Aesop’s AFL: The footy competition that laid golden eggs

26 March, 2014

There was once a man who had a marvellous goose that laid golden eggs. It wasn’t really a goose. It was a footy competition. And they weren’t really eggs. They were record-breaking television rights agreements.

Each and every Saturday, without fail, the goose laid an egg that was made of solid gold. You would think the owner of the goose would consider himself very lucky, but one golden egg each Saturday was not enough to satisfy the man. He wanted to have even more gold without waiting a week for the eggs.

“If the goose is able to lay these golden eggs each Saturday,” he said, “then imagine how much gold I will have if I can arrange for it to lay every DAY! Even on a Thursday during school term! Heck, let’s even do it on Monday nights!”
And then: “Imagine if I can get the people of western Sydney and Gold Coast to show interest in these particular eggs instead of that other type. I know they already love our eggs in Tassie. But think of the market up north!”
And then: “Imagine how much gold I will have if I jack up ticket prices for people to watch and jack up catering contracts and embrace Pay TV!”
And then: “What about merchandise. Yes! I will flog ridiculous quantities of merchandise and I will alter team jerseys each year! I’ll create “away-strips”! Genius. People are nuts!”
The man forced the goose to lay every day and arranged the other bits and pieces and still it did not satisfy this man, who had externalised his own sense of worth and foolishly tied it to a fanciful notion if limitless expansion and growth.

“The gold this goose generates is amazing. In fact, there seems to be no limit to its production. I will schedule a longer laying season and more laying days than ever. People will forever pay to watch and dress up to watch this goose. More and more people! Have you seen the population figures?!”
And then: “I’m not sure about these goose scientists getting involved… But the gold grows evermore shiny so, bwwarrrr!”


** 6 June 2018 Addendum:
One day a TV bossman, concerned with falling output of the golden goose, approached the goose keeper. 
“Hey buster, you’ve sold us a stinker. Look; our stock is down.”
Far from telling the TV boss man to back off, and to perhaps concern himself instead with all matters concerning broadcasting of the goose (rather than the goose itself), the goose keeper, fawned and bowed very very low.
“Oh, your excellency, the goose is not performing. I know that and I’m so sorry. So very sorry. I have already met with our crack squad of goose rules specialists. Because, as is obvious to us all, the only possible explanation for falling goose stock is that we have clearly failed to be sufficiently imaginative in our goose-husbandry. We need to change the routine. Change the rules. From now on, for example, the goose will be sat in changing but designated zones at all times.”
Sceptical but somewhat mollified, TV bossman grunted and stood on his heels. “We’ll see. But hear this: any more of this falling shitstorm and I’ll be taking over custody of this bird. That’s your last warning.”
And he walked out, taking a freshly poured gin and tonic with him.
The goose breathed deeply.

However, much to his surprise, the goose was just like any other goose inside; it was no limitless gold factory. It was not even a machine. No, the goose was made of humans and human endeavour and human emotion. It became worn out and tired and despite (or because of) 24/7 coverage of its life and prospects by award-winning journalists and group-think-opinion-spouting sports radio jocks earning a tidy living on its back, the goose swiftly collapsed from exhaustion.

“Woe is me!” the man exclaimed. “Instead of being satisfied with my good fortune, I have now lost everything.”

(With apologies to Aesop)


The consumer-population-figure-people scratched their collective heads at the collapse of the goose, but then nonchalantly tuned in to English Premier League, Indian Premier League and other detritus on their whizbangery Pay TVs. For the consumer-people in a global economy, when the AFL-goose was cooked, there were always more geese.

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. I hope the AFL head honchos have visited the Knackery today.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    A fair bit of truth in your article OBP and has round 1 finished yet ?
    Saturation is not always the answer AFL ! Thanks E regnans

  3. Me too, Smokie. Great call from A Starkie.

    OBP – thanks. Saturation rarely the answer, I reckon.

  4. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Great stuff Dave. Hope the clubs wake up before it’s too late. Love Aesop. One of the first things I read as a kid…and still read to remind me of the traps in some aspects of the human condition, namely greed and hubris (AFL).

  5. For fear of copping some retributive barbs from those of you who are not totally enamoured with the men currently acting as custodians of the game of Australian Football, it still remains the pinnacle of all football codes in the country. I for one am not happy with all aspects of the TV deal (because I won’t buy Foxtel unless it’s about 90% cheaper than now) but Aussie Rules is still without a shadow of doubt the best game on the planet. Sure – there have been errors made – and alongside those errors some great decisions that have advanced the game into former “enemy”
    territory in NSW & Queensland. I for one will continue to applaud the current trustee of that Golden Goose (Mr Demetriou) for his untiring work in getting football back to the city of Adelaide. It would not have happened without him. For all his worth to Australia as the best batsman ever, Sir Donald Bradman’s role as an administrator and custodian of the game of cricket in South Australia should always be remembered for what it was – a dictatorship. He had no concerns for the views of anyone else but D. Bradman – the terms despot and tyrant may not be harsh enough to describe him and his attitude towards the great unwashed of this State. It has taken a long time to heal that scar and whilst the AFL is by no means perfect – we at last have now what we should have had in 1974 or earlier – a stadium within the city that will be used by both cricket & football.
    Rant over.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says


    I thought that cricket and footy were already both played at Bob Neil #1, and well before 1974

  7. I know this is boorish, but it is worrying that a man called Demetriou has no evident knowledge of the Greek storyteller, Aesop.

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    And I’m not a Telstra shill by any means, but if you are prepared to view your games on a small screen, try this for $90 per year.

  9. Phil Dimitriadis says

    I reckon Demetriou has been a puppet. A house wog if you like. The Murdoch empire has been pulling the strings since 1995, coincidentally around the time Pay TV started to weave its way into our psyche. Maybe not a coincidence.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Why is the AFL starting in mid March? Ridiculous. Who cares if the NRL start early. And the opening round going forever. The goose will be lucky to make it to Thursday night.
    Great writing again David. Keep the golden eggs coming!

  11. John Butler says

    Goose science.

    Seems applicable on so many levels.

    Played E Reg.

  12. Reports of A Demetriou on Melb radio this (Fri) morning saying he’s “unhappy” with the crowd of 62,000 last night. Blaming a contract between Cricket Victoria & the MCG for preventing this RIC v CAR fixture taking place on the ‘G in Round 1.
    Perhaps rather than playing the victim, the AFL could focus on things WITHIN its control and remit.
    Waiving my consultant’s fee, I could freely suggest:
    – scheduling games NOT on a work/school night
    – scheduling each round to take place over one (1) weekend
    – scheduling Round 1 to begin after the Shield final
    by way of non-Vic-centric (not too) thoughtful example.

  13. Malcolm Ashwood says

    SPOT on Luke and OBP disgraceful scheduling the contract is CRICKET and football Andy d . Arrogant and Stupid etc !

  14. Daryl Sharpen says

    I never could understand Aesop’s Fables, now I do. E.regnans = genius.

  15. E.regnans says

    If customers of the golden eggs ever sought organisation and then complained about the quality of the product, should the goose manager:
    (a) criticise the customers’ representative as being ‘difficult’?
    (b) blame other parties, such as the egg stockists, for any ill-feeling?
    (c) retire on a massive payout and hand the reigns to his 2IC?
    (d) all of the above?

  16. John Butler says

    A timely revisit of this piece, E Reg.

    What intrigues me about this is the reflexive instinct from the AFL to find fault with its own product. They seem to have shaky faith in the oft claimed ‘greatest’ game of all.

    Might not there be simpler solutions? Like the fixture, which has hidden so many of the best games on Sunday evening?

    And could it be at all relevant that Channel 7’s has chosen commentators that increasingly encourage us to watch games with the sound muted?

    But to ask such questions might reflect on the quality of decision making from executives of certain organisations.

  17. Dave Brown says

    It’s all the pretence that I find distasteful – we all know that Ch 7’s interest is getting as many eyeballs as possible watching as many ads as possible. Particularly in the context in the context of a significantly more diverse media/entertainment landscape and concomitant drop in advertising revenue for traditional broadcasters. As a result, it would be great if the powers that be dropped the idea that there is something wrong with the game for any other reason than this. Rarely has there been a bigger tail wagging a smaller dog.

  18. If crowds are down a tad, could it also be due to the AFL, in all their golden egg-laying wisdom, expecting the punters including those with club season tickets (who used to get access to virtually anywhere in the ground because they had a season ticket) to have to choose between sitting in the nose-bleed section or paying another $25-65 for a reserved seat closer to sea level. That is not exactly family-friendly.
    Swish, if by small screen you mean laptop you could connect it to the tv via HDMI cable.

  19. Unlike Aesop’s goose, with continual addenda this piece could actually prove to be a different golden goose: one that actually keeps giving.

    The most frightening part of this is that the original piece was published more than 4 years ago. It seems like yesterday.

  20. ER – hmmmm the state of the game. The state of which game? Whose game? What is THE game?

    The goose is a great analogy. And a great name for those at head office.

  21. Jennifer Muirden says

    I’m glad I took the time out to read both your original Aesop’s AFL gold piece and your prophetic addendum. Truer words have ne’er been spoken!

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