Almanac Discussion: Should a premiership be decided by a con-job?

Ok, Bogan, tell us how you really feel.

I reckon what Harvey did in Hobart last weekend was cheating. I put it in the same category as what Lance Armstrong did, what Ben Johnson did in Seoul in 1988, what the kneecapper’s ex-wife, Tonya Harding, caused to happen to Nancy Kerrigan in January 1994. It’s all part of the same slippery slope.

And so I am dismayed and puzzled by the reactions I’ve read.

Let’s start with The Age’s Michael Gleeson:

Harvey set up his skit on the boundary, where he and Jack Ziebell had tackled Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis over the line to earn a free kick. As the umpire ran towards the mark, Priddis still had hold of the ball behind him in one hand. Harvey, realising the umpire was unsighted, tapped the ball away out of Priddis’ hand.

Harvey immediately looked up at the umpire in indignation and called for the action to be punished. The umpire believed Priddis had thrown the ball away and not handed it to Harvey as he is required to and rewarded Harvey with a 50-metre penalty.

It was a moment of wit and impressively quick thinking, amusing in its audacious and successful cunning. But it was also staging and he should be cited and sanctioned.1

Gleeson wants to have two bob each way. He condemns the act and calls for action under the heading Brent Harvey staging should be reported. But, at the same time, I can hear the grudging admiration.

Jonathan Brown’s admiration is completely without grudge; he is unstinting in his praise:

Former Lion champion Jonathan Brown took Harvey’s side and said he had played it intelligently.

“That’s good leadership … I thought he did really well,” Brown said on Fox Footy.2

Sauce for the goose

I guess almost everyone who reads The Footy Almanac barracks for a team. Further, most supporters have at least one team they love to hate. For the Footy Bogan, this is easy: as a Collingwood supporter, he hates Carlton. For supporters of other teams, the nemesis is usually Collingwood. Seems fair.

Now read the next bit as if your team is in the lead playing the team you hate. Your man is Smith; his opponent Jones.

Late in the final quarter of the 2016 Grand Final, Smith, his team leading by 5 points, takes possession on the wing. He’s immediately tackled and fails to dispose correctly, both players falling over the boundary line. As they rise, the tackler, Jones, knocks the ball out of Smith’s hand, then turns to the umpire, arms wide, appealing in manufactured outrage. The unsighted umpire awards a 50-metre penalty bringing Jones to 45 metres from goal. Jones kicks the winning goal as the siren sounds.

Is that what we want for our game? Can anyone put his hand up and say that he is ok with losing a premiership to such an act? That is was “good leadership”? How many would be proud to claim a premiership under those circumstances?

Is that what we want to teach our kids? Life isn’t fair so it’s up to you to be as unfair as you can get away with.


It’s a complex subject, but Australians have long held a deep suspicion of education and anything that smacks of intellectualism. So let me be simplistic and trivialise it for you. It probably comes from the British class system. Those with power and privilege were able to get an education; they became the establishment in Australia’s early days. The ones without an education were the convicts. They were the ones who worked with their muscles. Understandably, they were the ones with suspicion of anything to do with brains.

That general attitude has trickled down through history to our time. So what puzzles me is why people like Brown have changed sides. Brown was highly respected and noted in particular for his physical courage. It could be argued that he eventually decided to leave the game because he had been “too courageous”. Yet here he is admiring an essentially cerebral act. It wasn’t physically daunting. It wasn’t a skill peculiar to a footballer, a skill mere mortals who watch from the stands lack. Cripes, in the same situation, I could have done what Harvey did. And had I done it, I would rightly have been called piss-weak, my act condemned as “mongrel”.


Have you ever wondered as you scream passionately, “Ball!”, how the person near you who obviously barracks for the opposition can simultaneously be screaming, just as passionately, “Man!”?

Our game is subject to interpretation. We’re all human – not least the umpires – and our judgement can be coloured by our hopes, dreams and aspirations. Further, we all see the game from slightly different positions. The supporters boundary side of the Harvey incident (and one of the cameras) saw something completely different from what the umpires saw.

By his action, Harvey humiliated the umpire. The umpiring fraternity is already a beleaguered community. Most supporters may be at odds with supporters of other teams, but they can unite in their contempt for umpiring. No one should be at all surprised if the umpires unite with each other.

If you believe in karma4, you might believe that Harvey will less often be on the right side of 50-50 umpiring decisions.

Rule of law

You either believe in the rule of law or you don’t. You can’t be a little bit pregnant.

The rule is clear. Since February 2010,

        Staging is a reportable offence as it may 1. Affect umpire decision making, 2. Incite a melee, 3. Is not in the spirit of the game. (6)


Unfortunately, the rule has no real teeth:

        A first offence for staging draws a written reprimand, a second offence a $1500 fine and the third and subsequent offences $2500 fines or $1500 with a guilty plea. (1)

Nevertheless, anyone who plays outside the rules is cheating.


Adam Gilchrist walked. If he thought he’d been fairly caught he did not wait for the umpire. He put his hand up and admitted that he was out. Most Australian fielders (probably others) will not claim a catch if they don’t believe they’ve legitimately caught the ball. Gilchrist is admired around the world. One doesn’t have to resort to cheating to win. In fact winning without cheating is the only win worth the effort.


The Footy Bogan is a devout atheist. (Then why all the religious references?) Nevertheless he is not entirely ignorant of the Bible shared by Jews, Christians and Muslims. (That’s a total of five religions so far!) The ninth commandment is apposite. What Harvey did was to bear false witness against Priddis. It may not matter to the atheists, but anyone with an ounce of religion must be disturbed by the act.

The aftermath

Does Harvey demonstrate any remorse? Seemingly not.

Harvey refused to back away from the incident on Monday despite an avalanche of feedback on social media.

“At the time of the game it was crucial and I thought a 50m penalty was hugely to our advantage so I took the opportunity,” Harvey told ABC Grandstand.

“A lot of people said it was cheating, I think it was cheeky and opportunist at the very best.

“Would I do it again? Absolutely, I do a lot of things to win and I’m not ashamed of that.

“It’s opportunist and I took that opportunity to give our team an advantage.3

So, where would you stop? Is kneecapping ok? Drugs? Other people can also say they “do a lot of things to win”. What if a demented fan decides to follow your example and up the stakes by taking out a player? Nothing to be ashamed of? There are idiots out there. Have you heard of ISIS? Just a simple process of escalation?

        Thanks to all the people who like me, but an even bigger thank you to all the people who hate me, because you motivate me.


        8:30 PM – 8 Jun 2015



The AFL has never been good at handling such situations.

In the last few years, they have characterised at least a couple of matters as bringing the game into disrepute (Ben Cousins, Essendon). Harvey’s is the first act that I think really fits the category.

Had I been in the right position in the AFL I would have reported him (as Gleeson suggested). Gleeson had the AFL’s toothless staging in mind but I would have charged him with bringing the game into disrepute, given him a fair hearing, found him guilty (a bit more sauce for the goose), given him a year out of the game – to send a message to all football players that footy is first and foremost a sport – and then suspended the sentence. With a stern admonishment that the next punishment won’t be suspended – however draconian.

I’d be tempted to ban slogans like “whatever it takes” and “win at all costs” and emphasise “do it within the rules; play within the spirit of the game; avoid all cheating and even the whiff of dodginess”.

The possibility

Here’s what could have happened.

Harvey tackles Priddis and is awarded a free. As they get up, Harvey knocks the ball out of his opponent’s hand. The umpire awards a 50-metre penalty. Harvey approaches the umpire and quietly explains what happened. The 50-metre penalty is reversed. Harvey takes his free kick, preserving respect for the umpire, retaining self-respect and even earning the admiration of the entire football community (except for a handful of unreconstructed dills).

The wrap

I don’t suppose you will read this, Boomer, but if you do, know this: I don’t hate you. Anyone who has played as many games – good games – as you have, deserves and gets my respect. But, after this, gee, I’m disappointed. I thought you were better than that.

Perhaps one day you will have to explain this incident to your kids. Ultimately, I feel sorry for you.

Sources, Notes, Footnotes, References

[4] (in Hinduism and Buddhism) the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.
[5] Brent Harvey on Twitter (I think). Quoted on

About Charlie Krebs

The Footy Bogan is a self-confessed unrepentant Collingwood tragic. For more years than he cares to remember he has been writing about footy, mainly Collingwood, but sometimes, when provoked, about related matters. He started his self-titled blog in July 2011 when - but you can read all about that at


  1. Bogan – Harvey in the same category as Lance Armstrong and Ben Johnson! Really? Those two systematically, methodically, and with malice aforethought set about to lie and cheat and belittle their sports and their competitors. Harvey was an opoortunist. I don’t like the sorts of actions that Harvey took, but its hardly a hanging offence. He should be pinged for staging and given a fortnight’s rest.

    Also, I’ve never subscribed to the theory of “what if your team lost the grand final on this decision?” as a justification or explanation for an argument. The game is 100 minutes long. There are countless opportunities to win it or lose it along the way. One decision does not determine a game, even if it occurs in the last 30 seconds.

    Based on your argument here, people could be transported to the other side of the globe for stealing a loaf of bread!

  2. As long as you’re happy to cite and suspend every player who claims a mark they know they took on the half volley or didn’t get the first touch to, every defender who tries to claim they touched it on the way through, every forward who tries to claim a goal when he was over the line, every tackler who drags the ball in under his opponent and calls for holding the ball, then fine.

    Ridiculous amount of energy wasted on this. Let the umpires call what they see and save your outrage for them when they guess. There will always be gamesmanship in sport.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    A clever opportunist act by Harvey,as a fellow umpire the ump must be dropped for guessing,no other act is required, move on

  4. E.regnans says

    Interesting one Footybogan.
    I try to save my outrage for politicians dealing in human lives; that sort of thing.
    And leave sport alone as a world of escape (and possibility, dreaming, imagining).

    But I agree that rules are rules, and when one party mischievously or blatantly or criminally flouts them, the sporting contest changes. A shared understanding of a common boundary is lost. It is disappointing.
    Can be disillusioning for opponents and spectators.

    But it’s human nature to seek advantage. Didn’t PJ Keating advise to “always back self-interest”? So I’m not surprised. And as you point out, cricket is full of these grey areas.
    Every person needs to walk their own path here; decide who they want to be.

  5. Fair points Bogan. Me, I’m still bitter about Greg Dyer’s ‘catch’ at the MCG in 1987.

    Mind you, I once asked Wimbledon finalist Chris Lewis about line calls in the absence of umpires. Asked if he would give honest calls if his opponent wasn’t, he said: “No. Why would I sacrifice my virtue to his vice?”

  6. Skip of Skipton says

    “Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them”. – Orwell.

  7. Dave Brown says

    Yep, with you, Footy Bogan, in that what Harvey did was clearly cheating and in poor spirit. It goes to that very fundamental question of life and society (in a very shallow way): do we do what is right because we believe it is the right thing to do or because we fear penalty? It flies around my head every time a bloke facing the boundary line throws the ball to a teammate running by.

    I’d draw a distinction from some of the other comments above (including Gilchrist) in terms of the action. What Harvey did was a deliberate action with the sole purpose being attempting to cheat. Some of the other scenarios posited are about allowing the appointed officials to officiate the game, free of interference.

  8. Anyone ever taken a few liberties when preparing their tax return? If so, jail for you my friend.

  9. Two mistakes. One by Harvey and the other by the umpire. Neither hanging offences btw.

  10. David Zampatti says

    There’s a word you’ve missed, Bogey, and that’s “dobber”.

    Divide the Harvey/ Priddis/umpire incident into two separate acts; the first, the knocking of the ball out of Pridis’s hand, the second Harvey’s remonstration with the umpire.

    The first is one of those dime-a-dozen rat acts that the Harveys, Thomases, Shueys Selwoods (x 4) and their ilk get up to (okay, okay, maybe Michael Walters too). Unsightly, unseemly, but an inevitable part of the game. Legislate against it if you like (Q. If the umpire had seen Harvey knock the ball out of Priddis’s hands, what would he have done? Reversed the call??) but learn to live with it.

    The second, the dobbing, though, is different. That’s a trait Harvey pretty much has to himself (at least now that Cox has retired) and it’s despicable and unmanly. He’s been at it forever – his incredible, unsubstantiated and baseless “300 pinches” dob in 2013, and even, shamelessly, last weekend in the Sydney game where at one point he was literally chasing an umpiring around machine-gun dobbing as he went.

    Dobber Harvey is going out of the game backwards. The sooner the better.

  11. I was surprised that there was no contrast between this and diving in soccer (which is what I thought the staging rule was meant to combat). In terms of crimes, it is probably proportional, and it results in a yellow card. One might argue that even a yellow card doesn’t offer enough of a disincentive to not try diving all the time, so if we want to stamp it out in AFL, we need to go further than what soccer does (lest staging in AFL become as prevalent as diving in soccer), not do nothing at all.

  12. Oh please.

    Boomer is a “cheat” and a “dobber”.

    Mal Brown, Robbie Muir, Ronnie Andrews and Barry Hall were cheeky scamps and lovable rogues.

    Phil Carman was colourful.

    Matthew Lloyd, Nick Riewoldt and Adam Goodes haven’t exactly been run out of town on a rail for diving. Selwood it “tough” and “smart” and “brave” while Lindsay Thomas is pilloried.

    Spare me.

  13. Stephen G says

    Another ethically-inspired article from The Footy Bogan. Insightful and inciteful.

    The Harvey incident reminds me of World Championship Wrestling in the late ’60s. I was ready for Boomer to bring out a ‘foreign object’ for all the world to see. Maybe even a blood capsule to ‘fool the ref’. Such is the world of pantomime.

    There are all too many instances in each game where players deliberately try to get a ‘free’ kick. It’s something about our anti-authoritarian streak that applauds the larrikin trying to ‘get something for nothing’. Some players try it out once or twice. Their team mates usually straighten up the crooked ones. Unless they are a captain, like Selwood who thinks he has earned the right to lead with his head. Imagine what his family must think each time he hits the canvas after another ‘accidental’ blow lands. And what of every other parent in the land, who shudders when they look sideways at their kids, seeing someone rewarded for risking their lives?

    Aussie rules has a similar double-standard about players who keep their eyes on the ball and run into a pack. Coaches actually hate this, because of the inevitable injuries. Some of them are career-ending. The team mates hate it because of the unpredictable ‘friendly fire’. Only bullish jock commentators like to crow about ‘courage’ because they pine for the days ‘when men were men’. Running willy-nilly into a pack happens all too often these days, and is in the same ballpark as ducking your head. It’s form of simulation: and a desperate attempt to win a ‘free’ kick.

    The Footy Bogan twice refers to the ‘unsighted umpire’. Surely there is more than one umpire on the field. And if none of the field, boundary or goal umpires can see what the rest of the world can see, then there needs to be one or two video umpires who, like the rest of us, have the benefit of close ups and slow motion replays, to see and correct mistakes. This is easy when the ball is dead. But I would also advocate for corrections to occur during the flow of the game. This happens during off-the-ball incidents.

    Here’s the real problem: the directive to umpires to yell (again and again) “play on” after five seconds. Someone has told the ‘men in suits’ that what overseas celebs like about this oval-balled game is the non-stop flow. Well, as Raymond Williams would remind us, all of television is flow. The biggest fear for commercial radio is silence; the biggest for television executives is a break in transmission or even a pause. Do AFL executives think that viewers will channel zap if the game takes a breath? Suspense has always been one of the best parts of the game. (Mike Williamson: “It’s a ……. point.”) Do they think that the kiddies will go ‘heads down’ when left to their own devices? What do we yearn for when things are too hectic and crazy? Give me a break; a chance to recoup.

    There is nothing wrong in pausing, in order to get things right. It might stop players thinking they can ‘pull one over the umpire’. As we used to chant on the streets: “The whole world is watching”.

  14. Rick Kane says

    Really? This is an issue? Come the f**k on.

    On a planet or in a world or as part of a democracy governed by rule of law or as part of a sporting association and code that is bound by a constitution and driven by the rules of the game and those said rules … are in black and white with absolutely no grey or contrasting or contentious areas and every single rule and ruling is agreed upon by one and all. Yeah, in that context I can see your point.

    But back here in the real world, Boomer’s little cheat is just a part of the rough and rumble. I loved it (and not just because it happened to the WC Evils). It was hilarious, vaudevillian in its arc. And to be fair, Priddis did hold on to the ball too long.

    You do know that sport such as footy is just theatre in disguise. That’s why we whoop and holler. Good deeds and bad, multiple times across 120 minutes lift and deflate us. If someone gets away with something one part of the audience cheers while the other boos. That’s the game’s best asset. That’s its shingle. Boo Boomer by all means but don’t make tumult out of a tumulus.

    There are far more questionable rights and wrongs to take aim at. You know, like how West Coast entered the competition in the first place. That one has blood stains all over it. Even the CSI work experience kid could crack that case.


  15. E.regnans says

    So we should abide by the rules – but only sometimes?
    Got it.

    When the currency is footy – cheat all you like?
    When the currency is tax – break the laws as far as you can get away with?
    When the currency is life and death – no law-breaking allowed?

    The point of rules is to create a shared expectation for all players.
    Laws – for all citizens.
    We should be happy to abide by laws and rules.
    That’s just a mindset.
    It’s a choice.
    We should love paying tax. Think of the public health system. The public schools. What a brilliant system. It’s merely a cultural paradigm of the moment that demonises tax.
    It can be changed. (And is different in other developed nations).

    Choose to play by the rules. If you can’t make that choice, get out of the way.

  16. E.regnans says

    And now a reasonable pair of tweets from Haruki Murakami:
    (1) It’s not as if our lives are simply divided into light and dark. There’s a shadowy middle ground.
    (2) Recognising and understanding the shadows is what a healthy intelligence does.

  17. Brent Harvey is a jumped-up, devious, angry ant runt.
    If he was any worse he’d be Phil Matera.
    The ump deserves the ridicule. The original holding the ball decision was appalling, and the “pay the crowd – not what I saw” was ridiculous.
    Prestidigitators everywhere will delight at Harvey’s deception and sleight of hand. It really was ‘magic’ in the true sense of how magic works.
    Harvey (like Lindsay Thomas) will get his come uppance because he won’t get any marginal frees or benefit of the doubt again from any umpire. Rip his head off and ……. he probably staged for it.
    Fool me once; but not twice.

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