For Tweet’s Sake

It can’t be easy running a football club in the digital age. In times gone by the ability of a player to embarrass himself and his club was limited mostly to those present at the local disco on a Saturday night. As rumour built on rumour, the more scandalous a story the more easily it could be dismissed as apocryphal or legendary depending on your perspective (‘Tony Modra did what on the piano at Lennies?’). In less professional times people were also more likely to dismiss youthful indiscretions as just that.

These days every activity, no matter how late on a Saturday night, seems within shot of a camera. Whether we like it or not, we get to see Rugby League players’ diets and toileting activities… sometimes in the same picture. Poorly thought through opinions and actions, whether it be linking Caroline Wilson’s physical appearance with her authority to speak about football or simply to exploring other uses for cling film, can be broadcast to the world at large via Twitter before the brain is engaged.

On the other side of the cubicle Twitter can be a powerful tool for clubs to communicate with their fans. It’s simple enough when dealing with the clubs’ official accounts but we enter an interesting shade of grey (who knew there was one?) when it comes to players and particularly club captains.

A captain’s call

Gary Ablett Jr has 142,000 followers on Twitter – so while (hairdo included) he’s no Justin Bieber, the Southport chrome dome is a powerful communication tool for the Suns. As a result they would likely claim a proprietorial interest in his Twitter account, so might be concerned if he tweeted pictures of himself at the snow with a former teammate.

So how do AFL captains use their Twitter? The short answer is that it ranges from those without an account at all to others that only look up from their phones to collect their next hard ball get. Your average AFL captain with a Twitter account has tweeted 43 times in the past three months: 24 of those 43 were personal; 12 club related; and 7 related to non-club business activities.

Of the 16 captains with accounts, Phil Davis most closely resembles this average. No doubt GWS are comfortable with him at the keypad. At the extreme end, Joel Selwood leads the way in Twitter use (which is not that surprising given how often he has his head down). He has tweeted some 119 times in the last three months – loyal to his club and eager to point out that he goes to the tennis and has a girlfriend now.

On the Radar

Davis and Selwood have at least one thing in common. When news broke about Crow Brent Reilly’s skull fracturing collision at training they both tweeted their best wishes. A good thing to do given their positions of standing and, no doubt, a welcome indication of the deeper sense of siblinghood in the playing ranks.

That is kind of what you would expect, though. After all, 45 minutes after Reilly’s accident was first reported his own captain tweeted:

“Looking for a good laugh? @almatavern is having Billy Brownless Fri 13th of Feb! Don’t miss out #cocko”

That might be cause for concern if you believe that at that point in time the captain should be communicating with the fans (who make up the majority of his followership) instead of just plugging his business. But it’s really only the case if you choose to read Walker’s tweets literally.

Arts half full

It’s easy to forget that Taylor Walker is one of the great figurative tweeters of his time. Given, in the world of the arts, Twitter is a mere babe in arms, it is time Walker was recognised as one of its avant-garde. He clearly does not believe that 140 characters of text should contain only the literal. Instead he flourishes with allegory and imagery, creating worlds fantastical and exotic every time he hits that blue Tweet button.

For example, when soon after Reilly’s injury when he tweeted about Billy Brownless at his pub, it should be read as ‘At the hospital with Radar. Everyone at the club are right behind him’. His tweet a week later ostensibly mourning the death of a racehorse named Texan Warnie can be read to say ‘Brent is making a good recovery. Hoping to go home soon. Sends thanks for all your support’. To read big Tex literally is to miss the artist we have before us.

Walker is not alone of the AFL captains in making Twitter an art space. The boldest statement by Marc Murphy (other than his hair) is the one tweet he has ever favourited. A picture of a child with a toilet seat stuck on his head, taken by Andrew Walker at a hospital. Clearly he was not mocking a small child using a picture of him published likely without the parents’ permission. Rather Murphy has collaborated with Walker and the child’s parents to create an art installation criticising the AFL media and their sometimes overly close relationship with their subject matter.

There are countless other examples of high profile athletes making artistic statements through Twitter. Shane Warne continues to express his appreciation for postmodern expressionism through favouriting many pictures of scantily dressed young women. David Warner and Stuart Broad have created fictional personas of their real life identities (much like Warwick Davis in Life’s Too Short), making themselves appear like twerps.

Meanwhile we have seen the emergence into the field in the last few weeks of Brad McNamara, creating a real life parody account, blurring the boundaries of reality and kooky pastiche. These athletes leave the likes of Bob Murphy, who just tweets about books and ideas and stuff, in the shade.

The importance of being earnest

I was initially concerned by Taylor Walker’s Twitter activity following Reilly’s accident, mustering my substantial reserves of earnestness. However, I am now comfortable that with every plug for the Alma Hotel we are seeing the work of a genius.

As we mourn the loss of characters from our beloved game we should ensure that we embrace the ones that we have left, rather than just question the wisdom and judgement of those in leadership positions at our club of choice. I eagerly anticipate seeing Tex’s work at the South Australian Living Artists festival, no doubt at the Alma, in August this year.

About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Yes Dave,’the Texan is unique and we should all wonder at his use of words that outdate most of our readers.
    Everything he says should be archived!
    His flair and panache goes far, far , far beyond the reach of the “normal” footballer.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Dave and I shared a simultaneous outburst of Twitter earnestness around Tex’s Billy Brownless dispatch.

    My swift reward was being told to “GFY” by one of Tex’s acolytes.

    I’m surprised he didn’t tweet with some how-to-vote advice before the recent Crows board election. Helps having board members as business partners I suspect.

    Bob might be on free beers next time he visits the Alma, but I suspect I’m on the Do Not Serve register.

  3. Dave- brilliant. Lots of funny lines.

    “On the other side of the cubicle” is a nice rhetorical signpost!

    When I next see the Crows, I won’t look at the captain and think there’s the big, fun-loving fella from Broken Hill (with an interest in a number of prominent pubs).

    I’ll know I’m seeing the next Don DeLillo.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Brilliant work Dave. Now I’ve read this I finally understand Twitter. And have just given the great man Tex a follow.

  5. Dave Brown says

    Thanks for the comments all.

    Absolutely, Bob!

    Swish, as I am often telling my staff, the key to good written communication is writing that is clear, concise and is appropriate to the audience. Your friend Mr Clark ticked two of the three boxes at least. And as for the board elections – putting two former players up for the two elected positions – they didn’t need much help. I’m sure (read hope) the Crows have a conflict of interest management plan in place.

    Mickey, Luke – glad I have spread the Texan word. Although the conclusion I came to after doing the research for this was to follow Bob Murphy…

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Dave , ( yet to find out about twitter ) in reaility , Tex plays us all on a break he is actually very smart

  7. Fine, fine work Dave. Greatly enjoyed this one. And the only art we’ll ever get out of Tex is his mullet

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