Footy? Ask a mother.

It’s been an interesting off season.  Daughter finished Year 12, passed, and is now overseas.

The last child finishing high school.  Time passes.  Son at home, having travelled and now ready to start uni again.  I have been in repairing and cleaning mode,  repairing my studio, and the back porch.  So between cleaning out, renovations and repairs, and cooking up a mass of apricot jam from a beautiful fruit in season, writing and painting have been on the back burner.

But not my attention to the sporting world.  The start of our summer had the interviews with Lance Armstrong.  Still in complete denial about what “truth” is and what “responsibility” is.  There’s been the cricket and the ups and downs of the Aussie team, and seeing some good new young ones come through as well as the retirement or solidity of the old guard. There’s the Soccer/football and the seats of the stadiums being trashed, taking away the focus from a good soccer season.  They need more goals to occupy them.  Perhaps because there is heaps of scoring to let off steam, Aussie Rules supporters are never likely to be that destructive.  There’s too much good stuff going on at an AFL game.  There has been our boys in Colorado (Saints boys that is) and the relative quiet of a football-less summer; until the last few weeks and Essendon taking over “that position” of being the team in the spotlight. (Did we hear a collective sigh of relief from Melbourne and an “oh-oh” from Brendon Goddard….)

Now the AFL are talking about “Integrity Officers” at each club, $200,000 worth instead of another “coach”.  OK, here’s an idea, employ some mothers . Pay them the rate, but if a suggested idea, medicine, form of training, isn’t acceptable to a “mother” of a player, then it’s no go.  Ask a mother how she’d feel with injections of vitamins or other substances,  on or off site.  Ask a mother whether she’d allow “sports scientists” free range on the health and welfare of her son.  There are plenty of fathers around, in whatever their capacity, but there is a scarcity of “the other” to balance the perspective on sport, life, and behaviour in such an all boy environment.

Here’s a plan.  If you wouldn’t want to tell your mother about what you’re doing, perhaps it’s not the smartest plan.  What astounds me is the prevalence of “group think”, in a club, full of men and boys, no-one wanted to be the lone voice to express concern or a different opinion, because of the pressure that if you weren’t doing what all the other boys were doing, there’s that feeling of being out of the group. So slowly, the group stops challenging and thinking and having rational disagreements or varying opinions on all things inside a club, “independent” thought disappears and is replaced by group think.  A very powerful force where it’s hard to claim back your minds.

Some thought has come back to Essendon and they alerted the AFL to their practices and all judgements are premature until the findings.  But all other teams then made sure they’d done their due diligence with their players and checked their processes.  Once the horse had bolted.  Once the fingers were pointed.

I wrote last year about my concern with alcohol and lack of sleep after games when Jack Stevens had been caught drink-driving.  The boys are excited and awake at all the wrong hours, the alcohol both brings them down but changes their metabolism.  The sugar created in the body by the alcohol  also creates mood swings and so between the fitness regimes, and the sugar highs and lows created, the mood and mental health of the boys can be left swinging. Remember, us older folk, how our parents used to say, “All things in moderation”.  The health profession passes this on, alcohol, sugars, protein, carbohydrates, all OK but in moderation.  But we don’t live in moderating times, and boys don’t feel like being moderate when they are “high” or “low” after games. They feel invincible.  They aren’t invincible.

I guess the other more disturbing factor is the culture of “youth”, when on the 7.30 program last week Stephen Danks spoke about other sporting personnel at the Essendon club taking  performing enhancing substances.  They are “free” to do so, they are not the athletes who have to comply with the rules of sport.  But they are the mentors and teachers of young men who are following their example.

As we age, our metabolisms change, as men age, they have to learn to deal with it, their bodies slower, their weight adjustments, their immortality that is mirrored in our bodies and time.  So welcome to the world of humanoids.  We can adjust certain things (there are medicines to help women through menopause and allow some relief from symptoms) but menopause cannot be stopped, nor can the aging processes that affect men.  Get over it.  It happens to all of us and it needs to happen to all of us, and our children need to see it, to know that life is finite, that we are limited in body and soul, and to be able to learn to adjust, there are things that can be done and there is a Season.  The Byrds said it best (via the wonderful Pete Seeger, Book of Ecclesiastes and King Solomon) :

Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season)

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time of war, a time of peace
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late!


Yvette Wroby

17th February 2013



About Yvette Wroby

Yvette Wroby writes, cartoons, paints through life and gets most pleasure when it's about football, and more specifically the Saints. Believes in following dreams and having a go.


  1. Yvette,
    I strongly resemble your comment about men’s ageing metabolism, slower bodies, weight “adjustments” and the mortality that peskily reveals itself in my mirror each morning.
    Apart from that personal ridicule, I thought the rest of your article was wonderful.
    I often reflect that macho aggression is 90% of the world’s problems. You don’t see women running around the Middle East and Africa with AK47’s and rocket launchers.
    Cultures and religions that diminish women’s ability to participate fully in society are generally the most intolerant and violent in other areas.
    Don’t see many women as CEO’s of Wall Street investment banks.
    And women that do want to “succeed” in aggressive, confrontational cultures generally have to sacrifice their humanity and femininity to get there (think political Amazons like Julia and Maggie).
    We want our footballers to be fearless warriors for 3 hours a week, and socially aware role models for the rest of the week. Thats a tough ask for a 19YO struggling to find his way in the world, let alone in elite sport.
    Its like soldiers returning from Afghanistan and land mines, trying to adjust to everyday life.
    I remember talking to a very compassionate, urbane Croatian architect friend about the neo-Nazis who returned from South America to fight in the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s and now had powerful postitions in Croatian society.
    He shrugged his shoulders at the necessary evil – “unfortunately nuns are not much use in the trenches.”

  2. Cheryl Critchley says

    What a great idea Yvette. But it has way too much common sense, which is increasingly short supply these days.

  3. I like your article and the use of verses from Ecclesiaistes/Pete Seeger. But I am not sure that I agree with your proposal. My daughter used to be involved in Elite Gymnastics a few years ago. This is one sport in which mothers are at least as involved as fathers. There were some terrific parents but there were also some (of both genders) who were appalling. I am not convinced that once the chance of a child being a “star” enters parental consciousness that mothers are any more trustworthy than fathers.

  4. “There’s too much good stuff going on at an AFL game”:

    like drugs (performance enhancing and otherwise), match fixing and cheating, and, yes, punters being bashed in the crowd

    We won’t even think about the game’s troglodyte attitudes to women and sexual violence and homophobia (despite some people’s best efforts and AFL window dressing)

    But at least they score lots of goals, thereby making the game a moral exemplar.

    Then again I might not know what I’m talking about only having attended about 40 games of footy at the elite level.

  5. Ian,

    I’m gonna take a real wild stab in the dark here. I reckon you don’t like Aussie rules.

  6. Good game. Watched many games that I have enjoyed. Like to get down to watch the Fitzroy team when I can.

    Don’t like bullies or bully culture or people making stuff up about other games that they know basically nothing about.

  7. Ian,

    Good game? Better than a good game mate. The best fricken game in the world (apart from test crciket at its finest.). But glad you have some regard for it. I think soccer is a good game too. Just needs some tackling and some big grabs. But that’s just a taste thing. Good sparring with you again.

  8. You see, I’d never say soccer, or cricket (my favourite game) is the best game in the world because 1) I haven’t seen enough of the others to make a global judgement and 2) I’m not god and only have my subjective opinion available to me.

    I think I’ve seen some games of footy that have been exhilarating. I was at Etihad for Brisbane v Carlton about 5 years ago and the first quarter was unbelievably good. Brisbane pummelled Carlton through teamwork and hard work that was phenomenal but ultimately unsustainable. Carlton clawed their way back in but couldn’t get back far enough and Brisbane won. The game was less interesting after 1/4 time.

    But that was the game that also turned me off footy. The person I went with, a passionate barracker, annoyed the Carlton supporters around him and they responded with homophobic abuse and threats of violence. I didn’t feel particularly safe because there was a few of them who were getting angrier and angrier. My mate shut up and the anger dissipated.

    That game also provides my one moment of analytical footy insight: at one point the crowd showed to me the extent to which they didn’t really understand the game they were watching. Carlton were deep in their own right hand pocket and instead of booting it long they crabbed sideways. The crowd was furious. “Go long dickhead!” or words to that effect. What the crowd hadn’t seen was that they were engaging in a switch of play that was leading to an open man on the left just over halfway. I could see what was happening. It was pretty obvious. Anyway the Carlton supporters changed their tune when he got the ball, kicked it to a man in front of him who booted the goal. Like goldfish the crowd around me forgot its insults and cheered the goal.

    I left that game resolving never to attend again. I have been to see Brisbane play Collingwood since then and was bored.

    So footy is not a great game. It’s a good game with moments of grace, beauty and the rest of the cliches. But it’s a game capable of inducing boredom and provoking violence. As you say: it’s down to taste and who the hell knows where that comes from?

  9. Ian

    I think we can all agree that most people think the sport they grew up with is the greatest. All this which sport is the best is subjective. For most people the sport they have a boyhood attachement too is the sport they think is the best. Arguing otherwise is a waste of energy. I can’t prove to you that Aussie rules is the greatest just as you can’t prove Soccer is the greatest. The same goes for the corollary arguement you made that footy is not a great game. No matter what your experience with Aussie rules, it will always be a great game for me. Stating a case that it is not is utterly pointless. Still it’s a shame that that has been your experience.

  10. TBF TB you started the ‘best game in the world’ malarky.

  11. Only coz you called it a good game on a website where everyone thinks it’s the best

  12. Actually, Rugby League is the greatest game of all. They’ve copyrighted the slogan to prove it!

  13. Ha ha! Now that is a Syson swipe I can finally warm too!

  14. There are websites out there that claim to prove the existence of God, or that atheists are wrong. There must be one out there also that proves that Australian Rules is the greatest game of all.

  15. Yvette,

    After all that, I finally read your piece. Great stuff and it read like something that only a mother could write.

  16. Yvette

    That should have read ‘the loveliest of mothers could have wrote.’

    (Yes I am a suck and sorry to brawl in the comment area of your piece.)

  17. TB that was a friendly chat!

  18. Andrew Starkie says

    My mum would’ve sorted em out, Yvette. Still puts me in my place regularly.

    Great stuff – good sense as usual. Didn’t think I’d ever read the word ‘menopause’ on this site.

    Agree with your concerns about ‘group think’ overtaking individual thought. As a teacher I see it often. But then again, we adults are going that way as well, aren’t we?

    I read on the weekend Melbourne players have have regular ‘naps’ in darkened rooms during preseason. Are they for real?

    I was concerned after reading a M Flanagan article a few weeks ago that was full of praise for the player Jackson from Richmond. he has interests outside footy. he travels to places other than Bali and Vegas. he studies, he does community work that led to him receiving the Jim Stynes Award at the Brownlow last year. That’s all good, but hopefully one day we won’t have need for such an award. Shouldn’t community work be compulsory? Shouldn’t study? Don’t employ integrity officers at clubs. Career officers would better use. maybe I’m on my high horse, but I can’t help but think many of the issues surrounding footy and all professional sport at the moment would disappear if a small shift in priorities occured.

  19. I’m hoping you pay spotters fees for info like this, but even if you don’t, 3AW was again vilifying the A league tonight. They had a grab from Ted Baillieu about not tolerating this kind of un-Australian violence plus some call back. I look forward a Syson bombardment on Neil Mitchell tomorrow

  20. Why do you listen to 3AW?

  21. Crio, that’s a good question? I listen to Gerard and Dwayne’s sports show between 6 and 7 ish while I cook. Be assured, that’s the only 3AW that I can stomach, but stomaching any 3AW is a concern I well know.

  22. Yvette
    as usual you are right. It is timme that the AFL employed mums at all levels of the game.
    I know of at least six AFL mums who would make magnificent integrity officers (why not just call them mums?). If you look at the top brass of the game at the moment (excluding commissioners) not one of them has even a teenager in their household let alone a testosterone footballer!). For the life of me how do they know what they are talking about!
    Yvetter, what are you doing this winter?

  23. Neil Belford says

    Yvette – compelling logic – completely accurate non-trivial analysis. There is an outstanding 2003 doco about the life and times of Robert Macnamara – (the 60’s US Secretary of State) called the Fog of War. It outlines 11 mistakes the US made in its thinking about Vietnam and it’s motivations to wage that war. The mistakes are as plain as the nose on your face but it doesn’t really consider on how those mistakes could be made then and then repeated time and again since – but during the doco MacNamara puts his finger on exactly the reason – all the decisions were made by a bunch of middle aged American white guys who had pretty much the same view on everything -they inhabited an echo chamber and footy clubs are similarly an echo chamber. There is no plurality of thought.

    The wider Australian Rules community is as diverse as there are components of society in Australia, and the gender diversity is outstanding – these stats are 3 years old but they are the best I could find.

    40% of AFL and club members are female
    41% of game day attendees are female
    43% of television audience are female
    35% of volunteers within local clubs are female
    78,224 females are now playing Australian Football
    30,524 girls are participating in Auskick
    18,986 females are playing in a dedicated female competition
    In addition there are 1,497 accredited female coaches and 700+ female umpires across Australia. A female umpire exchange programs and a Female Umpiring Academy were established in 2008.

    However as you get closer you get to the centre of power at AFL football department level that diversity approaches zero in the limit – the point being, if the diversity was maintained, its a fair bet decision making would be better.

  24. Barkly St End says

    Great post Neil and fantastic article Yvette.

    On a related matter, with this whole ACC/ASADA thing, the thought has often come to me: 70-80 18 year old rookies are recruited every single year to AFL clubs, many continue to live at home, have lead healthy lives, good families, etc, etc.

    Is it possible that absolutely none of these kids would tell their parents if they were being intimidated in having substances injected into them?

    Personally, I find that hard to believe – it would come out eventually – if it’s as rife as some are trying to make us believe.

  25. Barkly St End says

    Ian syson, a soccer fan, and re-writer of history, coming on here pointing fingers about match fixing.


  26. Ian Syson says

    And just what is wrong with 1) being a soccer fan, 2) rewriting history if you find it is full of errors or 3) pointing out that match-fixing is part of footy’s history and recent past?

  27. There is nothing wrong with being a soccer apologist Ian, your attempting to make a career out of it !.

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