On Eddie McGuire, and who we should be listening to instead

 

Two weeks apart, the people of Sydney and Melbourne were asking each other the same question: “How about that storm?”

 

It Sydney, that referred to a weather event that flooded rivers and damaged properties along the NSW Coast.

 

In Melbourne, and ultimately Australia, it was an AFL-focused media event that flooded news feeds, but who or what exactly has it damaged?

 

Certainly, Eddie McGuire’s comments regarding paying money to drown Fairfax journalist Caroline Wilson hurt his public image, but he remains Collingwood President with the full support of the club board.

 

It’s more likely the casualties of the media’s delayed reaction – a delay for which it tried to compensate with sheer hysteria – is the debate on gender equality as it relates to the AFL.

 

There’s a very real risk that we’ll miss the opportunity – if we haven’t already – to make some progress in this area by focusing solely on McGuire and the offence he caused Wilson.

 

Surely the real story here is that for all the symbolic gains – the white ribbon matches and establishment of a women’s AFL League – the culture that gives people the idea it’s acceptable to use and condone this kind of language persists in the AFL.

 

While getting angry when it manifests is a reasonable and instinctive way to react, it won’t do efforts to end this culture any favours. Instead, the progress here will come by focusing on the right language to use, and the people using it.

 

Take the women of the Outer Sanctum podcast, who as Wilson’s colleague Miki Perkins discovered effectively broke the McGuire story.

 

They discuss LGBTI, culture and gender issues in an AFL context, the kind of wider world thinking not usually applied to our game, yet which is essential to if we want it to become the crucible for cultural change in other areas of society – and initiatives like the women’s league would suggest we do.

 

The recent Her Game series on Melbourne’s Three Triple R – a collection of stories exploring the experiences of people who have traditionally been excluded from playing and coaching Australian Rules Football – makes for pleasing listening for the same reason.

 

And while Anna Krien’s recent book Night Games isn’t necessarily pleasant, it is just as engaging and important in this regard. Using the rape trial of a former amateur football as a lens, Krien explores the history and consequences of gender politics in footy, with a length and level of detail uncomfortable to anyone who’s grown up under footy’s spell.

 

It would be far more beneficial to give players like these a platform than the dissenting and self-righteous voices in the media.

 

Because if the sentiments like those articulated by McGuire are the bane of football modern day, then the voices of those with empathy and first hand experience of the problems such language causes are the cure.

 

It wouldn’t just be the victims of discrimination at an AFL level that benefit from this approach: the entire footy community would feel happier for it.

 

It’s fair to say the game has been locked in a perpetual struggle for eternal bliss for quite some time now – we want an exciting brand of football played, to be the number one code in the land and to enjoy this great game without distractions like in the good old days.

 

Through years of rule changes we can again boast high-scoring, attacking game – while the latest round of expansion clubs is starting to yield results in Western Sydney.

 

Yet the national game has never been more susceptible to turbulence induced by social issues – race, faith, sexuality and gender.

 

Perhaps until now we’ve hoped such problems will fizzle out. But if we’ve learnt anything from this most recent ‘storm’ it’s that they won’t, and our game will never be settled so long as these issues aren’t properly and regularly acknowledged.

 

Sam Newman types will decry the arrival of the ‘fun-police’ in making social affairs a larger part of footy, and portray them as being in direct opposition to returning to these “glory days” of old.

 

Having not been a part of that era, I can’t say with authority what made them such great times. But I doubt it was it the sexism, and the security that you could say or do anything without consequence.

 

Surely this euphoria came from the realization that everyone at the ground was feeling the same unruinable happiness the you were at this spectacle.

 

Affairs like the McGuire-Wilson one show that some for some fans this happiness is in fact ruinable – and so its in their interests and ours to address those problems.

 

We can’t know what those problems are if we’re not listening, so perhaps it’s time we gave that a try.

 

I’m pretty sure you’d enjoy hearing that more than anything Eddie has to say right now.

 

 

 

 

About Alex Darling

Melbourne-born, NSW-based footy fan, lover of the Saints, classic rock guitar and good writing on each of these topics.

Comments

  1. Yvette Wroby says:

    Hi, I have found listening to other voices helpful, the podcast you mentioned that broke the story, and Marngrook, who always look at the current issues and hot spots and have brilliant, thoughtful discussions. I wonder if it is that the panel is more diverse, more engaged in discussion, more able to step back and think, and they do this over so many of the issues you talk about above. Coodabeens do it well too. Thanks for your thoughts

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