Feeding Christian to the lions

* Stephen Alomes


I don’t know much about the God business – I always wondered why people spelled ‘dog’ backwards.


As a kid, I briefly went to a Methodist Sunday School, until street footy with the Catholic kids, abandoning shiny short suits and false after-church smiles, appealed even more.


I suppose by osmosis, like many people, I picked up things about religious stories, in ways a fraction more profound than Twitter tales did.


We’ve all heard of ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ and all of that from the Old Testament, and Moses seemed to have an undue fascination with coupled animals – just like our society today, with its little ghettoes of coupledom and its decline in larger sociability.


Then from the New Testament loaves and fishes, a good Samaritan and get the money lenders out of the temple.


Of course from footy we learned other forms of wisdom – ‘down the guts’, ‘it’s a sauso’, and ‘winners can laugh’.


Now, Michael Christian has a surname that suggests that he should be in the second mob, goodness and all of that. (He should ideally endorse that moneylenders’ tale with reference to getting the pokies out of the AFL, but that’s another story – see Kennett’s Hawthorn in particular.)


He seemed a charming chap years ago when he was on RSN breakfast with Angela Pippos.


Except, it seems he comes from the first mob, the hard-hitting Old Testament buggers.


Its first commandment is, in the footy vernacular, ‘Go the knuckle!’


Just what the AFL decided it would stop.


A model for suburban and country footy and junior boys and girls competitions.


The knuckle is now OK, AFL-approved just like commercial goods, it seems – unless there is concussion or broken bones.


Leave Jack Riewoldt winded on the ground for two minutes, bump Max Gawn off the ball, hit Nathan Wilson off the ball, keep smashing Higgins and Dangerfield like last year.


That’s OK, a few dollars fines for knuckling.


So, a bit like religion, there’s a gap between the AFL’s scripture and what actually happens. (Try World War One – Gott mit uns and Poms plus, too – and only 17-20 million killed.)


Off the ball knuckle is OK as long as you don’t knock anyone out (that is Gaff them).


The idea that football is a ball game, not a knuckle game, comes as a surprise to the many advocates of the Old Testament codes of footy.  And there’s a difference between fair, but hard, tackles in the play and off-the-ball knuckling.


Now the time has come to take action. Before it’s too late.


Aside from feeding Michael Christian to the lions (option one – based on an eye for an eye, a stomach for a stomach, etc) the AFL has to enforce the declared policy that off the ball attacks win a free, a report and a suspension.


It needs a new Match Review Officer.


And the AFL needs to appeal any of these Mickey Mouse fines rather than suspensions.


Otherwise, there will be lots of Mums and Dads who will be sending little Johnny or Jenny (or Tarkyn or Tash) off to some other game.



* The 2017 revised edition of Stephen Alomes’ book Australian Football The People’s Game 1958-2058 is available from Footy Almanac books. It is a history, a contemporary study and a futurology of the game, looking towards its third centenary year, 2058.  



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