Rudd, Lyon, Freo and the Value of Nothing


by Peter Baulderstone

I don’t like the Harvey assassination (Mark not Lee Harvey) and Lyon ascension (Ross not Gary).  Trying to put aside the surprise, emotion and unfairness of the event, I want to put it in the context of our society and our politics in particular.


As the old saw goes ‘art mimics life and life mimics art’.  Trends in one part of society have always prefaced similar changes in other areas.  Sometimes a little in advance.  Sometimes in arrears.


For 40 years I had a keen interest in politics, and worked in it directly for 10.  Now I would rather watch “Farmer Wants a Wife” on endless loop than 5 minutes of Julia or Tony.  I keep an interest in big picture public policy and social trends – but party politics at any level – leave me out.  It is banal, trivial and self absorbed.  I have neither the time nor the inclination.


What has all this got to do with footy and coach sackings?  Well here goes.  People have likened Mark Harvey to Kevin Rudd for the manner of his unexpected (and to many undeserved) sacking.  I think they are getting ahead of themselves and mistaking the sound for the substance.


Ross Lyon is footy’s doppelganger of the Ruddmeister.  Think of the parallels.  A team starved of success has had a series of unsuccessful leaders.  The latest version has gone close recently, but the insiders say he lacks the ‘ticker’ to win the big one.  He is a passionate character who wears his heart on his sleeve too often for powerful people’s liking.  But the ordinary punters like him.  He is a goer; a trier; ‘one of us’ in victory or defeat.  He has a passion for the game and the spirit of the contest.  Winning is important, but not at the expense of trashing people or the game.  Maybe we’ll win the big one, maybe we won’t.  But at least we’ll be able to wake up in the morning and face ourselves in the mirror – win or lose.  His replacement is the nerdy kid with the gimlet eyes and the blank stare.  We are inclined to trust him because he seems smarter than us, so maybe he has the answers that we don’t.  He sounds plausible, but in a strangely detached passionless way.


Are we talking footy or politics here?  ALP or Dockers?  Mark Harvey or Kim Beazley?  Ross Lyon or Kevin Rudd?


Rudd brought the burning passion of a forensic accountant to politics, as Ross Lyon does to footy.  Every issue can be broken into a hundred components; each analysed from 360°; and subjected to both cost-benefit and risk management analysis.  As another saw goes “an accountant is a man who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing”.


Only a fool ignores thorough consideration and analysis.  Only a megalomaniac control freak lets it run his life.


Life takes all kinds, and each is entitled to his flaws.  But the authority we give these sociopathic Uber Geeks means that they are taking over the world.  Think of the Wall Street Bankers who sold ever more impenetrable investment like Credit Default Swaps and Collateralised Debt Obligations to our super funds and local councils.  Where were those earnest, clever suits when the manure hit the fan?  On their yachts counting the proceeds.


In 2007 the ALP was so desperate for a premiership that it traded its soul to a narcissistic control freak with no sense of party history or meaning beyond the talking points needed to rouse the faithful in a tightly scripted stump speech.  Despite the premiership victory, most quickly found they could not stomach his controlling methods or his ethics (remember ‘most important moral imperative of our times’ inconveniently dismissed?).


By then the bloom was off the rose, and even another hasty change of coach only resulted in a one point win in an Elimination Final.  The fallout will doom the Club for many seasons to come.


What a legacy from winning?  Is the Labor Party of today something any Labor person (as distinct from careerist) really wants to watch, listen to or support with their hearts, money or shoe leather?  Is ‘Ross Lyon’ footy something anyone wants to watch as spectacle or entertainment?  The LSFF may come to check out the early results, but a run of losses, injuries or a learning curve under the Ross Meister will make the Drum/Neesham crowds look like the glory days.

The Boards of Football Clubs are run by businessmen in thrall of the ethic of ‘if its not illegal, and it gives us an advantage, no matter how minor,  it must be right regardless of the indirect costs to others’.  They bring that attitude to footy clubs and the undermining of Harvey is a brutal example of that.  We can rationalize that he was not a good coach (despite a semi final last year), because he was somehow not the best available.


Freo like the ALP and business have trashed the ‘fair go’ ethic. ‘ What have you done for me lately’ rules OK!  This is not the calculating decision of a thoughtful investor.  It is the put it all on #7 of a roulette player who has backed a dozen losers in a row.


If they get a preliminary final or better out of it, good luck to them, but I don’t like their chances.


I love footy and sport for its beauty, fairness and nobility.  Think Cadel Evans or the exquisite Federer, Nadal, Djokovic rivalry of recent years.  It reminds me of the better things in life.  It helps me forget the grubbiness of lowest common denominator ‘beggar thy neighbour’ politics and business.


Above all sport for me represents “the mystic chords of memory that (remind us of) the better angels of our nature” – to paraphrase Lincoln.  I need those reminders and I don’t want them sullied by the grubby intrusion of the excesses of modern business and politics into footy.


  1. Thanks Peter. Love that line, “Only a fool ignores thorough consideration and analysis. Only a megalomaniac control freak lets it run his life.”

    If the Lyon-Freo marriage does not bear fruit, I expect to see widespread use of the word “schadenfreude” on this and many other websites.

  2. In 1987 Ron Alexander took his team to the best first season by any of the non-Victorian teams in the VFL/AFL. 11 wins/11 losses. In December 1987 he was sacked. Turned out he didn’t have the right factional contacts.

  3. The word ‘Drum’ and ‘glory days’ cannot exist in the same galaxy. I was amongst the Drum ‘crowds’ and you could not find a more dispirited bunch of purpleites.

    I hate the CEO and our plastic adman president – we are the only club who’s president would probably prefer to be President of our main rival – but I can’t deny the courage of this move. Responsbility can’t fall more sharply. Part of me hopes it all falls over and the Steves are finished but then jeezus a flag would be nice. I reckon that’s probably the feeling shared by most Freo supporters and it feels very strange.

  4. I was always amazed by the Ron Alexander sacking, Les. There’s surely a story to be told there. Are you the man to tell it?

  5. Re the Ron Alexander sacking; when you include an away win over the 1986 premiers and a home win against the 1987 premiers it becomes even more extraordinary. Especially considering they had to play at Moorabbin in a mudbath and played Footscray at the Western Oval in tight yellow shorts.

    I assume the Eagles board thought they should be as good as the WA Origin side.

  6. Jonathan, I love the image that conjures. It was always hard enough to win against Footscray at the Western Oval, but the concept of the task being made nigh on impossible by the wearing of tight yellow shorts is fantastic.

  7. Peter – well said.

    You’re obviously referring to those putrid financial accountants when you degrade “accountants” so, and not the humble suburban tax accountant who is sweating at his or her desk each day, trying to save the little man from the ever increasing hunger of deluded governments which are now more about extorting people of their hard earned, than “protecting the Commonwealth’s revenue”.

  8. The twits that run the media offices also need to take some credit for the dire state of politics in this country as they’re the ones that don’t have the wherewithal to develop the broad narrative that good policy needs. Instead it’s a PR hand-job of trying to stay out in front of the 24-hour news cycle. There was no better example of this than the cocksmacks in Rudd’s office walking around in their Kevin 07 T-Shirts and half-a-chub in their pants because he was big on Facebook.

    One of the benefits I think Ross Lyon will bring to Freo is an uncompromising, uncomplicated, straight-down-the-line game plan that is not suspect to the vagaries of week-to-week results – something that both sides of politics could take a lesson from.

  9. PB, interesting and provocative thoughts.

    But I can’t help but wonder what your reaction would be if the Eagles had pulled this stunt. It’s easier to see fault with the ‘other mob’.

    Likewise, I’m interested in whether Geelong folk see any difference re Thompson last year?

    Is Lyon a better coach than Harvey? Highly likely.

    Could the change have been handled better? Almost certainly.

    Has Lyon made some rods for his own back in that Friday presser? Most likely.

    Regarding Rudd. I think the narrative of his egomaniac proclivities is very convenient for those that dumped him. It’s a rationalisation for the act.

    But the way the ALP has spun its wheels since the change suggests Rudd was a symptom, not the disease.

  10. JB,

    was it you who said last night what is it with you Cats and the past when you have a prelim. to look forward to (or something akin to that)

    I am getting old, and this is memory loss week, so I ask who is Thompson?

    Further, in Peter’s piece there was reference to success starvation in 2007. That was also the time of the success starved GFC and of course the bigger picture GFC.

    In a point of irony I now note that there is a Greek connection to the re-emergence of the GFC. This is causing some stress amongst the coaches of some of the well performing and poorly performing teams. Refer Angela and Barack. Are they good, are they bad are they about to be knifed?

    There is also a Greek connection to the re-emergence of the GFC because the GFC are pretty pissed off with the way they were treated by the Greek rules of engagement regarding the GSC and the fiiscal fiasco at the end of last year.

    I don’t speak for all Geelong folk (maybe Mark will buy in) but my position is I don’t really care who is where, who has been back stabbed and who is better than who because I am concentration on the re-emergence of the GFC (as well as tonight’s at home with Julia that has apparently upset the right wing of the conservatives.

  11. Nice to hear you in a happy space Phantom. :)

    What was that about Greeks and gifts?

  12. Confused; but happy.

  13. PB

    This piece rated a mention in the big paper over here.

    The one Rupert doesn’t own.

    Hopefully that helps ease the pain somewhat.


  14. Peter,

    talk us through the Sumich defection. I would expect that would be the biggest thing to happen in WA since Bondy fell from grace. The rest of the football world’s equivalent of Barass going to Carlton.

    Surely you are able to enlighten us eastern infidels.

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