Footy Talk: PT Barnum and Kevin Sheedy plan to put on a show

By John Butler

PT Barnum: legendary showman and entrepreneur, founder of Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey’s Circus and famous for pulling hoaxes and working freak shows. Often attributed the quote “there’s a sucker born every minute.” It’s a surprise he hasn’t worked for the AFL before now.

Kevin Sheedy: really needs no introduction.

With Sheeds signed on as inaugural coach of GWS, the AFL decided he might need some help to get the show on the road. Sydney being a town of theatre-goers, PT seemed a no-brainer choice. It was either him or Lloyd Webber, and PT works cheaper.

PTB: Congratulations on the new job Kevin. I’m looking forward to working with you.

KS: Thanks PT. Glad to have you aboard. We’ll need all the help we can get I suspect.

PTB: I’m not surprised you ended up with another gig. You were leaving no stone unturned. Didn’t I see you wearing a sandwich board in the Bourke Street Mall the other day?

KS: (chuckles) Never die wondering PT. I was getting a little concerned actually. After I predicted Richmond could win the flag last season I was worried people might start thinking I was senile.

PTB: What were you on about there?

KS: Just a bit of sucking up to the old club. The way the Sun Tan Kid was travelling, I figured there might be a coaching gig going soon. Turned out I was right about that. Not that it did me much good; even with KB and a few of the boys pitching in.

PTB: The way KB’s been getting on with the club, what made you think that would help?

KS: It’s a fair point you make PT. Still, you have to respect a man who can hold a grudge. (laughs)

PTB: Speaking of holding grudges… I bet Matty Knights is relieved you’ve got something to occupy you now.

KS: Like I said, you have to respect a man who can hold a grudge. (laughs louder) Just like to keep ‘em honest down at good old Windy Hill. Always keep ‘em guessing I say.

PTB: A man after my own heart Sheeds; although you obviously aren’t an advocate of always leaving them wanting more.

KS: Touché

PTB: Ok, enough fun; time to get to work. First thing, when are they getting a real name for this sucker? And what’s the go with that logo?

KS: I know, it’s a shocker, isn’t it? My granddaughter could have done better. Typical – the AFL farms it out to some consultant, who market researches it, and that’s what we get! Death by committee. Anyone in danger of having a clue? What are they gonna come up with for a mascot? The Kebabs? The Monaros? I shudder to think.

PTB: I watched some tapes of past Grand Final entertainment. I can’t say I’m surprised. Modern exec types always think they know everything about everything. Let bean counters count beans I say. Let entertainers do the entertaining.

KS: Hear, hear! Have you ever heard Andy D try to tell a joke? (shudders)

PTB: Careful now. Let’s not get too personal; you never know who’s listening these days. Besides, they are footing the bill for this extravaganza.

KS: You’re right; so we better give them something for their money. I bet you have something in mind.

PTB: I want you to stick with me here Sheeds. I’m thinking outside the square on this. From what I can gather, the expectation is the team will struggle for a number of seasons. Agreed?

KS: Well… I’d expect the AFL will sling us plenty of trade concessions. And we should get a decent crack at some established players – although they won’t publicise that too loudly. But you’re right – it would be a surprise if we threatened a flag in the early seasons. I’m certainly not expecting to add to my tally – although you didn’t hear that from me. (winks)

PTB: That’s what I thought. Now we know what the Sydney market is like – just look at what happens every time the Swans threaten to fall off the perch. I figure we can’t afford too much of that. And the AFL has a lot at stake in this. They’ve told me money is no object, so I’m taking them at their word. I’ve been talking to the people from Industrial Light & Magic…

KS: You mean the Star Wars guy?

PTB: George Lucas – yep. He doesn’t work cheap, but I think he can help. I’m thinking blue screen, CGI, the works. A virtual Aussie Rules world. It’s supposed to be a TV game nowadays isn’t it?

KS: Especially if we can’t pull a crowd.

PTB: Well Sheeds, I’ve always said every crowd has a silver lining. No matter how big. The game doesn’t go well- we get the CGI guys in. Fix it in the mix. No crowd, don’t sweat it. We’ll blue screen in as many as we want. We just need Channel 7 to maintain their devotion to Better Homes & Gardens. Give us some delay time and we’re set. And think of the fun Cometti can have with some of those effects.

KS: That’s certainly outside the square, PT. But when I think of what I used to have to do to attract attention, I can see some merit.

PTB: Precisely, and it frees you up to focus more on getting the team together. It also buys us time if the early going is as tough as we expect.

KS: I do have a few ideas of my own. Given the demographic of the area, I was thinking of getting some Muslim kids on the list; and some of those Sudanese are pretty tall. Then there are the usual party tricks from days gone by. Getting Paul Kelly on board will put the wind up the Swannies as well.

PTB: The classics never die Sheeds. If all else fails, flick the switch to vaudeville. You’ll still be the main man at the storefront. Bang the drum to whatever tune you think fits. The other stuff will just be there as back-up.

KS: Who knows, we might even win a few games to boot. (smirks) It’s certainly a different ball game to when I started.

PTB: And don’t worry. If things are going really badly, the AFL still has free-agency, salary cap concessions and a whole bunch of stuff to bail us out.

KS: Shhh! All of that’s supposed to be strictly on the QT. The Melbourne clubs would fit if they heard that.

PTB: Sorry. Discretion will be my middle name in that regard from now on.

KS: Now about that CGI stuff…

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. I’m lovin’ these chats, John. Keep ’em coming!

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