yes you are missing my point. Which is simply this – Jurrah is being treated as something of the victim in this (a victim of Eddie, a victim of culture clashes, a victim of celebrity). not the bloke lying in hospital with a hole in his head.

    We need to be consistent here.

  39. John Butler says:

    Is that really the main thing you get out of this Dips?

  40. JB – no, not the main thing. But a thing.

  41. Three different issues I think.

    1. Journalistic protocol
    It appears Eddie did not follow the protocol that AFL clubs expect be followed by journalists. As the pres of the CFC, he would be scathing of any other journalist doing so, so he lacks integrity on that point.

    2. Conflict of interest
    Whether it was or wasn’t is obviously a subjective point. But Eddie is no dummy, and surely he would have suspected that there was a risk that it may be perceived that way. I read a book about a business man once who said he’d done a lot of travelling during the 40 years of marriage to his wife, but had not once been unfaithful. His secret was that he never put himself in positions where he could be tempted (eg. didn’t go to bars, ate at the hotel restaurant, focused on business). He didn’t say he was a moral pillar, he just managed risks and exercised good judgement. In this case, Eddie let his ego get in the way of his better judgement.

    3. Liam Jurrah

    Who? As Jeff Dowsing said in his brilliant piece on Harry O, “Our indigenous football code is fairly important to a portion of Australia’s mostly well fed population of 25 million. Surely a more pressing concern than broadening one’s understanding of starvation, health and education issues facing humanity’s enormous underclass?”

    Surely people understand that the “Jurrah incident” was nothing more than an opportunity the open the door on one of the greater issues we face as a society – the relationship between the media and our sporting clubs.

  42. Dips, consistency will be nigh on impossible in this case. The victim of the attack is entirely unknown to the general public. By all means we should not forget what has happened to him. (I presume it was a male who was attacked?) But he is not an AFL footballer so is hardly likely to garner to much discussion. That doesn’t mean the people in the discussion are tacitly condoning the act of violence to which you refer.

  43. Didn’t say anyone was condoning anything Gigs – you’re putting words in my mouth. Its not relevant whether the bloke who got belted is famous or not. What’s relevant is that he got belted.

  44. Eddie McGuire is the Arthur Fonzarelli of football…and media:
    he can never admit that he was “wr..wr…wr…wronggggggg.”

    However, in defence of E McGuire (can’t believe I just wrote that!)
    there seems to be an element of professional jealousy in that it
    was Eddie who got the “scoop”. Where were Melbourne’s
    “people” when this interview was taking place? Seems they were
    caught sitting on their hands, and as such, were embarrassed
    that Eddie had unfettered access to L Jurrah.

    That said, it is definitely an issue for Ed that, although a fine
    journalist, for most people he is Collingwood first and foremost.

  45. Fair enough, Dips. Sorry. The point I’m trying to make is that the circumstances of the situation – a zero profile person in hospital, a high profile linked to the events that led to it, and an even higher-profile person getting involved in related interviewing and reporting – mean that it’s inevitable that the zero-profile person won’t feature much in the discussion. By all means the victim is very real and very relevant and he should not be forgotten. But the original focus of this article was interplay between the two high-profile people, and it’s to be expected that the discussion will revolve around that.

  46. Catherine – I agree with pretty much all of what you are saying here. I will enjoy reading your articles!

    Conflict of interest – as my lawyer wife often reminds me “there is nothing wrong with a conflict of interest as long as you declare it.”
    That’s one of the reasons I have a general yucky feeling when he is about – he just yells denials that there is even a hint of a conflict. The main reason is what he (and that stupid vampire chap) is doing to the “Edward” brand.

    But, I think the real problem here is the use of the phrase “the real problem here is.”

    Cheers
    Eddie

    PS: The “buts” may be a problem too….

  47. watt price tully says:

    Comflict, shmonflict of interests. As Russ Hinze Queensland State Minister under Joh Bjelke regime, his portfolios included racing and liquor licencing, and asked if his ownership of hotels and racehorses wasn’t a conflict of interest, Hinze said: “That’s not a conflict of interest, that’s a convergence of interest!”

  48. Haha

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