Open sewage: the need for a people person’s plan

“With regard to the deaths occurring in the locality belonging to the pump, there were 61 instances in which I was informed that the deceased persons used to drink the pump water from Broad Street, either constantly or occasionally…
The result of the inquiry, then, is, that there has been no particular outbreak or prevalence of cholera in this part of London except among the persons who were in the habit of drinking the water of the above-mentioned pump well.”

– Dr John Snow, letter to the editor of the Medical Times and Gazette.

On Thursday it’s the May full moon. She symbolizes the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha, all at once. Symbolically enormous to many. And a timely reminder of what matters around here (Answer: it’s each other).

Contrasting today is the warmth in stories about Tommy Hafey, with the cold outrage in stories about corporate AFL. I never met T Hafey. Yet I’m left with the impression that T Hafey was a Richmond man, a Collingwood man, a Geelong and a Sydney man, a Shepparton man. But more simply, he was a people man. A people person. A person with your interests at heart. A person with empathy. With a keen sense of the human condition. An enlightened person.

I never met an AFL executive, either. Yet I’m left with the impression that they are well corporately tuned to achieving key performance indicators, to annually meeting their individual performance criteria, and to maximizing growth. It’s been noted on these pages that G McLachlan, for instance, is “just doing his job.” If that’s the case though, I wonder who it was that defined the parameters of his job? And in who’s interests? To whom is he accountable? What’s this Monday night football? Next we have Thursday night and football will be on. Who wants it? I suggest that this scheduling is not the decision of an enlightened people person.

A picture continues to emerge that paints the AFL as a latter day London Town circa 1854. At that time, the Industrial Revolution had seen London Town transformed from an organically growing town (Roman London, Anglo-Saxon London, Norman and Medieval London) into a metropolis of literally Dickensian scale and sickness. The population (and writers) themselves were shocked with what London had become. It was a city gorging on itself, built using necessarily pre-industrial ideas, on foundations that could never support a city of the size it had become. This is a good spot to draw a VFL/AFL analogy.

In 1854 London Town, it took the founding event of the science of epidemiology by Dr John Snow (of York and then of Newcastle-upon-Tyne), to understand the cause of the great cholera outbreak (Answer: sewage contaminating the water supply). Consequently, in 1855 the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) was created. Their task was to provide London with the infrastructure the expanding city would need. And one of its first priorities was to address sanitation issues, for at the time, raw sewage was pumped straight into the River Thames. The MBW later got on with several other winning plans, including the London Underground.

So in London Town, they went from (1) having no identifiable crippling problems and unprecedented growth, to (2) recognizing that they had a serious problem, to (3) solving the problem through considered expert planning and foresight.

In AFL Town, we’re just now arriving at (2). Several (2)s, to be fair; gambling encroachment, corporate governance queries, equity, drugs, fixturing, and others. These problems don’t simply disappear on a plane to France. They need addressing. To get to (3), the AFL needs a Dr John Snow; somebody wise and brave from outside the Town to view the Town with fresh eyes. Someone to ask the questions that locals would never ask. I’d say an enlightened people person would be the best they could find. Or better yet, rather than a single messiah, they could seek the help of all wise and brave enlightened people persons with an interest.


About David Wilson

David Wilson is a hydrologist, climate reporter and writer of fiction & observational stories. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and likes to walk around feeling generally amazed. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    And yet, like many clubs also, they don’t look outside their own, except for the bits that resemble the US NFL.

    They seem to think that they are still at (1)

  2. Stainless says

    Reminds me of the Underpants Gnomes on South Park. Step 1 Steal underpants, Step 3 Make lots of money. They hadn’t quite worked out Step 2.

    I suspect Dickens could have created a decent novel out of the characters and practices of the AFL.

  3. Simon Bogli says

    Nay, I say that the cholera outbreak should be left to its own agency.

    That way,we may have a genuine chance to kill off role players, and coaches who believe that games ought to be won by a margin of 10 goals to 8 goals.

    Hopefully, commentators who revel in un-necessary jargon like ‘structures going forward’ as if they were describing urban development would also be targeted.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    OBP so much truth in this article unfortunately it is not funny . Abba seems to be the rule to come from afl headquarters and there mantra , Money , Money , Money
    where we the average footy punter are ignored . I hope folks don’t buy memberships next year as a protest to all these extra charges being forced on us at the gate
    Corporates , TV rights and sponsorship is what headquarters cares about we wait and see whether , Mclachlans involvement in amateur football makes him remember the average punter thanks , OBP

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