AFL Round 11: Why Barry Hall is good for football

By Phineas Meere

It’s bad to say at the beginning of any article that you can anticipate what the reader is thinking. Nonetheless I shall attempt to…you’re thinking here we go again, another article telling us why we like football by a journalist needing to fill column inches by telling us it’s tribal, it’s the atmosphere, the skill of the athlete, or by using stereotypes to identify supporters or members of a club (as a Hawthorn supporter I went to none of the private schools mentioned in a recent article in a Melbourne broadsheet)

You don’t want to read a PhD thesis from an academic who decides they’d better hurry up and write a PhD and and then decides to do it on something fun and maybe easy. By exploring if the GFC is still inexplicably linked to the Geelong Football Club despite the new branding of the “Geelong Cats”, basketball style.

Well you don’t have too because I’m just an average supporter. Although with the food at the football I may be neither average in girth nor in a monetary sense. Let’s face it, we all know footy is a religion and it is important to appease the Footy God and/or gods. This is why I kept gloating to a minimum to my father and the rest of my Geelong family last year. I digress…

The reasons I’ve been questioning my football enjoyment don’t seem to have any things to do with the obvious: footy’s gone corporate, they play this boring style chip game. It’s basketball or rugby, or a romantic notion that footy was better back in the old days. While I could like the aforementioned journalists and academics lament the passing of suburban grounds and that people would put up with even Waverley any more, I won’t because it’s tiresome and we’ve all heard it before.

The reason doesn’t even seem to be the time-honoured “there are no characters in football any more”. Although perhaps partly it is, but I think it is broader than that. Yes, there seems to be little room for self-expression of players on or off the field. It could be argued that there should be no self-expression on field because it is a team sport, but there is always being individuals within teams. Some would also argue that managing individuals is the key to success apart from injuries

I, like everyone, miss the characters of yesteryear like Dermie, Dipper, Jacko and Capper etc. I even miss the coaches press conferences like Garry Ayres at Geelong or Adelaide to see how many players he could fit into a sentence using their surname as a plural “You’ve got your Hocking’s, your Graham’s Milburns,Mcgrath’s,Ricardi’s or Riccuito’s,Bickleys, Macleod’s. I even miss Sheed’s marketing games as the “marshmallow game” or his jacket and throat gesture. Now coaches totally so much apart from expressing their disappointment or satisfaction at winning or losing, and how this was done. I even miss some club presidents like Elliot and Macalister. It could be argued that that these people should be on the periphery game (Note: Jeff, Eddie & James)

Players are too scared to divert from the media training handbook they received at the start of the season lest they be sanctioned by the club. They say, ”Yeah, Nah, the boys dug deep today, we need to keep playing with this intensity, I was happy with my performance but just as happy to play my role for the team.”

We the public seem to have salacious appetite for footballers as celebrities or want to know who their sleeping with, whether they have done a glossy magazine spread or appeared in the social pages. I find it odd that we should on the one hand view footballers as celebrities, and on the other expect them to be a role model and pillars of society. Perhaps this is because we expect them to be above our flaws as athletes, and maybe as people too?

I began to think of this because of the events of Sunday at the G. The footy god and or gods smiled upon me again with the result a Hawks win. How this was brought about has been the subject of much controversy and debate. While I will let the scribes and pundits analyse Barry Hall’s actions of having 3 50 metre penalty awarded against him, I am somewhat disappointed. I’m disappointed because this has been described as a “brain fade” and by implication that he had done the wrong thing.

Yet without his actions we would have had just another clinical and sanitised day at the football. Where players and coaches just do what is expected of them, speak in monosyllabic sentences and we all go home with a win or loss. While there would still be reason to the football it would be diminished because of its clinical nature and to paraphrase an AFL advertising campaign “who would like to see that?”

I would like to thank Barry Hall for helping to restore my faith and enjoyment in football. Yes we have characters like Hall and Aker in the game, and while we may disagree with what they do or say, we should allow them freedom to express themselves. Instead of castigating them for “not sticking with the script or behaving in a manner unbecoming of footballers”. Why can’t we just leave them alone, enjoy their characters and enjoy the footy?

The article was introspective and analytical. I wonder Freud would have barracked for? Wouldn’t have been Collingwood because they only see things in black and white without a clash jumper, Thanks Eddie!

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