Do we have the greatest game of all?

Dear Fellow Football Fans,

I need your help.

The game of Australian Rules football, and in particular, the AFL, has changed dramatically over the last two and a half decades.  At the end of the 1986 season the Christopher Skase owned Seven Network purchased the rights to broadcast the VFL for just $6 million.  Many argued this was an inflated amount and that he could’ve purchased the rights for as little as $3 million.  Twenty four years later, the same Network purchased the rights to broadcast the same game for $1.253 billion.

In 1986 only one team existed outside of Victoria – the Sydney Swans, who four years earlier were based in South Melbourne.  Most weekends all games were played on Saturday afternoons, in Melbourne and Geelong.  Every other week, there was one game outside Victoria when the Swans played on Sundays, in Sydney.

Games were played at suburban grounds such as Windy Hill, Victoria Park, Moorabbin, Princes Park, the Western Oval and Kardinia Park.  The thought of playing football inside a stadium with a roof was fanciful.  Most players worked five days a week from nine til five and then trained on Tuesday and Thursday nights.  Collingwood, Hawthorn and Essendon, who now all have over 50,000 members, had less than 10,000 members each. It was the same for all clubs.  There was no draft and no salary cap.  There were no sponsor logos on the ground, on the ball or spread across player jumpers.  There were no naming rights sponsors at any of the grounds.  None of Hawthorn, Richmond, North Melbourne, Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs (or any other team for that matter) ‘sold’ a home game to an interstate venue in 1986.  Only the odd Friday night game had ever been played and the thought of playing footy on Saturday nights or even Sunday evenings at 4.40 pm were either not thought of, or met with hostility from the football fans.

The ‘flood’, the ‘forward press’, ‘frontal pressure’, ‘structures’, and other stats such as ‘KPI’s’, ‘hard ball gets’, ‘loose ball gets’ and ‘kicking efficiency’ took second place to the most important stat of them all – winning. It was a simple game.

I don’t need to tell you that today’s footballing landscape is much different.  But, in my PhD thesis, I do ponder what exactly has happened.  What has happened to the ‘play’ element in the new, professional, commercial and commodified game, and more particularly, what does this mean for the footy fans?

This is where you can help me.  I am seeking to interview as many footy fans as I can.  In short I want to have a chat about the footy with you. I want to know how you relate to the AFL today, your team, the players and the way they play.  I’ll ask you questions and you’ll answer them – there need not be any homework or study completed for this interview.  The question and answer session will take place at a pub with a beer, scotch or wine in hand and it will be fun.

Unlike most research projects, you will not be reimbursed one cent for your time, but, it will be my shout.  And, if you want (and only if it’s a must), I won’t mention Essendon, James Hird or Kevin Sheedy once (unless it is for research purposes). I need to interview as many people as possible – so please, don’t be shy. Your interviews will become part of my thesis. And fortunately for you, I will owe you one.

So, if you are a footy fan and you would like to help me out by meeting me for a beer and a chat about the footy, please let me know and I’ll schedule a time and a pub.  This is something I would like to complete by the end of this football season, so please let me know if you are available to be interviewed.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Go Bombers!

Sam Duncan

0407 826 401

[email protected]


About Sam Duncan

My name is Sam Duncan, a very passionte, slightly one eyed and mostly optimistic Essendon supporter. Originally from Yarrawonga, the home of the mighty Pigeons, I moved to Melbourne to go to Swinburne Universtiy in 2002. Feeling right at home as a uni student, I stayed for a long, long time, completing an undergraduate degree in media and communications, an Honours and Masters degree in the same field, and finally, a PhD in sport, media and cultural studies. I'm the author of 'Rolling with the Punches: Tales of an Aussie Traveller', lecturer in the Bachelor of Sports Media at Holmesglen and boundary rider for AFL Live. I love footy. I love Essendon. Go Bombers!


  1. Skip of Skipton says

    Thanks for asking. Tell me what university you attend and I will write your thesis for 0.5% of your future earnings. ‘We’re in the money”

    Aside from Structures, I’d say that Player Managers have been the greatest improvement to the league since the ‘good old days’. Imagine Shannon Byrnes on 900K per annum, while Joel Selwood was on minimum wages and carrying the burden of captaincy! Thank god player managers are here to help us gauge a players worth, espescially within the confines of a salary cap.

  2. Lord Bogan says

    Great idea Sam. You should get many fascinating insights. Would love to help you out. Do you know Matthew Klugman from Victoria University? He did his PhD thesis on fans experiences and then published a book titled: Passion Play. Well worth contacting. Best of luck and look forward to reading your findings.

  3. The question that absorbs me is not whether footy is the greatest game but the precise date when Gerard Whately stopped wearing a hairpiece and revealed his hair transplant. This date needs to be on record because it is obvious that Gerard is the cleverest man ever to be involved with football. Who can help?

  4. Sam,
    Amazingly, I am just proposing a Ph.D. on people shouting me beers. Serendipitous.
    You still have my contact?

  5. Andrew Starkie says

    Carlos, I thought Gerard’s hair looked refurbished on ‘The Offsiders’ this morning.

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