A Ramble to Gil McLachlan

Geez I hate the AFL.  They can’t get anything right.   It’s been the worst year of football ever.  I’m starting to wonder if the AFL is riddled by drug use, particularly at head office.


Perhaps Andrew Demetriou and his fan-based predecessor Gillon McLachlan should be drug tested, given their handling of Essendon’s alleged use of peptides.


It can’t be that hard to find drugs in blood, can it?  All you have to do is look for something other than blood.  The AFL drug testers couldn’t find anything else in the blood of Essendon footballers so they sent samples of blood to Germany for testing.


If any country knows how to manipulate blood samples, it is Germany.


But the Germans didn’t find anything, not officially anyway.  So let’s trust the AFL, who trusted Germany, whose sports scientists have most likely never heard of AFL football.


Blud fvom vootballars?  Fvom vere? Ostraliuh? Who is dis Dank? Let’s try and copy, tull zem ve fund nosing…


I’m sick of the peptide issue.  Whenever I give blood I wonder if a nurse or volunteer at the blood bank follows Essendon.  I imagine my blood winding up at Tullamarine, ready for distribution among the players to defeat the drug testers.


The AFL is losing me on the scheduling too.  Two rounds ago, when Carlton played Collingwood on Sunday night, I thought the AFL was crazy or high.  Sunday night football was never going to work, no matter the traditional rivalry.


Where are those drug testers?


The game drew the lowest crowd at the MCG since 1921.  The fans voted with their butts.  I didn’t even think about going to the game.  Given I live in Brisbane, that’s hardly surprising


But I was so angry about the scheduling I didn’t miss a second, listening to the first half through my phone and watching the second half on TV.


Thankfully, the AFL paid attention to the masses, which is proof they learn at least one thing each year from repeated failure.  For the first time in two decades it seems the value of a crowd outweighed the value of TV ratings.


Take that, Gillon McLachlan must’ve wanted to say to the doubters.  I am for the fans.  Now where are those pills?


Gil might need another pill when he does his next fact finding tour of Brisbane and the Gold Coast.  It sounds surprising, but not everyone in Queensland follows Brisbane or Gold Coast.


Each weekend, thanks to the broadcast deal, we get four live games on free TV in Brisbane  Unfortunately, two of those games involve Brisbane and Gold Coast, unless they play each other.

Gil, I understand regional bias, but I’ve been force-fed Brisbane since 1988 and I’m sick of it.  I hate Brisbane.  I barely tolerate Gold Coast.


Whatever happened to match of the day?  It isn’t Brisbane versus St Kilda, but oh boy that promises to be a cracker.


At least the latest, biased broadcast deal gives us Friday night football live.  What a technological advancement.  It doesn’t matter it was three decades too late, does it?  Up until 2012, Friday night football into Brisbane was on delayed telecast, starting at 11.30pm or later.


Live Friday night football was available on the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast but Brisbane was on a Friday night blackout, for no reason other than people hadn’t seen enough repeats of Better Homes and Gardens.


My social life has improved since Friday night footy became live, but that depends on who you ask.


And Gil, a heap of us recently went to the Gabba to watch North lose to Brisbane.  Before the game I advised everyone not to drink at the footy, because the beer was too expensive and tasteless.  My mates could wait until they got to my house after the game and drink as much homebrew as they wanted.


We went to the German Club before the game for dinner and beers, so we didn’t have to pay exorbitant prices for food and beer at the football.  At the German Club, chicken schnitzel with steamed vegetables and gravy was $20.  The pork knuckle was $25.  Sausages were $18.


It made sense to eat dinner at the German Club, because the food is homely, satisfying and served fast from a bain marie.  A pie and chips at the Gabba cost about $12, and that is way too expensive.


A pint of beer at the German Club was $9.50.  After buying the first pint, I thought I selected the most expensive tap beer in the club.  When the next beer rang up the same price, I figured they were all the most expensive beers in the club.


But we were drinking in a pub, and we’re all much happier paying $9.50 or more for a pint of beer in a pub before the game instead of $8 for a plastic cup of full-strength, tasteless beer at the footy.


The more the merrier, right?


Gil, we need to talk about the rolling maul and shoddy umpiring that is ruining the game.  On Friday night, when North defeated Hawthorn, I lost count of the number of rolling mauls.  I think there were three but my mate said there were two.


And that means the umpires were hopeless.  They let North go handball happy on half-back, keeping the game open and the ball moving.


The umpires need to blow the whistle earlier and force a stoppage.  We can’t have the ball flowing freely out of defence or through the midfield.

But it’s not just the umpire’s fault.  Clearly Hawthorn and North have no idea about the rolling maul.  On the few occasions they attempted it, they were embarrassed.


How can two AFL clubs not perfect the rolling maul that is ruining our game?  Brad Scott has learned nothing in five years at North.  He won’t win a premiership without the maul.  And what was Clarkson thinking?  He’s a premiership coach but he’s got no idea about the maul.


The game was also too soft and sanitised.  When Brian Lake gripped Drew Petrie around the throat, he was delusional.  In the seventies and eighties, when the game was really tough, Lake would’ve punched Petrie in the throat and got away with it.


It doesn’t seem fair Lake got four weeks, just for trying to choke a bloke.  The Match Review Panel is consistently getting things wrong.


And when Luke Hodge tried to shovel Andrew Swallow into the turf, it was a pitiful, half-assed attempt.  Decades ago, when the game was seriously tough, Swallow would’ve been coat-hangered into next week.


Hodge wouldn’t have been reported, because it was part of the game and we all loved it when blokes like Leigh Matthews, Neil Balme and Dermott Brereton hit people when they weren’t looking.


It’s no wonder people are complaining about the AFL.  I was thinking about writing an email to Gil on Sunday, when I was out running and listening to Sydney defeat West Coast through my phone.  When I got home, I tuned into the game at Kardinia Park during dinner.


The scheduling really stinks, right?  Don’t you hate being able to listen to eight games each weekend with virtually no overlap, and have the option of watching four on free to air?


Last night, as I drifted off to sleep, tucked beneath my North Melbourne doona cover, I crafted the email to Gil in my head, about how the AFL has lost touch with the fans.


Because the fans aren’t losing touch with the AFL…

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Peter Schumacher says

    Mate, it has long since been a business, not a sport. Thus TV rights are what count.

    With a bit of luck the AFL will be sucked up its own orifice by falling ratings and crowd attendance.

    Meanwhile,and I never thought, NEVER THOUGHT that I wold ever think think this, I am finding the soccer ten times more interesting.

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