Footy’s Final Frontier

The AFL’s relentless push into new territory is a little bit reminiscent of the Americans planting a stars and stripes flag on the surface of the moon. Boldly going where no code has gone before, whether you like it or not.

Outer space is pretty much the only region that hasn’t yet felt the sensation of a football code being thrust down its throat at pace. And that scenario is probably not that far away unless the AFL players association finally finds some testicular fortitude and deems space shuttle travel a breach of OH&S regulations.

But where there’s a will there’s a way, and the AFL has a special kind of iron-fisted will that hasn’t been since the Soup Nazi was in his pomp. So onward we sail into unchartered waters, attempting to entice foreign legions to kick around the pigskin through any means necessary. At the moment, that means throwing millions at expensive imports such as Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt in a flashy attempt to gain a foothold.

But it must be noted that even the most expensive advertising campaigns can come unstuck. Take the nauseating Gillette ad that features Thierry Henry, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods and a totally not-famous-enough Michael Clarke. Millions were splashed out to get three of the biggest sports stars in the world (and Michael Clarke). And yet despite all this money invested into the campaign what was the best concept they could come up with? Gather the three sporting icons (and Michael Clarke) in front of green screens in separate parts of the world and have them engage in some stilted horseplay that wouldn’t be out of place at a Kevin Rudd/Chris Judd photo call. The banter looks about as natural as Mal Walden when he’s forced to add-lib with Quarters before the weather.  Then to top it off, they get Tiger to hit a golf ball through a bathroom window at an unsuspecting stranger, knocking the substandard razor out of his hand. Wombat Gully Plant Farm was closer to the mark when they had Chris and Maree jumping around wattle trees in pink tutus.

So for all the millions thrown at the wall, there is no guarantee the AFL’s expensive marketing strategy will stick. Of course many would say that they have already got their moneys worth from Folau and Hunt, just from sheer media exposure. And that is hard to dispute, but it is still an enormous amount of money to be throwing at a hostile market, which is a slap in the face to the existing clubs that constantly live in fear of being forced out of the national competition. The old line ‘Melbourne can’t support 10 clubs’ has been peddled out constantly since Ross Oakley was top dog. Surely that sentiment becomes null and void when the AFL has just splurged $4m on a bloke that has played the same amount of Aussie Rules games as Lady Gaga.

At this point, no one can really predict what impact Rugby League stars will have in the cut and thrust of the AFL. But there seems to be an unhealthy focus on whether or not these guys can kick a football. While pinpoint disposal is an integral part of the modern game, conceivably it can be traded off for above-average athletic ability. The world is full of people that have survived purely on above-average athletic ability. Dolph Lungren being the most obvious. Or perhaps Natasha Henstrige. I bet we can all remember her as a sexy alien succubus desperately attempting to mate a human male in the movie Species, but can anyone remember one line of her dialogue? No? That’s because she didn’t have any. Or maybe she did. Who knows? Not me. The point is it didn’t really matter because she had athletic ability.

Anyway, the real challenge for newcomers to the game is not kicking, but obtaining the positional sense required in a 360 degree game. Those of us lucky enough to get a glimpse of the brief career of American Duane Armstrong in the Essendon reserves in the mid-nineties can attest that he often wandered around in circles on the MCG like a rudderless ship. A muscle-bound Tony Bullimore being buffeted by the Pacific. A cork in the ocean ,even.

In rugby and soccer formation is hugely important, each player will touch the ball and have an opportunity to influence the game if they hold their position. In the AFL more credence is given to those that can get their own ball. A bloody hard thing to do if you grew up referring to the game as Gay F.L.

The AFL’s claim that professional rugby players will take to the game quicker than those coming from Gaelic football is ridiculous. Professionalism can be learned pretty quickly. Just offer a talented Irish teenager some serious cash and ask him to limit his binge drinking to Saturday night and he’ll be bench-pressing hatchbacks by the end of his first year. Guaranteed.

That’s not to say these rugby lads are doomed to fail, Folau, in particular, is the real wildcard. He’s a freak of an athlete and an ideal poster child for the AFL’s race for the hearts and minds of the world.

Eventually Earth will be conquered and then it will be time to move on to the rest of the galaxy.

Two predictions…Kevin Sheedy will spruik how he’s been talking about ‘martians’ for years and Eddie McGuire will have a Collingwood scarf draped around the neck of a ‘visitor’ before you can say ‘anal probe’. Impressive work Eddie, but not quite Rob Lowe.


  1. johnharms says

    You can write a line Dozz.

    I think this demonstrates once and for all that commerce and the growing economic pie is about giving people something they don’t want, and if they don’t take it, persuading them that they should.

    A simple solution to this is to develop pepole with critical minds.

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