And the real issue is ??

Wow!!! what an unpredictable month in footy, the grand final produces a real upset and surprise –one of the powerhouse clubs beats one of the interstate battlers (who were lucky enough to be granted a six day turn around compared to seven), the Swans swoop and capture a Buddy top line player whilst another interstate battler misses out, the Saints auction of an era of players in the hope of creating the impossible and inevitably we hear the bleetings of Mc Guire, Kernahan, Malthouse, Kennet, Brayshaw and the other powerbrokers about how badly their clubs are being treated under the current “inequitable” rules of the AFL.

The commentators and some of the clubs rage, “Unfair”, “latte tax” “the cost of living in Sydney advantage”. There are inferences of cheating; “take it off them” is the catch cry and hope of the more envious. We hear from Mick that Frankenstein has been re incarnated from a Mick who has mostly coached at the power clubs with an AFL advantage.
Yes Mick “the ox is slow”, but it’s a lot slower if you are a St Kilda or a Bulldog or a Demon or a…. You should try it sometime and see how hard it really is. From Kernahan and the club that invented the manipulation of the rules we hear the great hypocrisy, from Eddie ( also busy trying to poach Reiwoldt) whose club has never ever been given a cushy draw, the advantage of blockbuster$ or less travel interstate more hypocritical bleetings and from Jeff the Jinx (we’ll all be ruined said Hanrahan”) it’s a mockery! And to everyone’s surprise the best of them all “no comment” from Essendon (about six months too late).

Let us consider the mix of players in the above game and what we can uncover from all the noise. The Sydney Swans or better known as the super failed but much loved South Melbourne have after forced relocation achieved some grand final success, produced a much envied football culture and grown some (at last) “football capital” accompanied by strong governance, marketing, publicity and exposure and of course strong memberships and attendances (all courtesy of success and television exposure) Opposition players now contact this club to let them know they would like to join them albeit for $10 million.

What rules have they broken you might ask? None as proved by the AFL investigation. They have simply over the last 20 years been able to offset the disadvantageous conditions of being one of Melbourne’s “never to win it poor clubs” (St Kilda, Fitzroy, Footscray and now joined by Richmond, Melbourne and North Melbourne) Yes! They have the approval of the power clubs to be competitive but never to win the “big dance”. This is already the divine right of the power clubs i.e. those who by virtue of created conditions over a long history have advantage of membership, preferential draw, real home ground advantage, blockbuster$, television and press exposure, less interstate travel, and now in the modern era preferred stadium deal$$. All part of the wealth distribution managed by the AFL.

Where is all the cacophony coming from; Collingwood, Carlton, Hawthorn ( Jeff) the traditional and long term beneficiaries of the “inequities” of life in the AFL and clubs who have benefited from their ability to develop strong “football capital” courtesy of the AFL’s wealth distribution and their ability to manipulate the rules .Unfortunately some got caught with their hand in the lolly/supplements jar which spoilt the party a bit! (Mick that’s why the ox is a bit slow in your cow paddock!)

Recent adjustments to the rules and conditions of the AFL have introduced a new guardian angel for the Power clubs-“Free Agency”. Already celebrating its first birthday and have we seen mass exits from the wealthy power clubs to the lowly lesser likes? On the contrary it is the lesser clubs who have made the first contributions, Brendan Goddard from Saints to Bombers for $$$$$$, this will be an enduring road map in time to come.

Let us reflect on the recent publicity of the Saints, Eddie approaches Nick, Dal Santo to North, Fisher to the Giants, and Montagna to Carlton, Essendon .Collingwood or maybe Hawks ,McEvoy to the Hawks etc. How might we understand these movements? Disgruntled players, coach player conflict, end of an era, the almighty $$, you can take your pick but you can reliably know that if these moves eventuate they will not be to a club in the “never to win it” category it will be to one of the power brokers and that it will be like the Swans a high risk strategy , a “sell the farm” undertaken by the Saints to begin a new era and maybe just maybe get to the big dance.

So amongst all the commentary and bluster we are yet to see “the forest for the trees” and we are all deafened by the trampling of the “Elephant in the room” which of course is the yet to be addressed question of how do we fairly distribute the massive wealth the game generates? Without a doubt the “Buddy” move has put the spotlight on the abject failures of the last 30 years to build a “fair “ sporting competition.

Just think about these questions; How would the result of this year’s grand final have looked if both teams started off scratch instead of the ultimate winner having a full day start on the loser? I can just see everyone applauding because this year’s Melbourne cup winner was given a 5 length start on the opposition. Yes both races, the AFL and Melbourne Cup are a handicap event.

Will you be alive when Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda or Footscray win the Grand final? History shows that unless you are a babe in nappies the odds are stacked against you. Hawks, Dons, Blues, Magpie and other supporters could you wait another fifty years to see your team win a grand final?. Come on!! Tell the truth!! You couldn’t bear it.

It’s urgent!! We have watched clubs embark on high risk strategies, $10 million dollar deals, chemical enhancements, dubious supplement programs, “whatever it takes” attitudes, dodgy draft deals and tanking. It would be foolish to think a level playing field for all teams can be achieved immediately but it can be achieved. Can we just start with a few obvious ground rules followed by all?

About tony dalton

long suffering Saint supporter


  1. Neil Anderson says

    Wow! The best I could do was ponder how my ‘ small-franchise’ club could compete under the present system. Your analysis has not only put flesh on the bones but you have re-created the whole monster for us to observe in one extremely foul swoop.
    After I’d done my pondering, I commented on a link to a JTH article regarding whether we can still have the ‘imagination’ to believe our small teams can still get to the big dance…before we drop of the perch. I hated to think we would ever stop believing. After reading your logical thoughts, I’m starting to waver.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great Piece Tony and just so True ! There are so many areas where AFL is a joke and a disgrace Thank you for pointing out so many of them in such a succinct way

  3. Tony,
    Of course you are right. I have been ragging on for years about AFL inequality.
    North Melbourne is the only poor club with no members or money to win a premiership since 1990. Every other club is a rich club or an interstate club.
    As a North fan I feel the inequalities. It isn’t fair.
    The AFL has regressed to the VFL of the seventies and eighties.
    I would hate to support the Bulldogs, St Kilda, Melbourne or Richmond.
    And think of Fitzroy, forced to merge because of a $2 million debt. Carlton’s current debt is ten million…
    The AFL is an unfair field with plenty of favours, provided you’re rich or live interstate.

  4. Gregor Boundy says

    It’ll be fair when every Melbourne club travels interstate 8 times a year, when the father /son rule only applies to players playing after 1990 and WA sides don’t play in Tassie and when 6 day turnarounds aren’t backed up by interstate trips and the AFL keeps their hands off the WAFC. Perth’s cost of living is higher than Sydney, how about some cola… congratulations to Hawthorn on their third AFL premiership.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Matt the draw is hardly fair on the interstate sides having to travel every 2nd week when
    Collingwood Essendon etc hardly ever leave the MCB
    While we all love Footy the inequalities of the glorified VFL called the AFL comp continue in real terms to be a farce of a competion

  6. Steve Fahey says

    Agree with your general thrust and many of your points but the argument re the extra day to prepare for the GF is not sound.

    The reality is that the two prelims will be played at night where possible for TV/commercial reasons and the top team is rightfully given the opportunity to win itself the extra day break. I”m no advocate of Hawthorn but they deserve credit for not complaining louder and longer about the premil final draw in 2012 which unfairly disadvantaged them. Agree that ladder positions can be significantly influenced by the draw but the advantage given to the top team is reasonable. It’s not that long ago that the team that won the second semi enjoyed an extra week break before the GF.

  7. Matt, as a fellow Kanga I too worry about small clubs’ ability to be competitive long term. At the same time, I’m optimistic about where we’re placed right now and while the rich clubs seem set to dominate the upper end of the ladder, I think there is more opportunity than in many sports for smaller clubs to assemble a list and footy department good enough to push up, at least for a while. Yes, North is the only small Melbourne club to win since 1990, but Brisbane also won a few, and St Kilda, Footscray, and Melbourne all had teams good enough to make grand finals, and all did it more than once with rebuilt playing groups. (Footscray _were_ good enough, just ultimately unlucky to top out at a handful of prelims). Geelong is realistically middle-of-the-pack in terms of membership and resources, and Carlton and Richmond shouldn’t have any worries on that front.

    So while I do worry about the effect that overpromoting the big clubs has on the health of the league long term, especially in Melbourne, I’m not convinced it’s all doom and gloom.

  8. And another thing: supporters of interstate clubs complaining about travel can go and . Think about the natural advantages interstate clubs have — gifted half a state to draw members from, genuine home ground advantage every second week, shown on FTA TV every week — and tell me you’d trade them for a handful of travel weeks. Bah Humbug.

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Rob Mick Malthouse makes the point that travel can take years of a players career for
    West Coast and Brisbane especially to win, Premierships is incredible also
    Adelaide in 98 to travel to Perth Melbourne Sydney Melbourne and Melbourne again is a sensational achievment remember with out the interstate sides the comp was nearly bankrupt

  10. Malcolm

    is this backed up by any evidence? Do WA-based AFL players in fact have shorter careers on average? Genuinely curious and can’t be bothered looking it up myself.

    Anyway, my point was not to denigrate the value of interstate teams to the comp or belittle their achievements, just to point out that supporters of all stripes like to complain selectively, often without acknowledging the advantages that are the other side of the same coin.

  11. Rob,
    You make a couple of good points, the first about the shorter careers of interstate players, my guess is that the time they have been in the compettion and the relativley small sample at this stage would be insufficient to make any strong conclusions, although anecdotally there may be some standout examples.
    The seocnd point about the advantages and disadvantages that each team has in the compettion I think is well worth considerning as I beleive for most teams this actually exisits.Im not sure that for the teams I have cited in my post,Bulldogs,Saints,Tigers,Melbourne and even North that the balance sheet is all that healthy.Food for though I might do an anlaysis and post it.

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Rob Mick spoke about it at length at his book launch here in Adelaide he said it definitely shortened Langdon , Mc Intosh and Headys , career I think logically it would put more stress and pressure , re recovery but agree it would be a interesting subject to anailize

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