Clichés of the press conference

The season is a shambles but finals are still a possibility.  The coach, Bruce Grunter, gets last minute instructions from his men before fronting the media.


The club’s media advisor, in a navy suit with his club tie loose, speaks softly and nods a lot.  ‘The interview will be at least five minutes.  The key message is making the finals.  Each minute, see if you can say something positive, we’re aiming for finals, at our best we can beat anyone, we can win this week.’


Grunter grunted.


‘Avoid saying we’re still a chance or we hope to play finals.’  The advisor looked at his notes.  ‘Nothing negative.  Point out we’re just one game out of the eight.  If they ask about our percentage say when the wins come, percentage will come.’


The president was smiling but it was forced.  He wore the same navy suit.  His tie was neat.  ‘It’s our home game,’ he said.  ‘We need a good crowd.  Talk up the expectations, you’ll see a better performance this week, we’re coming to play.  That sort of thing.’


‘Nothing about embarrassment or reviews or club meetings during the week,’ the advisor said.  ‘You’ve done that already.  It’s about this weekend.  Just repeat our best is good enough to beat anyone.’


The doc stepped forward.  An old man, he wore the club tracksuit.  ‘Jonesy is ready.  Achilles is fine.  Tracker’s hamstring is fine but he’s out for another week.  Reddo’s ankle is no good.  He’s still unable to run at full pace.  Batto’s knee is two weeks.  Arky’s out with a groin and Salty to a calf.’


‘I know all this,’ Grunter said.


‘Talk up Jonesy,’ the advisor said.


‘Talk up Jonesy,’ the president repeated.  ‘He could make a difference in defence.’


The assistant coach cleared his throat.  He wore the club tracksuit too.  ‘We’ve got Mickey, Ferry, Trigger and Hammo coming in.  They’ve been good occasionally in the reserves.’


‘That’s what you say,’ the advisor said.  ‘They’ve been good for us and it shows our depth.  We’re building depth and we’ve got a lot of players who can step up when needed.’


Grunter sighed.


‘Injuries are no excuse,’ the advisor said.


‘No one believes that anymore,’ Grunter said.


The advisor shrugged.  ‘No one blames injuries.’


‘If you’re asked about Wacka, Grinner or Sunny say they’ve been great players for a long time and they’ll bounce back,’ the president said.


‘And smile occasionally,’ the advisor said.  ‘It gives supporters hope.’


‘The sponsors don’t want to see a scowling coach,’ the president said.


‘Neither do the players,’ Grunter said.  ‘If they could bloody win you wouldn’t be telling me to smile.’


The president’s smile was hesitant.  ‘It’s all about image,’ he said, looking at the advisor.


‘It’s about perception,’ the advisor said.  ‘Scowling and anger indicate pressure.’


‘That’s what footy is,’ Grunter said.


‘And we need a crowd,’ the president said.


‘We’re five and seven,’ Grunter said.  ‘We need a win more than a crowd and more than I need to smile.’


‘The players need to see you smile occasionally on TV,’ the advisor said.


‘Then they should win and bloody earn it.’


There was an uncomfortable silence.


‘Stick to the clichés,’ the advisor said.  ‘Journalists expect them.’


Grunter shook his head and walked away, through the sliding doors.  The advisor followed him, carrying the sponsors’ banner.  He set it up beside the oval as the media readied their cameras and recorders, then stood beside the coach and activated his recording app.


‘Right?’ Grunter said to the assembly.


‘How did you assess the team’s performance last week?’


‘We played the same we’ve played all year.  Inconsistent.  Won two quarters but lost two by big margins.  Across the past four games we’ve won eight of sixteen quarters.  You can’t win games of footy doing that.’


‘What do you attribute the inconsistency to?’


‘If I knew we’d be on top.’  Grunter tried a smile.  ‘It’s just about attitude and sticking to the processes.  When we stick to the processes we win.  The players know that and when they move away from those processes we lose.’


‘It’s a must win game this week.’


‘They’re all must win games,’ Grunter said.  His smirk was more relaxed.  ‘Our season’s on the line.  Now or never.  We’ve got to start winning and that’s what we’re planning on.’


‘You’ve got a lot of injuries to contend with.  What’s the update?’


‘Tracker’s out for another week with his hamstring.  More precautionary than anything but he’ll be right for next week.  Reddo’s a couple of weeks away with his ankle.  He’s still unable to run at full pace.  Batto’s recovering well from the knock to his knee but he had surgery so he’s out for two weeks.  Arky strained a groin which is three or four and Salty’s calf is a grade two injury so that’s three weeks.’


‘How can you rebound with an injury list like that?’


‘Well injuries are no excuse.  When the game starts we’ve got our best 22 out there.  No one who plays at the weekend will be injured.’


‘Do you feel unlucky with the number of injuries?’


Grunter shook his head.  ‘I don’t feel unlucky.  All clubs get injuries.  There’s no point complaining.  You don’t see Sydney or Hawthorn complaining about injuries.  And we’ve got Mickey, Ferry, Trigger and Hammo coming in.  They’ve worked hard and deserve their chance.’


‘But those guys aren’t in your best 22.  It’s not like for like.’


‘Well they’ve earned their spots and I think it shows our depth.  We’ve got a lot of players who played twenty, thirty games who can step up when we need them.’


‘You’ve got to win at least seven of your last ten.  That’s a big ask given the season you’ve had.’


‘We’re still aiming for finals,’ Grunter said.  He shrugged.  ‘At our best we can beat anyone, you’ve all seen that over the past few years.  If we play our best footy we’ll win.’


‘How can you make sure they’re at their best given the inconsistency?’


‘If the players stick to the processes, cut out the mistakes and do what we ask then we’ll win.’


‘Have you made any mistakes in the past month?’


Grunter’s smile was strained.  ‘Have you made mistakes in the past month?’  He tried a laugh.


The journalists laughed without humour.


‘Look, we review each game and it’s not just about the players.  The coaches review ourselves and figure out ways we can do things better.’


‘What came out of your review?’


‘Stick to the processes,’ Grunter said, smiling.  ‘As coaches we do that and it’s up to us to make sure the players do the same and as we’ve seen, when they do that we win.’


‘What’s the message this week?’


‘Well you’ve got to get the ball.  The players know how to do it, we know they can do it which is why we pick them.  This week we talked about out attack on the ball and clean delivery.  No point getting it if you stuff up a possession.  We worked on slick ball movement this week so I think you’ll see a better performance.’


‘You’re not out of contention but it’s getting tight.’


‘We still believe we can make the finals.  At our best we can beat anyone.  It’s up to the players.  They know what they have to do.’


‘You beat them in round four.  Is there anything you take from that win into this game?’


‘That same attitude, hardness at the ball, the mentality that we’ll win.’  Grunter shrugged.  ‘We’re one game out of the eight.  They’re a game ahead of us.  That’s how important this is.’


‘You need other results to fall your way now.’


‘Well we can’t worry about other results.  All we can worry about is our results.’


There was a pause.  The advisor stopped the press conference.  A photographer snapped a couple of extra shots of Grunter.


‘All the players are available for a chat at nine,’ the advisor said.


Camera operators were getting shots of the players having their last kicks before jogging into the rooms.  Grunter and the advisor were waiting for the players.


‘Sit down,’ Grunter said, jabbing his thumb at the advisor.  ‘He’s got a few words.’


The advisor stepped forward as the players sat down.


‘I’m not sure who they want to talk to but whoever gets put up remember, the key message is making the finals,’ he said.  ‘Avoid saying we’re hope to play finals.’  The advisor looked around the room.  ‘We want to play finals.’  He paused.  ‘You’re going to get asked about inconsistency, injuries and form.  Point out we’re just one game out of the eight.  Nothing negative.’


The players were silent.


‘Try and smile a bit.  We want to play finals.  At our best we can beat anyone.  We’ve included some good players.  We’re confident in our depth.  We can win this week.’


The doc and president walked into the room.


‘The doc’s going to give you an injury update,’ the advisor said.  ‘Then the president’s going to say a few words.  If any of you have any questions about a possible interview come and ask me before you leave this room.’


The doc stepped forward…



About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Matt.

    Next time you are at one of these, can you ask (Leppa or Rocket?)

    “But what makes you think that your process is better than their process. You always talk as if it is the execution of the process that is the problem. Perhaps it is *your* process that is the problem”

    I’m only interested in facts, which are rarely attended to. The rest is just guff. Like the “news” items that say “XYZ and ABC are gearing up for their big clash tonight at the Dome-arama tonight”. Unless you are informing us of a late change or similar, it is just a waste of everyone’s time. Filling a void that doesn’t need to even exist.

    It’s usually what we *don’t* get told that matters.

  2. Dave Brown says

    Very good and very depressing in equal measure, Matt. Trying to remember which Douglas Adams Hitchhikers book that earth got populated with all the non-contributory people from another planet. Wonder if media advisors were on that ship.

  3. aussie80s says

    Process is a new term that I think emanated from politics. It’s like a useful spacefiller word that doesn’t actually have a meaning. No club has ever defined their process, their systems, their brand or whatever. I think in the end it just means to kick a higher score than your opponent.

    Dave, I’m sure media advisers were on that ship and they are now off making documentaries about themselves.

  4. Tom Martin says

    I really enjoyed this, Matt. Very funny at first but slowly sucked the smile from my dial. There’s few things more pathetic than the footy coach’s forced, unconvincing confidence in the face of failure.

    The constant focus on ‘process’ in modern sport is a clumsy conjuror’s gimmick, a look-away misdirection from the only thing that really counts – the ‘outcome’ – which is itself, ironically, another weasel word shielding us from the brutality of wins and losses. Concentrating on the ‘controllables’ might help the athlete on the field, but it makes for miserably impoverished pressers.

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