Almanac Satire – Tackling the tackle: Desmond interviews an AFL Executive

Tonight, interviewer Des Troyer is joined by an anonymous up-and-coming AFL Executive.


Interviewer: Mr Schooltie, thanks for joining us.
Executive: Good evening.
Interviewer: Mr Schooltie, you’re an up and coming member of the AFL management class, are you not?
Executive: Well, a few positions opened up.
Interviewer: Yes. Mr Schooltie, are you married?
Executive: Look, I don’t think that’s completely relevant here.
Interviewer: It’s not.
Executive: And I thought you were going to obscure my identity, somehow.
Interviewer: I’m sorry Mr Schooltie. Yes, we considered it, but really you’re so well-connected to every upwardly mobile white middle class male in this town’s private school sector, it would have been a waste of time.
Executive: Thank you. That’s very kind. And yes I am married. Aren’t you on Instagram?
Interviewer: Mr Schooltie, the AFL has some serious problems.
Executive: Well, I think she’s prepared to honour the deal.
Interviewer: No, I’m talking about interpreting the rules of football.
Executive: Oh – is that all?
Interviewer: Yes. Pretty fundamental, wouldn’t you agree? But in two weeks we’ve seen some puzzling tribunal decisions. First, a scrupulously fair player and favourite for the Brownlow was suspended for what seemed to the officiating umpire to be an excellent tackle…
Executive: Yes, I saw that one.
Interviewer: And second, a scrupulously fair player was rewarded for his tackle by the officiating umpire, with a holding the ball free kick; he was then later praised by his coach for his technique, and this afternoon suspended – for that same tackle – suspended for two weeks.
Executive: Yes, I saw that one, too.
Interviewer: Is it fair to surmise, Mr Schooltie, that officials don’t know their arse from their elbow?
Executive: Well, that’s a bit strong. I mean, the arse and the elbow are connected, really. That’s life. There’s a lot of grey area. Nothing is black and white.
Interviewer: These are decisions with ramifications, Mr Schooltie.
Executive: I know. You should see the bounce in Twitter traffic. Our brand is trending globally.
Interviewer: No, real ramifications. People’s livelihoods are being won and lost.
Executive: Bet responsibly, Des. Haven’t you seen our ads?
Interviewer: No, I mean the players. P Dangerfield is ineligible for the Brownlow now.
Executive: That’s right. Did you get any of that D Martin at 10s?
Interviewer: It’s against our professional code of conduct, Mr Schooltie, to bet on football matters.
Executive: Oh yes, of course. But my neighbour is a canny investor. Do you have any neighbours, Des?
Interviewer: Look, Mr Schooltie, a huge uncertainty now hangs over every single player in the competition. Finals are just round the corner. No one wants to be suspended for laying what they believe to be a fair tackle.
Executive: And they won’t be.
Interviewer: P Dangerfield and B Grundy have both suffered this fate in the past two weeks.
Executive: Well, you see Des, it’s about the head. The head is…
(Together): …is sacrosanct.
Interviewer: Yes, we know. But this is a contact sport, Mr Schooltie. Accidents will happen. You can’t legislate accidents out of the game.
Executive: Accidents certainly do happen, Des. But we have shifted the onus of responsibility onto the tackler. It is their job to protect their opponent.
Interviewer: While preventing them from usefully disposing of the ball.
Executive: That’s right.
Interviewer: So can you show me what a good tackle looks like?
Executive: Of course I can’t, Des. This is a new suit.
Interviewer: But if I had the ball and I’m running towards you, would you pin my arms to prevent me disposing of the ball?
Executive: Absolutely. That’s tackling 101.
Interviewer: Alright. And if we both fall to the ground, and I hit my head, will you be suspended because you laid a fair tackle?
Executive: Not at all, Des. Don’t be ridiculous. I will be suspended because you hit your head.
Interviewer: Right – you will be suspended not because of your actions, but because of their consequences.
Executive: Absolutely.
Interviewer: So players are now no longer in control of whether or not they will be suspended.
Executive: That’s right, Des. [To off-camera crew member] I think he’s getting it.
Interviewer: Is this fair and reasonable?
Executive: Des, this is the AFL. Nothing is fair and reasonable. Look at the gerrymandered fixture, club football department spending levels, time and money spent on interstate travel, numbers of home games played in far-flung outposts… It’s arbitrary decision after arbitrary decision, here, Des. I mean, really. We have variable pricing, variable attitudes to many, many things, Des. All market driven. The scheduling of finals is a classic. Do you have any idea how much money changes hands?
Interviewer: But shouldn’t your decisions be all about the footy? The game?
Executive: No, see, that’s where you’re wrong. This is about the AFL. And the AFL certainly is not footy.
Interviewer: Thanks for your time.
Executive: My pleasure. Where should I send my invoice?




Catch up here with Desmond’s earlier interviews with:
The Coach 
The Club President

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 is married and has two daughters and the four of them all live together with their 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. John Butler says

    The problem here, E Reg, is that it is increasingly hard to read this as satire. It feels more like verite.

    “you’re so well-connected to every upwardly mobile white middle class male in this town’s private school sector”. Now that’s a Melbourne observation, if ever there was.

  2. OBP to say I MASSIVELY agree is a understatement

  3. Philip Barnes says

    Nice work Big Dave.
    Very much in the mould of Clarke and Dawe.
    The inference that the AFL determine ramifications of their decisions via social media brand increase and rise in gambling revenue ahead of footy impact, is I believe, scarily true.

  4. yes meant at satire, but it does lead us into believing what a bunch of numbskulls the afl and mrp have become…really not hard to imagine a conversation like that occurring lol

  5. And you wonder why I’m up here along The Anabranch trapping rabbits and living off curried goat and yabbies.

    Although I might come down in September to cash in my opals.

  6. “Executive: No, see, that’s where you’re wrong. This is about the AFL. And the AFL certainly is not footy.”

    Yep e.r., the AFL became a post-football entertainment industry several years ago.

    I’m waiting for Howe to take a ‘mark of the year’ but then get suspended for inadvertently kneeing his stepladder in the head and knocking him out. Put the specky on notice too.

    As Elvis Costello sang, ‘accidents will happen’, but thou must be seen to be amply punished (once the trial by media has been executed).

  7. I feel we have brought this on ourselves; “ourselves” being the greater footy community. We have let a rules committee, whose agenda and motivation is never articulated, adjust the game and tinker with its meaning whilst remaining unaccountable to anyone except the marketing tepartment. And it has been done so cleverly, under the cover of “the head being sacrosanct”. Who can argue with that?

    First it was the bump. Little by little the bump was demonised. Bit by bit we collectively bent over and allowed it to all but disappear from our game. Now it is the tackle. Bend over everyone! The head is sacrosanct! Thou shalt not commit a sin against the rules of the game in retrospect!

    What the MRP has effectively said to Dangerfield and Grundy is: “We know your intent better than you do. Therefore we rub you out.”

    And when it turns into touch-footy, which is not far away, the AFL will market this new, don’t – hurt – anyone game across Asia and Europe and it will be sooooo successful .And we will sit at home in our rocking chairs and mutter that the head is sacrosanct, but strangely no smile will cross our faces. .

  8. Sorry Dips; my feelings on The Mothers of Melbourne are well known, but in both those tackles you mentioned were sling tackles. In Danger’s case, his opponent was clearly dispossessed. Paddy’s interest should have been directed towards the loose ball. Dusty’s would have been.

  9. Irrelevant Wrap. My beef is the MRP’s apparent ability to read a player’s mind as he undertook the tackle.

    Bit by bit, Wrapster. They are breaking us down bit by bit. Don’t succumb!!

  10. You should run your theory past Sir Frank Downright Dips. A fine old stickler for the law, indeed. I’m sure he’ll tell you that outcome is 9/10ths of the intent. I don’t think the mrp is ruling on intent. The two players come out of it with their reputations intact. I think they’re ruling on the action, with the penalty commensurate with the outcome and track record of the perpetrator, ( Or you’d like to think so. It was a tad disappointing to find Kreuzer playing the following week) A player with his arms pinned to his side and slung into the turf has no way of preventing his head bouncing off it. And we’re not talking the mid winter mud heaps of yesteryear here. I’m sorry Mate, but every time I see the footage of these two – and other related tackles cited by the mrp – I see a sling. Remember, these are super fit athletes. Those slings have superhuman force in them. The skull bones don’t share the same super human attributes because the athlete is pumped.. This doesn’t mean the mrp is Solomon incarnated. I’m sure I share the same bewilderment as the rest of The Football Universe when I try to find any logic in some of their decisions.

    And don’t think for a moment that I’m unaware of that Dipster. I once wrote of a fine old gentleman who grew up in Hawthorn – born in St George’s Hospital – and had travelled the Wide Brown Land. One of the finest innovators & chess players you could imagine. One of the old school. The Port Royal caught up with him eventually: back in the 90s . He used to plug his caravan into our Murray cod hatchery up at Violet Town for part of the year: Back in the 80s. He’d given The Game away because it had become all about the mighty bloody dollar. I hope he’s not looking down on what it’s become today. No Dips; I’ll never succumb. But nor will I give credibility to the actions of the appalling Football League by treating their deceitful shenanigans with anything but the disdain that it deserves.

    Gotta scoot. The springer’s gone off. I think I’ve got a big one the line.

  11. Dips, the AFL already has the product you speak of up its sleeve (that none of the clubs want a bar of) – that AFLX tripe.

    Wrap, I’d contend Grundy tried his best to turn Brown and take him down to the ground on his side so as to not carry him forward. Naturally as Brown tried valiantly to either keep his feet or dispose of the ball Grundy exerted more resistance and Brown had his own momentum.

    But before considering the physics aspect, the MRP’s first question to answer is ‘was the action reasonable in the circumstance?’ Are they saying Grundy have merely tackled Brown’s waist and allowed him to easily give off the handball?

    Oddly, despite those on the MRP having played the game at the highest level they demonstrated no empathy with instinctive actions of players executing skills engrained in them and executed thus, as they have been for many years. Not a single North player remonstrated with Grundy which is instructive.

    And I wonder how many weeks the officiating umpire(s) will get, in plain view of the incident, who also deemed the tackle legit?

    Furthermore, my understanding of a sling tackle entails a double action and/or carrying the player forward. I really struggle to understand why Grundy was given a greater penalty to Dangerfield when the latter drove his opponent forward long after the ball was gone.

    It’s an interesting precedent that has been set.

  12. Interesting points JD. Maybe the penalty should be of a financial nature — something so dear to the hearts of the Gnomes Deep In The Bowels Of Jellymont House. And let’s say the real penalty is a sin bin spell for the perpetrator until the recipient of the tackle can resume the field. The order-off expires at the end of that particular match. I think everyone would be happy with that.

    And the penalty variant? Who knows? Krueger played the next week & Brown didn’t. But who knew that on Tuesday night?

  13. Has Brown been ruled out already?

    I agree Wrap that a sizeable fine or a reprimand in this situation would appear to be a more just and sane penalty rather than using the player as a sacrificial lamb to send a message or change the interpretation of a law of the game.

    An order off rule might have its limitations however when the umpires actually thought the action deserving of a free kick! If they can get it so wrong one way I can foresee a gun player wrongly being sent off and costing his team the match.

  14. I thought he had JD. He certainly took no further part in the match. Anyway, under what could become known as the Dangerfield Rule, the order-off would only apply to the time the victim of the armless tackle was off the field. Not the time he was ineligible to play. And while I do see the anomaly here, let’s kept it straightforward.

    The fine would sit like a suspended sentence — as in Dusty’s case this year. Three fines & you’re out. You can make it two in relation to the armless tackle if you need to appease the Mothers of Melbourne.

    The adjudication? Both arms pinned and slung into the turf. Surely three of them can work that out. If it’s severe enough to warrant the carting off of the tacklee, then the game will have been stopped anyway, and the three blind mice on the field can ask for a review of the vision from the fourth blind mouse. If the tacklee is running about, then it suggest there’s no order off involved, nor any call for attention from the mrp.

  15. The Dangerfield and Grundy decisions are just short sighted and dumb. They MRP/AFL is wilfully ignorant of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Because they are penalising outcomes and not actions, they are creating more uncertainty and penalising things that are not reliably predictable.
    Watching the endless loop of TV replays of these incidents the one thing that is clear to me is that they all occur when the arms are pinned and a player cannot break his fall. Surely the obvious thing is to make a clear rule prohibiting tackling of the arms. No more “chicken wing” grabs of an arm of a fleeing opponent which always looks ugly and dangerous. No more “ball and all” tackles to prevent disposal.
    The tackling zone should be waist to the neck and on the torso.
    If a player is skilful enough to dispose when tackled then that should be applauded as a skill of the game, and would stop so many ugly scrimmages and ball-ups. Make the game more free flowing and less defensively oriented.
    We can all scream “arm” in the same way we yell for “high” or “trip”. But the boundaries would be clear. You could still hit an arm to dislodge the ball, but you could not grab or restrict an opponent’s arm.
    You know it makes sense.

  16. Agreed wholeheartedly Mr B. But take the “ball & all” tackle out of the game? There’s nothing better than a beautifully executed “gotcha” tackle. The Hon. Edward A Betts does it supremely. There’s just no need for the sling to finish it off. And one reason it’s being applied so vigorously — the “ball & all” tackle — is to prevent the Selwood Elbow Escape via a high contact. Let’s take that out of The Game.

    Look, if a player drives his head into the tackler, hoping to either bluff his way through or be awarded a feee, it’s called “play-on”. In the days of The Late Great Living Legend, Captain Blood, it was called rabbiting. So now, how about we call it as “play-on” when the elbow is used to break a tackle. I’m sure the Geelong Captain won’t mind. He’s not squealed for a free from it, that I’ve ever seen. He’s just used it to break the tackle so he can get clear. It’s the umpires that have misinterpreted it when the tackle has been forced off the arm and up above the shoulder. Although there are others who use it for the penalty that comes from it. (You whistle & I’ll point) We can imortalize Joel by calling it The Selwood Rule. He at least deserves that. Just as Hungry deserved the Bartlett Rule, and another Joel deserved the Bowden Rule.

  17. Mr Wrap. The Hon E A Betts “ball and all” tackle is a beautiful thing because he is a little bloke who doesn’t have the body size and strength to take the opponent to ground.
    When Grundy and Dangerfield do it they have the size and strength for the “body slam” coup de grace – which is where the head damage occurs. Can’t have one rule for little blokes and another for big blokes. The tackle that has worried me most on the replays was the Mumford one, which was a real “make him earn it” low act when he decided to have his considerable weight “fall” to pile drive an opponent.
    Are the rabbits biting up on the Anabranch? Trapped any bream? Tell Darlene the barmaid at the pub that I was grateful to receive her returned mail with my cheque. But “return to sender” would have been sufficient? “F… off you cheap pr..k” seemed excessive.

  18. I’ll tell you what Mr B, when Eddie lays a tackle, they stay tackled. I can’t remember seeing one broken.

    And let’s get one thing straight; Mumford’s a dog.

    Darlene still keeps a photo of you above the bar. With a note asking for information of your whereabouts. If this dry spell continues I may have to claim the reward.

  19. An ‘armless tackle’?

    Now that is a feat worthy of a free kick Wrap!

  20. They’ve gotta earn ’em JD.

  21. Rick Kane says

    This link might help understand the process and decision. They weren’t perfect tackles at all, at least not under the rules that all players are playing to and that is their responsibility to understand. Dangerfield and Grundy were assessed by the MRP, as per the guidelines (see link). One as careless conduct with medium impact, the other as careless conduct with high impact. Whether the umpire saw the incident or determined the incident as a reportable offence is not the point. The MRP system allows for other ways a player can be reported. That’s not a new thing.

    It wasn’t but 5 years ago I watched, sickened, Lewis return to the field against Footscray in the Final quarter, after taking a heavy knock in the First. He stumbled around disorientated through the quarter. The AFL has dragged its heels getting to the point of dealing with concussions and its long term effects. Putting the onus on players to play to the new expectations is very reasonable IMHO. As for “the sky is going to fall” concerns, chill. Tackles have always featured as a significant aspect of footy and will continue to. Players have always had to rise to new expectations (less punching, fighting, scragging, less racism, sexism) and the game’s spirit, skill and sense of the spectatcular hasn’t diminished (even though there are those who sit in front bars lamenting the loss of a “real man’s game”). I’m happy to argue the merits of corporatisation of the game and the stench of capitalism that pervades the sport/entertainment/gambling axis all day. But re these decisions and suspensions, I think the AFL is walking on the right side of history.


  22. Luke Reynolds says

    Great work Dave. More fact than fiction I think.

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