Fev: the timely role mode

  All the good ones are going: Martin Pike, Ben Cousins, now Fev. It’s a real shame. Not just for the colour football will now lack, not for the loss of their exquisite skills, but because they were great role models for my neighbour’s child. Real role models, from a real world.
You see, someone told the kid that AFL footballers are perfect. That they are all down-to-earth, upstanding citizens like Chris Judd and Jimmy Bartel. He was under the delusion that having ability, and even work ethic, was all it took to be a good person. He thought that character had nothing to do with it.
He loved Fev. From bootlaces to goals.
He loved the show, the unpredictability, and, hey, to be honest, the failures. There were highs and lows with Fev, but that was fun. The neighbour’s child would bite his tongue in the schoolyard when Fev played bad, and barrack Fev out of his rut at the ground. He loved the power with which Fev won games. Fev’s unstoppable momentum would become his, too.
When Fev was up, the boy revelled in the confidence he radiated. The boy became confident. He would strut around the yard, kicking goal after goal, little-man chest out, big ear-to-ear smile.
Fev could be a genius with a football, but this had nothing to do with being a good person. And Fev, too often, wasn’t a good person.
He was a clown on the grog. The sort that switches from being the life of the party, to a menace. To a moron. A fool.
I suppose someone should have done some parenting. Explained to the little tacker that footballers are just like real people. That, heaven forbid, they are people. Both good and bad. That young men, in their prime, fail occasionally. That some are good with stupid moments. That some are stupid with good moments. That people with talent still have the potential to do unforgivable things. That this is the human race.
It should have been pointed out to him that role models, indeed leaders, aren’t made just by pulling on an AFL jumper. That most real role models are born.
When Fev got the chop the other day, I had the great and sad pleasure of having to push through the AFL and media gloss, hypocrisy and spin, and say to the child,  “Choose wisely” and “Be a good person first” and “Goals and marks aren’t everything”.
The whole Fev affair has been hard on his parents. They can no-longer just plonk him in front of the telly and let him simply choose the flashiest footballer as a moral barometer for his life. They can no-longer avoid any responsibility in their lives by simply being outraged when Fev does something wrong in his personal life.
Fev never said he was a saint. He never signed on to raise their child. He was there to play football. And did it well.
Now, the neighbours might have to try parenting.
It is a massive win for the kid.
I suppose someone should have told my neighbour’s child much sooner about the real world, but this is the AFL, where everything is PR and spin. There is nothing real about it. Nobody is a bastard. No villains are allowed. It is a fiercely proud and fast game, played by fiercely proud and fast men of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, all painted over to look exactly the same.
I am in love with football so much it hurts, but if I let my child be raised by the AFL’s comic book standards, I would be the one committing the crime.
Thank you Brendan Fevola. For your football, for your entertainment, for your colour and failings. For bringing sanity to my block. For teaching my ten year old neighbour about the importance and value of real role models like Judd and Bartel. Of hard truths and highs and lows. For bringing reality back to AFL football.


  1. Matt – yes Fev was his own worst enemy. If footballers are to take the big bucks they need to understand that there is a price to pay and that price is freedom of movement. Unfair but reality.

    If they ignore this fact they will be hunted down by young, eager male sports reporters with more product in their hair than was coated on the outside of Apollo 13, or breathless, big bosomed female sports reporters dressed in tight fitting silk shirts who will camp outside their houses like hungry hyenas. And they’ll all pontificate and pronounce guilt and then go and get pissed themselves at a $17 per pot cafe/bar with carpet on the walls and boutique beers on tap.

  2. Danielle says

    I used to hate Fev but now i just feel really sorry for him.
    Just as it seems he’s sorted himself out he falls down again.
    Poor guy, i really hope everything works out for him.

  3. matt zurbo says

    200% Dips.

  4. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Nice work Matt,

    Fev was a Dionysian role model at a time when the AFL wants to promote faux Apollo’s. Had he been playing in the 70s and 80s his mishaps would have been conveniently hidden by the clubs and a media in collusion with those clubs.

    Around the turn of this century the media decided to out unsavory incidents, probably at the behest of the AFL. This was not a bad thing in itself, but now certain media types have taken the other extreme of the moral high ground and want to go beyond just reporting the facts. Hence, a culture of programmed robots emerge that, as you say, are NOT real.

    Dips, ‘Hungry Hyenas’ sums it up perfectly!

  5. John Butler says

    Top footballers are now “celebrities”- so promoted by player managers, sponsors, the AFL itself, and,in truth, some of the players themselves.

    And the game of celebrity is always Build Them Up To Knock Them Down. Which is the opposite of traditional footy club culture. The combination is proving an increasingly uncomfortable mix (as Dips well observed).

    But before we feel too sorry for Fev, he’ll be handed 1 & 1/2 million dollars to sort himself out with. Oh to have such problems.

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