Round 17 – GWS v Richmond: But what is the goal? Or even a goal? How a visit to Spotless inspired a post-modern observation of Australian Football.



It’s widely accepted that the 2017 premiership heralded the postmodern flag era. Three games last September ruptured conventional grand narratives, laying waste to the surety of several assumptions upon on which society kids itself. These being: (i) the innate establishment superiority of Geelong (Qualifying Final), (ii) the predestination of GWS’s draft talent (Preliminary Final), and (iii) the irresistible professionalism of Adelaide (Grand Final). Underlying these hitherto unquestioned ‘common senses’ was the universal conviction that to be a Richmond person was, above all, to occupy the subject position of abject loser. The events of 9/30 – particularly the night scenes of social upheaval on Swan St, echoic of the 1979 Star Hotel riots and Cold Chisel’s prophetic line “it was a taste of things to come…” – shook Australia, leaving it less certain about the future of manufacturing, its place in Asia, ABC funding, the US alliance, and Peter Dutton’s national values. As argued by Fizbert & Bentley (2017, p.42) in their influential treatise on the cultural politics of barracking, No Prior: The Leather Poisoning of Fan Identity, “Australians increasingly accepted that the protected zone of their youth was a mirage, and that globalisation had torn the duffel coat of certainty from the sheep’s back”.


Within the new paradigm, what is a ‘spotless stadium’ if not the Nietzschean designation of a sporting nothingness? The Arctic 2km trudge from Olympic Park Station to this nihilistic ground is made eerier by the sense that eyes watch from behind curtains in brutalist Rhodes apartment blocks. Where are the pubs? The venue strikes one as the manufactured city of Milton Keynes may, if built in Siberia. The locals smile at out-of-towners, but surely under threat of force, as if greeting weapons inspectors. There are probably more free tickets here than at a Bill Shorten Town Hall rally and one senses they come with strings attached. Stadium beers are $9.00 but mysteriously impart no buzz. While twelve-dollar Vietnamese calamari rings arguably speak to western Sydney’s multiculturalist fusion food culture, they ultimately reflect more on the trashy master chef depths to which the suburban sprawl of our major metropolises have sunk. The local crowd are sparse and low voiced, much like a Super Rugby congregation, and have possibly been schooled in cheering by a North Korean marchpast director. I found a commercially produced placard under my seat with “GOAL!” on one side and the GWS song on the other, karaoke stress balls above certain words.


What meaning can be drawn, then, from this encounter? We lost by two points. Does it matter? In a world of fluctuating social fortunes, post-truth Trumpian game plans, and rampant cultural Marxism, the enduring essence of Sir Isaac Newton’s axiom that “bad kicking is bad football” starkly demonstrates that the Blacktown TAFE’s decision to reject the Ramsay Centre’s course on Western Football Civilization is nothing short of a disgrace. There is life yet in some of the old truths.


Or is there? Some critics have argued that deliberately kicking to either side of the tall posts is merely the next step in Hardwick’s ripping up of canonical forward line texts. Consider this: if the one-wood strategy is ‘lock the ball in’, why score a goal at all and concede a centre bounce? Surely it’s logical to kick a point, retrieve possession from opposition kickout through forward-50 pressure, kick another point, and repeat rapidly for two hours. Studies coming out of the Geoff Blethyn Institute of Biopositional Dynamics in Zurich have shown that due to the fitness levels of contemporary players and the manic forward half pressure this enables, six discrete points can be achieved faster than one laboriously constructed goal. This is doubly the case given there are two point-scoring sectors to aim at (12.8m: 6.4m x 2), whereas goal shooters are restricted to a single sector (6.4m) between the tall posts. In short, to quote the Dutch artist (and 1930s Fitzroy fan) Maurits Cornelis Escher, the future is the behind.


Like an undervalued Sydney suburb, Jason Castagna will be a prized footy card one day. As a post-structuralist small forward his role is not to kick goals, but instead run around like a psychotic schoolie locked out of his hotel room in the nude, spraying wildly. Some will say his return of 0.5 lost the game. But this fails to see the Hardwickian forest for the trees. Since 2016, Hardwick has razed the century-old tradition of tall forwards, ruthlessly exterminating the careers of Ty Vickery, Ben Griffiths, Shaun Hampson and Todd Elton. He is now taking his radical project a step further by eviscerating the Australian football goal itself. This most postmodern of coaches is asking us to value hits as misses and misses as hits. Undoubtedly the culture wars are, as Tony Abbott has observed, a game of two halves, but should we be concerned about the state of the game?




Blethyn, G. (2018). Factors enabling discrete point stimulation: A meta-analysis. Journal of Cognitive Forward Half Pressure 16(2): 1233-56.

Fizbert, H., & Bentley, T. (2017). No Prior: The Leather Poisoning of Fan Identity. Ann Arbor, MI: Skinny Titus Press.




Greater Western Sydney          4.3   7.6   10.10  11.13 (79)

Richmond                                     2.3   6.10   6.15  10.17 (77)



Greater Western Sydney: Langdon 3, Kelly 2, Taranto 2, Greene 2, Griffen, Coniglio

Richmond: Rioli 3, Riewoldt 2, Caddy, Martin, Prestia, Nankervis, Short



Greater Western Sydney: Ward, Coniglio, Whitfield, Shiel, Taranto, Langdon

Richmond: Martin, Lambert, Rioli, Grimes, Prestia, Short



Greater Western Sydney: Nil

Richmond: Nil


Reports: Nil


Umpires: Findlay, Hosking, Margetts


Official crowd: 14,456 at Spotless Stadium


Failed to get drafted out the Wallsend Swans in the early 80s Newcastle league. Joyrider on the Richmond karma bus.


  1. I really enjoyed that Ben. Brilliant stuff.

    The Tigers could win this year’s flag by kicking 1:72: 78. The goal coming from a Riewoldt miss kick.

  2. Ben Fenton-Smith says

    Ha ha spot on Dips! Thanks for the comment.

  3. Joe De Petro says

    Great read, Ben. Having rocked up myself on the weekend, I concur with your comment about the eeriness of the walk.

    The powers-that be will counter the Hardwick post-modern era by proposing to restrict interchange, make the goal square longer and forcing all forwards to wear bibs. In other words, they will counter strategy with arbitrary changes that won’t address the issue but will cause more problems.

    I must look for that Blethyn book at my local library.

  4. Stainless says

    You forgot Hardwick’s Deconstruction of the Ruck: Shai Bolton v Dawson Simpson – A Case Study!
    A learned analysis indeed!

  5. Ben Fenton-Smith says

    Thanks Joe. I agree. The state-of-the-game police undoubtedly have bibs planned. If conspiracy theories are right, and commercial interests are behind this push to change the game, then they should support Blethyn’s all-point thesis as it allows for millions of ad breaks.

    Stainless, very true. I think Rioli went up in the ruck in the GF if I remember rightly? There are many more academic papers on the way as a result of crazy Professor Hardwick.

  6. Ben, poetry in prose; each verse a gem. And so erudite! But academic pieces deserve academic criticism. In this case, there should be a space between the number and the units, viz., “2 km” not “2km” and “12.8 m: 6.4 m x 2” not “12.8m: 6.4m x 2”.

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    This is the best match report I’ve read all season Ben.

  8. Ben Fenton-Smith says

    6% – thank you for pointing that out. It’s so hard to find good research assistants these days!

    Hi Swisher, thanks mate, appreciate the lofty praise :).

  9. F’in brilliant. Just when I thought it couldn’t get cleverer or funnier it did.
    Thanks for explaining why Simmo broke Nic Nat’s knees so Phil Matera could make a comeback. I think.

  10. E.regnans says

    Very strong, BFS.
    There could be an Australian Research Council grant in this.
    Can you link it to terror plots in some way?

  11. Ben Fenton-Smith says

    Thanks Peter and blimey, you’re right! That totally explains the Nic Nat injury. West Coast are more sophisticated than I realized.

    E.regnans, yes, there is surely a funding angle to be had out of this. I think the ‘lack of scoring’ debate is designed to stoke public fear. Stop the boats.

  12. Chris Rees says

    Brilliant. I laughed out loud at the schoolie gag. By the way I visited the Blethyn when I was in Zurich, its in a lovely spot by the lake between Fifa and the world headquarters of the Opticians Guild.

  13. Ben Fenton-Smith says

    Thank you Chris. Was your trip to Zurich funded by kickbacks from the Blethyn t-shirts? I’m concerned about the prroximity to FIFA (and because they recently switched their phone system to Huawei).

  14. Punxsa-and-the-rest-of-it Pete says

    Fabulous writing. Greatly enjoyed this, Ben. Eviscerated is my word of the day.

  15. Chris Rees says

    Oh no – it was only a matter of time before someone connected the dots. I am wearing my Geoff B tee today and plotting further mayhem. Has anyone yet connected Huawei (known for their outsize influence on world sport) and AFL state-of-the-gamester Mr S. Ho King? Hmm mak u think.

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