Let those who are without sin…

It’s been a tumultuous season for followers of the Navy Blue, particularly if you pay any heed to those more priapic pundits who fill their days writing about football without ever really mentioning the play.

A winless pre-season had us in crisis, according to some. Then we were proclaimed premiership favourites after stomping the Pies in round 3. Now, a couple of months hence, we’re apparently a bunch of front-running-downhill-skiing-soft-c__k-pretenders taking money under false pretences. Some pundits have managed to accommodate all three positions in turn without batting an eyelid.

Holding to the notion that the truth likely lay somewhere between these extremes, I beat a path back to the Almanac door. Surely here I would find some calmer perspective on this turmoil?

(At this point I must make personal confession. Since the Pooh-Bahs of the Almanac oh-so-politely suggested I explore my career options I’ve been doing just that, getting myself involved in activities that have left little time for sports reading. Forgive me Father Harms for I have wandered.)

I have to say I’m bemused by some of what I’ve found upon my return. It felt like I’d wandered into Big Footy by mistake. In fact, some of the commentary I read made that particular cesspool of footy blather seem augustly Socratic by comparison. Having concluded that the Blues are knackered, it seems more than a few Knackers are happy to sink the boot in. To make matters worse, some of them are Carlton supporters.

So it seems a good time to write in defence of my footy club.

We of Navy Blue are long used to hearing our club maligned. Certain outsiders obviously feel a compulsive need to lay all the sins of the football universe at Carlton’s feet. This says more about them than us. When this comes from Collingwood fans it’s understandable. Lord knows we’ve caused them enough pain. And, by definition, as followers of the Pies their lives are less fortunate than ours, so they deserve a little dispensation. Besides, their carry on amuses more often than it offends.

But the slurs and accusations of some others feel a bit rich. To listen to them, these holier-than-thous obviously support clubs that have never succumbed to human venality, never slipped a sly payment under the table, never connived or conspired or debauched, never sought undue influence on civic authorities, nor pursued any other manner of football misconduct.

In other words, they obviously follow the Ammos.  They certainly couldn’t be describing any AFL club that has been around for more than five minutes.

I willingly concede that Carlton has moments in its history that are cause for regret. Particularly when we got caught. Stupidity and vanity must take their place in our tale as well as pride and glory. Carlton has always been serious about competing, and this has sometimes led us to pursue our interests too aggressively. But these parts of our story also speak to the tensions in professional sport in general, and professional football in particular.

Money is football’s original sin. From the moment the game grew beyond chaps having a lark in the park, football has wrestled to keep it in perspective. It has usually lost. Money both enables and corrupts, men and football clubs alike.

To those who maintain a Rainman-like chant about Carlton’s “dirty money”, I say find me some money that isn’t dirty. It’s been fifty years since a certain singer of elusive character suggested “money doesn’t talk, it swears”. I’ve seen little in human endeavour since then that suggests he was wrong.

Which brings me naturally enough to the West Coast Eagles.

As we know, our fellow countrymen over in the Deep West have been doing pretty well lately. It’s easy to know because they rarely miss an opportunity to remind us. This isn’t generally something the East Coast should be resentful of. After all, a good number of us easterners have fly-in-fly-out jobs, or at least aspire to get one.

However, some of our friends in the west appear prone to that very Australian trait of confusing good fortune with moral virtue. Some quite obviously believe that the God-like genius which enables them to dig bloody big holes in the ground, fill containers, then ship the lot to China, also qualifies them as experts on social policy, media management, climate science, or any other subject which might take their fancy. It would seem this ebullient mood has influenced their footy club, or at least some of their supporters.

The Eagles have always felt different – as much a brand as a typical footy club. An invention of the modern corporate football imagination, they are a club which springs from nowhere in particular, yet claims to represent a vast region (with the obvious exception of splinter groups from the People’s Front of Fremantle). In this sense they provided a prototype for the AFL’s recent adventures in empire.

So they might otherwise be forgiven for thinking the times are theirs. But following events since last Thursday night I’m in no mood to forgive.

It wasn’t just the loss, though we plainly needed the win. It wasn’t even the significant disadvantage that genius-level fixturing had presented. Nor, even, was it an umpiring display that involved more shafting than a John Holmes revival festival. What finally pushed me over the edge was the continuing denigration of our skipper, and the utter lack of respect for an opponent that fought gamely but lost.

Not content with a win, some Eagles are giving us lectures on ethics, for Christ’s sake. This from a club that as recently as 2007 was a drug-addled bacchanalia. A host to a fiasco that continues to have tragic real world consequences dwarfing any footy malfeasance Carlton ever perpetrated. You might think the fact that those running the Eagles at the time produced little more than a Sergeant Schultz response – “I hear nothink, I see nothink” – would be cause for chastening reflection. But no, Chris Judd is apparently the problem.

Yes, Chris Judd got paid a lot of money to come to Carlton. Who amongst us could truthfully say they wouldn’t be tempted by someone backing a semi-trailer full of cash up the driveway? I doubt any of his hypo-critics could resist. Even if you disregard Judd’s other stated motivations, the decision isn’t hard to understand.

Those West Coast moralists keen to ascribe failing, sounding ever more like a squalling babe who’s chucked all the toys out of the cot, seem prepared to overlook a couple more fairly obvious push factors in Judd’s move. Factors that Judd had the good grace not to discuss publicly. Might he not have become disenchanted that a number of prominent team mates considered second-rate Spinal Tap impersonations to be a viable lifestyle choice? And the decision to have him play on in 2007 with an injured groin, even when he could barely raise a dog-trot, doesn’t exactly look like a triumph of modern player management.

No, it’s easier to declare a premiership captain a money grubbing traitor. It saves you having to show an ounce of introspection at why he might have left.

Since Thursday night, Eagles fans have been an excellent reminder of what money can’t buy.

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. Welcome back Mr Butler. As “I” would say: “That’s sense Withnail.”

  2. Fair rant JB. And not without some good reason.

  3. JB,

    as emotional and parochial as ever.

    Those late risers from the west have some sins as well. They tanked two years ago and got a ‘darling’ of a pick, even if he seems obsessed with self harm to draw a free kick.

    (Missed you in Tassie, we needed a Blue Boy to even things up)

  4. JB

    I’ve been guilty of casting more than the occasional stone… but in my defense, given the year Carlton have had, you’d need the patience of Job not to.

  5. JB

    Fair points all round, and that’s from someone who hates the Blues.

    I am not a Judd fan, although i naturally admire his pure talent. But it’s interesting that Ablett is still seen as OK, won’t be booed at teh Cattery, when he left a club he had helped win a flag, had teammates who helped him win a Brownlow, took an enormous amount of cash to take up the capatincy at a club at the bottom.

    Notice any similarities with Judd there? Judd was honest, didn’t leave his team wondering for a season, yes took the coin, but had other compelling reasons like coming home and wanting to escape a cesspit of loose behavioir in going east.

    I think Judd’s problem was that he was seen to shop around, interview clubs, and then took some dodgy Visy coin.

    Ablett was seen strangely as more pure and was given ‘permission’ to go.I hope he regrets his decision and enjoys the view from sitting on top of his wallet on the Gold Coast as he watches replays of the 2011 GF.

    So for all the similarities of their departures, I agree that Judd’s treatment seems bizarre, as they won a flag under his leadership.

    Cousins and Emlbley are celebrated, Judd maligned? Seems an upsdide down world, like when Chris Rock said that the world’s best golfer was black and the world’s best rapper white.

    There’s always a place for barracking and panto like boos of players. And let’s face it, we all love to see the Blues take a whack. But as much as it pains me to agree with JB, let he who is without sin…


  6. DBalassone says

    I agree with a lot of what’s been said here, but I think the one thing that has been missed re all this WA booing, is that Judd is, after all, a Victorian and we all know what West Australians (and South Australians for that matter) think of Victorians.

    This feeling of interstate hatred has probably been lost a little in Victoria in the past 15-20 years with the demise of State of Origin – but the smaller States will always hate the bigger States more than bigger States will hate the smaller States – this is human nature. It was interesting to hear an interview with hall-of-fame inductee G. Cornes on the weekend, and he admitted that SA suffered from an enormous inferiority complex – I think WA also falls into this category.

  7. Steve Fahey says

    One of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking pieces on the site this season, John

    Footy fans are fickle and blinkered, and that is both one of the great attractions of footy, and one of its occasional annoyances. You’re right in saying that ALL clubs have skeletons in their closet, as Allan Jeans suggested to Peter McKenna in that famous WOS interview.

    I guess I could completely destroy any credibility of my comments to date that such insight is rare for a Blues man !

  8. Ah, JB
    You have been sorely missed.
    It is indeed great to have you back.

  9. Dave Nadel says

    Welcome back JB. After your patronising comments about Pies I should probably avoid this thread but I am not convinced by your defence of Judd. As Sean said the auction Judd conducted for his services after he left the Eagles appeared venal and unedifying and has a great deal to do with his unpopularity. His relationship with umpires also arouses ill feeling. Most Collingwood supporters think Dane Swan played better in 2010 than he did in 2011 and have trouble understanding why Judd won tthe 2010 medal.

    Like you, John, I get annoyed at the assumption that because a man or woman owns a company that digs holes in the ground s/he suddenly becomes an expert on “on social policy, media management, climate science, or any other subject which might take their fancy.” However for more than twenty years the rest of us had to listen to a man who thought that success in manufacturing jam and brewing beer qualified him as an expert on everything from politics to human relations. And he was even more ubiquitous than Eddie McGuire!

  10. DBalassone says

    Re the inferiority complex, PB, didn’t mean you personally – but was just justifying the reason for the booing of Judd. I have no problem with such behaviour – I think it’s part and parcel of the game – and can tell you a few stories of Pies supporters booing Peter Moore & others over the years.

  11. To continue the Greek theme,it would appear that John has confused rhetoric with logic,the one often anathema to the other as any orator should know.To suggest that the Bacchae,a vindictive lot if I ever heard of one,and who,if transported through time bear a nauseating resemblance to media journalists,should have the vaguest influence on the fine ,upstanding Lancelots of the West Coast Eagles,just shows that SAD,(and 10 interstate premierships in 21 years),has a more pervasive and pernicious grip on the Victorian psyche than us in the sunny,blessed, West may have previously realised.(The West is where the Greeks located their land of heroes)
    On a connected note,didn’t the Eagles take a 19 year old with two dodgy shoulders and nurture him to a Brownlow? Didn’t he have Cousins and Kerr to help him get there? That sounds like player management to me,.If he hated the Eagles so much,why was Daniel Kerr at his wedding?
    So,if Rebecca preferred the the shopping in Melbourne,wasn’t once a fortnight enough and every final series as well.That’s why he gets booed.It’s the first syllable of boutique..

  12. Fair rant JB. I was even inspired to look up “Carlton aren’t so bad after all” to see if the tide of interweb opinion had changed based on the compelling points raised. I found this.


  13. First of all Jeff – that is brilliant!! Now if we can only scare the bejesus out of the Hawks next Friday with the same approach I’d take it any day. Mitch Robinson does look a little typecast though. Kreuzer’s cameo just brilliant.

    JB – great article. As a Carlton supporter I enjoyed the read. I had been contemplating commenting on some of the more recent posts and comments, but all I could come up with was “fuck youse all”, so I left it alone. Thanks for voicing the support of all Blues supporters at a time when we need it most. I will be back in Melbourne for a couple of weeks and have the Hawks game penciled in, Can’t wait. Hope Ratt’s brings his guitar to the dugout and the Blues get rolling.


  14. Lord Bogan says

    JB, it’s good to have you back and it’s great to see that you’ve been hitting the thesaurus. David Astle would be proud.

    The Blues and Judd’s issues stem from the weight of expectation combined with the heightened sense of entitlement that seems to afflict Carlton and Collingwood more than other clubs. The build up of coming, cooking etc has led to a let down that not many could have foreseen after Round 3. The historical association with Menzies, Harris, Elliot and Pratt makes the Blues a tantalizing target and deservedly so. Love your work.

  15. Last paragraph reads

    So what ,if Rebecca preferred the shopping in Melbourne? Wasn’t once a fortnight enough – and every final series as well? That’s why he gets booed.It’s the first syllable of boutique

    Read first ,submit later.

  16. Priapic? I am flattered. That is the nicest thing that anyone has anyone ever said about me.
    The Avenging Eagle just thinks it proves that Carlton supporters are both blind and stupid.
    I had drafted a longer response along these lines in consultation with Ian Latham (the Almanac’s resident expert on ancient Greek mythology) and Phil Dimitriadis (our resident ancient Greek).
    Pastor Harms justifiably thought that it was unsuitable for Junior Almanackers, and I have recanted (under no circumstances should any Junior Almanackers under the age of consent look up that naughty Greek word on the Wooky site).
    Geez, don’t the Greeks have a track record for putting their hands where they shouldn’t? Other people’s money and other people’s privates. Its been going on for thousands of years apparently.
    Who’d have thought?
    Anyway I just wanted to let you know I wasn’t running away from a stoush (just appropriately smacked and sent to the naughty corner – g’day Litza). Can’t say more now.
    I have to get off to my day job now as Legal Reporter for the Rinehart Reporter (very popular rag here in WA). Well if JB, the Age and the Almanac can’t make a quid out of social media these days, someone has to get down in the gutter and give the boss (sorry I meant the people) what she (I mean they) want.
    I am currently touring the Migrant Worker ReEducation Camps that the boss has set up in the North. We are scouting for 7 foot Fijians who can run like the wind. But I think we are looking on the wrong side of the country at the moment. I will get our North Queensland allies onto it.
    If we can’t find any shortly, we plan to press gang Usain Bolt after the Olympics and put him on a boat out from Blighty to land on Christmas Island in time for September (there are long historical precedents I’m told). We need a back up full forward in case Kennedy’s ankle doesn’t come up.
    On the bright side I have found a lot of one armed Tamils who reckon they can rip a doosra. Dunno where the other arm went – some cockamamy story about Civil Wars. Anyway we are letting half a dozen of them out for 6 months in summer to have a trial at the WACA. There is a big skills shortage of spin bowlers at the moment, so Gina says we have to use slave (sorry I meant migrant) workers. The one arm should encourage the ICC to go a bit lenient on their dodgy actions.
    Didn’t get beyond the first para of your piece, JB. I was too busy swooning over your compliment.
    I’m sure the rest was very good.
    Don’t worry that Pastor Harms got all Lutheran on you.,JB Very unforgiving lot. I have put in a good word for you with Gina, and she says she is extending her coverage to the Eastern States shortly. Apparently she wants to call it the Melbourne Rage (R for Rinehart).
    We will need a Legal Correspondent in Ballarat when Tony reopens the Eureka Stockade to house the next few boatloads. Its getting crowded up here.
    See you at the Office Xmas Partry. Regards, PB.

  17. John Butler says

    Thanks for the feedback folks.

    Sorry for the tardy reply, but it took quite a while to drain the keyboard of spittle.

    PB, that’s a hell of a lot of words about one word – that wasn’t even aimed at you (thought you had a fair choice from what followed though). Priapic was aimed at some of our more fevered scoop-hounds in the broadcast media. Those who can get tumescent about the state of blah-blah’s contract. The ones whose repertoire seems limited to variations on ‘build ’em up to knock ’em down’.

    Interesting you thought it was aimed at you though. That probably comes from hanging around with the likes of Lord B. He’s always banging on about Dionysus this, Dionysus that. Has to affect a man after a while.

  18. John Butler says

    Jeff, that’s a great find. Robbo and Deliverance seems such an eerily perfect fit.

    Dave, I know you secretly love the smell of condescension in the morning. :) After all, what’s yin without yang? But I’m not sure Judd’s relationship with others is quite the same since your mob bleated about that Brownlow. He doesn’t get many favours nowadays.

  19. John Butler says

    As I thought I made clear in the piece, I wouldn’t for a minute suggest Carlton don’t deserve their fair whack. It’s not like we make ourselves a small target.

    I just think it should be a fair whack. Not some of what’s gone on lately.

    DB, the intricacies of interstate psychology and relations is a subject worthy of encyclopaedic examination of itself.

    Cheers all

  20. No, small target you aint:


    But we need more protection fror the downtrodden working class Bluebaggers – we need to regulate further criticism through a new statute. We’ll call it the Fair Whack Act.

  21. John Butler says


    A fair minded individual such as yourself would be my nomination to enforce such legislation.

    Julia would probably appreciate it as well.

  22. Thanks for all that you all. Agree on most points – Juddie paid his dues over in the West & it’s good to have the illuminating pen and insightful intellect of JB back.

    (keyboard just doesn’t do it for me – the keyboard is mightier than the sword. Naah. It’s not even mightier than the laser directed bunker buster. Especially since the laser directed bunker buster was probably launched by a keyboard)

    And Jeff D – thanks for reminding me what a powerful movie ‘Deliverance’ was/is. I’ve got it on order at our local video shop.

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