Footy: The Rise of the Fall



What to make of this push to have footy back? Is it smart or just a business imperative? My thoughts are somewhat conflicted.


I’ve missed the footy but not as I thought I would. I’ve missed it like the bowl of ice cream I stopped consuming after dinner every night, but I haven’t missed it like an addict craving a hit. I’ve missed the hum it created, crackling out of a radio, in the house or in the garden or wherever I was during a winter’s day, but that comforting hum has been filled by other comforting distractions. I’ve missed the colour of it, no question. People in their guernseys, kids kicking the footy in the park resplendent in Hawthorn or Melbourne or Richmond jumpers (in my area anyway), Mums and Dads walking up to the tram stop with little ones carrying their clubs paraphernalia; Mum and Dad pretending its only a game (it’s far more than that). I’ve missed the MCG. I love the MCG. The march through the leaf-less elms guarding the parkland to the mighty stadium. I miss the noise of all that: the banter, the laughing, the pre-game beers. Especially the pre-game beers. There’s no question I miss the socialising that footy provokes. It’s usually light and airy (unless your team is rubbish) and involves Carlton Draught off the tap and standing in pubs (my favourite place to be) and making outrageous predictions (like an economist one day I’ll be right), and having one more quick pot before we head through the parkland, and the nervous tingling in your boots as the umpire pounds the new Sherrin into the rubber knob to start the game. I miss all that. These things are at the heart of the matter.


But if we get footy back will we get all of this or some bastardised version? A game with many edges that will be mangled and contorted and tortured to fit into a round hole. At what point does it stop being footy and become like a bowl of Cornflakes without the milk: to be consumed without joy or taste. There won’t be kids and parents walking through the streets to the tram stop or pre-game beers or the hum on the radio. It will be like zombie footy.


Not far from my home a sink hole has appeared near a local walking path and garden area. It started as a collapsed area of grass near a storm water drain. It was initially a local curiosity but has become a quasi-tourist attraction. People are pulling over in their cars to take a peek. The hole has grown. Now its about 12-14 metres wide and making its way across the grassy knoll to a footpath. The soil around the old barrel drain has fallen away leaving the drain standing isolated like a bloke with no pants on. Exposed. Embarrassed. It’s a metaphor for what’s happening with the AFL. The more we see behind the collapsed curtain that kept the people out pre-COVID, the more uncomfortable we are becoming. It seems that the foundations of the AFL “industry” have been constructed on filled earth which is subject to shock and collapse. The recent relentless push to turn the teams into a business hub, a franchise if you like, has stripped them of their cultural past and left them exposed to the whims of money flow. And money flow can be fickle when people have none.


Who would dig deep to save The Geelong Cats (™) when the masters of the footy competition assess a team’s viability on the basis of what it contributes to the TV rights contract? Not me. Those in charge of the AFL are looking decidedly gaunt these days. Apparently humble pie doesn’t sit well in a stomach full of hubris cake. The foundations are slipping. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Soulless money machines that we used to call clubs have ground to a halt because the engine has no oil. And this problem can’t be resolved by shaking fund raising tins because the monster is too big now. Jabba the Footy Hutt cannot live on bread alone and a few silver coins. He needs cash. He is like Smaug; the great J.R.R Tolkien dragon who sleeps on his treasure and allows no one near. But all things have their weaknesses.


The main problem seems to be that there is no Plan B except to kick the carcass until it moves and call it a season. It will be no more a season than an elephant hunt is sport.


We should can the 2020 season, as unpalatable as that may seem. Sometimes the best form of defence is defence. Retreat, regroup, re-set, restructure. A brave assessment needs to be made of the sink hole that’s growing around the AFL and all major sport. The gravy train has come into the last stop.


Check out Dips’ feelings about the pubs still being closed HERE


More stories from Dips HERE



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Adam Muyt says

    Zombie football. Reckon you’ve nailed any AFL return without crowds, Dips.
    Won’t do much for me, either.

  2. Neil Anderson says

    A bowl of cornflakes without the milk. That analogy hit the mark. It’s not missing something fancy for it to proceed like strawberries and cream. Just plain ordinary milk like we’ve had on our cornflakes for ever.
    Talk of hubs away from our footy cultural homes is like having weevils in the cornflakes, as well as no milk.
    As I asked myself these same questions about missing football and what it might look like just to restart the season, I was torn between two thoughts. I wanted to see it resume because my team was so poor in Round 1 so they could atone. My other thinking was not to have a half-arsed competition and to re-start next year. No-one has mentioned how nine months plus of contact-free football would be such a bonus for many players, especially the veterans.

  3. roger lowrey says

    Good commentary Dips.

    The sinkhole is an extremely apt analogy. We have seen very starkly how much the whole elaborate system is so artificially propped up and how easily it could implode without a whimper.

    And the comment above about nine months of contact free football is a fascinating thought although the players would strenuously resist. In fairness though I suppose they all have their financial and other commitments like the rest of us.

  4. Peter_B says

    Aye it’s footy Dips – but not as we know it. Now that WA is allowing 10 to assemble I have teed up Family Footy Fridays. Starting with the 1983 WAFL Grand Final with the fibro Swan Districts towelling the Claremont toffs and then the 1989 VFL GF (sorry Dips – I just need to check if the game is as good as Tony Wilson’s book).
    I have enough footy memories that I only need refreshing and not renewal. Footy is connection; and ritual; and mad passion; and nail-biting drama.
    Even a reserves game in the bush with fat blokes and 20 spectators has that. AFL without crowds is synchronised swimming (without the consolation of the cossies).
    Its a business and AFL like the rest of the economy needs to restart sooner rather than later. “50% off everything” seems a good starting point – like an Arthur Daly dodgy motor. Half the list; half the salaries; half the coaches and hangers-on; half the marketing schtick.
    If we can’t get half the crowds back by finals time call it an exhibition season and give the top team on the ladder the Escort Cup. But don’t call it footy.

  5. I think your muse has delivered that sink hole to you.

    This particular virus is so visible.

    But the game was infected by an inconspicuous virus a long time ago.

    I think big leagues and big clubs will be looking for a few wise old barflies who can explain to them what it is they’ve been exploiting.

    How ridiculous does footy media sound at the moment!

  6. JTH – was thinking that the other day. AFL footy commentary at present is so pathetically empty I almost feel sorry for it. There are news stories on coaches dancing on tik tok (whatever that is) forchrissakes!!

    Hopefully this virus has the same result as when the Biggun toppled over the tables of the money changers in the temple.

  7. Rulebook says

    Dips Yep unfortunately now it’s just a big massive business and it needs its tv rights money to continue its existence the round played with out crowds was soulless garbage.Am I missing footy yeh am I missing the social side of it,BLOODY OATH! As usual,Dips you nailed it

  8. E.regnans says

    Zombie footy.

    It appears that what the AFL wants is just a vehicle for describing kick counts and turnover counts and umpiring debates and articles and TV shows and podcasts and rotations and selection dramas and reports and tribunals and breathless commentary and conjecture and awards and super coach points and tipping and most importantly the betting company behemoths..

    At AFL level the game could be seen as a warm prop for the betting and entertainment industries.

    I wonder about the players’ perspective.
    I wonder about the players, coaches, support staff.
    I wonder about the argument that they are obliged to make themselves available because they signed up to the job. I wonder what is the job.

    Not many people eat cornflakes without milk.

  9. Try being a guy who grew up OUTSIDE of Victoria. It’s a joke.

  10. The virus is the best thing that happened. The War cabinet thought they were beyond and above the world events. Now they are so quiet and it’s obvious that the world events are far superior to our beloved game which is now a contrived game run out of Melbourne that resembles nothing like Australian rules football. Thank you so much for the people that run this game and ruined it. And ignored every state outside of Victoria and including all clubs that are not the main clubs in Melbourne. Have a look at the VFL. It is an absolute disaster. And look at the fallout from the social side with what’s been going Not just recently but in the last 20 years and we all know how big the names are and God help the names are not the big names. It’s crap.

  11. Daryl Schramm says

    I haven’t missed the footy at all. And I believe the circumstances have really exposed many in the game (admin, players, media, gambling). This sight is the best for thought provoking product.

    As an aside Dips, the rubber knob in the centre of the ground was canned some years ago. Id like to see a few other rubber knobs go as well.

    Regards all.

  12. What? The rubber knob has gone?

    I’m going to start a Bring Back the Knob lobby group.

    Thanks for the heads up Daryl.

  13. Nick – a lot of passion in there. What’s your solution?

  14. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Shaun Rehn’s knee and subsequent legal action paid put to the knob Dips.

    It’s been an elephant hunt of a year, that’s for sure.

  15. John Butler says

    Dips, you express a lot of what I’ve been feeling.

    But here’s an alternate thought – how much of our views are related to our particular age? What part does middle-aged nostalgia play in how we view the modern game? Do young people think/feel the same way?

    Could it be that the sinkhole is also partly us? Just a thought.

  16. Couldn’t agree more JB. Its hard to deny and is probably very relevant.

    But I think this virus has ripped off a few masks and exposed a few uncomfortable truths. The season is a package deal now, like a 6 month cruise around the world, where the passengers (us) don’t actually get leave the ship.

    The media’s reaction to this is the most insightful. They are completely and utterly lost as ER points out above. Why? Because they don’t understand the idea of sport, and the club, and people, and culture. They only understand the “product” being flogged (to death). So the game is described as great because the AFL tells us it is.

    I’m concerned that a mongrel version of our game to get a season in will cause more damage than good because it will mean avoiding the scrutiny and the deep thought that needs to be undertaken.

  17. John Butler says

    I’ve been grappling with a piece about the footy media. I think you and ER have nailed it much more concisely than I’ve been able to.

  18. Luke Reynolds says

    Points well made. I really struggled to watch Round 1 on TV with no crowds. But my two young boys had no issue with it, and are eager for footy (or any sport) to return to their TV screen.

    Maybe, just maybe, the “franchises” will get back to being “clubs” again once this is over, with all the excesses stripped away.

  19. Daryl Schramm says

    I’ll put my hand up for a small part of me being a part of the sinkhole. I also wouldn’t spend a penny to save my team either. I would for some grass-roots club’s though. The metro club I played for algamated, then folded altogether some 30+ years ago. Is this disappointment part of why the sinkhole might exist?

  20. Daryl – are you suggesting that middle aged, footy loving, slightly disgruntled men are responsible for the sinkhole at the end of my street? What power we have!

    Bit concerned about how the NRL restart puts pressure on the AFL to restart. Why? Totally different circumstances. And if we really believe that footy (AFL style) is the best game by miles, if we really believe that, why would we give a hoot what NRL does?

  21. Pamela Sherpa says

    I’m fascinated by the sink hole Dips . What has caused it? What is being done about it? Whose responsibility is it to investigate it ? Is it a council issue?
    As for the football, I was really looking forward to the 2020 season , but amazingly I haven’t missed it at all because we’ve had the most glorious autumn weather, so walking, gardening, bike riding and reading have filled my days.
    Last weekend I saw a replay of last year’s Anzac Day match which was great . I am a bit surprised that old replays have not been shown on free or TV in the space that AFL games would normally occupy. . What is the story as far as that goes?
    Missing this season will no doubt make us eager and appreciative of next season and our beloved game .
    Until then be thankful for food , water, shelter and love.

  22. roger lowrey says

    Actually Dips, Matthew 21/12-17 was the key reference you were looking for there.

  23. “Zombie footy”. What an apt description, Dips.

    I actually have not missed the footy one bit. And I could not care if it re-started or not. Local footy is another story all together. It cannot start without the canteen and bar being open for business.

    But gee, am I missing having a beer at the local boozer! Watch out when Dan fires the starting gun for the pubs.

    I saw the sinkhole on the news. There will be more of them appearing.

  24. Hi Pamela. The sink hole has emerged where a very old creek used to run. It seems the creek is still running albeit under ground! The Council workers currently have it surrounded in fencing and look to be filling it. Its going to take some filling!

    Thanks Roger. I’ll look it up!

    Smoke – can you imagine the rush on the pubs when old mate Dan releases the shackles!!

  25. I did a little googling after reading your article Dips and apparently, and granted it’s not an inexpensive exercise, but one can still go elephant hunting…albeit under the guise of conservation!

    I’m sure a contrived 2020 AFL season would be about as popular as elephant hunting too!

    I loved your article, and I too miss drinking a beer, out of glass poured from a tap by a fellow human that I can be closer to than 1500mm. I’ve a feeling the further the year now progresses, the greater the mutual sentiment from the masses to your school of thought.

    Can someone please CC Gill a copy.

  26. The Prince!

    G’day Prince. Interesting that elephant hunts still occur. I assume they happen in those fenced parks in South Africa. Like shooting fish in a barrel!

    Hope you’re well. Been zooming with an old mate in Hobart. Seems Tassie is coping nicely in the crisis.

  27. Very well my friend.

    Your definition of ‘nicely‘ is obviously slightly different to mine!

    Two hospitals shut down, all non-essential retail closed for the last three weeks (including us) and the highest per capita transmission rate in the country doesn’t auger well for ‘nicely’ I’m sorry. Admittedly, that’s only my north-west pocket as opposed to the entire state, but true to form, most beings south of Campbell Town have little knowledge and less regard for us up here in ‘Boags Draught’ country.

    I’m not complaining though…I could own a pub or restaurant!

  28. Prince – sorry about that crack about “nicely”.

    At least you’ve still got the crayfish on your doorstep.

  29. Great piece

    Like you, I missed footy less than I thought I would. Which is probably good that it didn’t dominate my life or was how I measured my week and happiness based on results.

    Sure, I’d love it if it was happening, and many of the images you mention, like the walk to the G, are just as much as what I miss in addition to heh game.

    But the game has to be right. I like others felt really awkward watching round 1, it wasn’t the same (obvious statement)

    I miss local footy though and crave that coming back. I hope local leagues can get started in some form, maybe July to mid September, 11 or 12 rounds and a final 4. I miss driving past an oval on a Sat morning and seeing Auskick.

    But hubs, quarantine areas, no crowds? Why not play eFooty, same feeling. Wait and do it right, how much will we love it then, not crowd less soul less games


  30. Prince,

    Good to hear from you.

    Just saw an email from you too. Thanks for taking out a membership. I’ll get the bundle ofgoodies into the post. Not sure how long it will take to get to you given Tassie has cut the ropes and is drifting towards the Antarctic.

    So what are you up to with north-west Tassie in double-secret isolation.

    I also heard from Phantom recently.


  31. Kevin Densley says

    Thought-provoking piece, Dips. It contains so much of interest that I need to read it again.

  32. Geoff Woolcock says

    Think you speak for so many Dips as indicated by Almanackers’ responses here… certainly feels as hollow as your sinkhole for a season resumption sans crowds but the optimist in me thinks that on the other hand, there’s a genuine opportunity for the true value of community sport to be realised… many footy loving expat Aussies remark to me that the most obvious difference between their birthplace and current residence is our standard weekend picture across the country of fields filled with players of all possible types… you just don’t see that anywhere else en masse.

  33. Thanks Geoff. Grass roots sport might win out here but it too is on its knees. It all needs people and cash.

    I feel for those in the AFL “industry” who have lost their jobs. A mate of mine is amongst them. And I certainly hope the AFL can harness this difficult time to reset priorities.

  34. G.A. Thompson says

    Hi Dips,

    Really good piece, thanks for that.
    I started a real crisis of confidence during the ‘Essendon saga’
    The focus on money rather than welfare, the focus on TV rights rather than human rights, the duplicity of the AFL and stakeholders (and adversaries) with the media. The view behind the ‘collapsed curtain’ was very apparent. I don’t think any part of the ‘industry’ or the club or anyone came out looking ok.
    And watching a ragtag bunch of misfits (Craig Bird, James Kelly, Jonathon Simpkin etc) run around in red and black to keep the charade going was – actually quite soul-deflating.
    The most I have recovered is 50% of where I was (and without the joy of watching McDonald-Tipungwuti do what he does, it would be a lot less).
    I have transferred focus to local grassroots footy – which has been a salve.

    But you’re right things aren’t good – and now it’s exposed.

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