The Much-Maligned

It’s hard to find an article covering the woes of the Etihad Stadium surface without the term “much-maligned” being front and centre.

I must admit to having been a “much-maligned” enthusiast for many years – dating back to the early days of Corey McKernan when he, much like the Etihad surface now, appeared to have the term intrinsically pinned to his moniker.

Every time I read an article, or hear an opinion piece on the tube, and much-maligned gets a run I have a bit of an internal giggle. And an imaginary old-school MCG scoreboard ticks over another one to the total. So you can imagine my delight at the current uproar over the Etihad surface. The scoreboard operator can’t keep up.

It’s got me thinking (again) about what makes something or someone “much-maligned”. I mean, who decides that someone is much-maligned? Just this week, Greg Denham of the Herald Sun suggested that, “After being on the verge of the sack last year, Richmond’s much-maligned Shane Tuck has been offered a new contract at Punt Road.” So who decided that Tuck is much-maligned? Well, perhaps he is by Richmond supporters. But when did he go from being someone who copped the occasional spray from the outer to being much-maligned? You can see my dilemma – it’s certainly a grey area.

Caroline Wilson of The Age gave my beloved “much-maligned” a run around this week too. She referred to Michael Voss (who is currently “under-siege” rather than being “much-maligned” ….. another one of my favourites) as having plans “being implemented by him and his much-maligned chief operating officer Dan Collins “. Come on Caro. I’ve never heard of this bloke Collins, let alone knowing intuitively, as you’d hope that I would, that he’d been maligned several times.

The recent flood of much-maligneds has also had me pondering how it seems that a footballer is able to go from being “much-maligned” to “much-loved”. Exhibit A: Matthew Richardson. Whilst always being a favourite son at the Tigers, it would be fair to say that he was certainly much-maligned down there. But now on retirement, he has seemingly disposed of the much-maligned tag and it is now much-loved. It’s all very confusing.

When recently reading an article in the Irish Times (please don’t ask me why), I found that the great term also has international appeal. In his piece on the expansion of Aussie Rules in Ireland, Hugh McDowell referred to the fact that, “Although International Rules, the two sports’ hybrid offspring, has been much maligned in recent years by a string of unsavoury incidents during matches, our fondness for the Australian game has grown to the extent that TG4 broadcasts highlights of the AFL premiership every week.” Nice work Hugh. Perhaps not totally in the right context, but you are showcasing your AFL cred by slipping in the old much-maligned. Could there be a better way?

Having established my love and close following of the term much-maligned I’m about to stick my neck out. I am offering up a list of those current day players that could fall squarely into this category – just one from each club, which is quite a challenge in some cases. Like Mike Sheahan’s Top 50 AFL Players List, I know that this is likely to be the basis quite a bit of controversy, and possibly “cause a succession of angry talk-back callers”. But here goes.

Adelaide: Graham Johncock – special mention: David Pittman

Brisbane: Travis Johnstone Carlton: Setanta O’hAilpin

Collingwood: Josh Fraser

Essendon: Jay Neagle

Fremantle: Des Headland

Geelong: Mark Blake – special mention: David Mensch

Hawthorn: Simon Taylor

Melbourne: Colin Sylvia

North Melbourne: Daniel Pratt

Port Adelaide: Daniel Motlop

Richmond: Jordan McMahon

StKilda: Stephen Milne – too many special mentions to mention

Sydney: Lewis Roberts-Thomson – special mention Nick Davis

West Coast: Ashley Hansen

Western Bulldogs: Barry Hall – special mention to the recently sacked one

That is all


About Arma

Much-maligned footy banterer


  1. Des Headland much maligned? Not by Freo fans. Mind you, we’d like him even more if his ankle/knee/hammy/calf would sort itself out.

  2. Dave Nadel says

    Leroy Brown and Alan Toovey have both gone from much-maligned to minor cult hero in the space of a few weeks!

  3. Tony Robb says

    Great piece Arma, except I’d sub Houlahan and Thornton for Setanta as he has the potential to one day be a Richo type and anyone who kicks a Cloke up the bum has my vote.
    Des may be “less maligned” if he ever got a contested possession

  4. #1 – Fair enough Mike. I must admit to Freo not being my strong point when it comes to those much-maligned. So I reverted back to Arma-maligned instead, where Des is certainly on the hit list.

    #2 – This raises a couple of interesting points Dave. StKilda and Collingwood seem to be over-burdened with those much-maligned. It was difficult for me to pick just one for both teams. Perhaps that says something about their supporters(?) And both teams also have players that fit your much-maligned to cult-hero status – you could perhaps add Leon Davis to the couple that you mention for Collingwood.

    #3 – Thanks Tony. Again, Carlton had a few to choose from, and it was probably “The Cloke incident” that gave Setanta the points in my mind. But I take your point, that should perhaps move him closer to the “much-admired” category.

    That is all

  5. Arma,
    By the time Shaun McManus retired he was skating betwwen much-maligned and cult hero(and redundant!).

  6. Spot on with Hansen. He carries on a fine tradition in the footsteps of Fraser Gehrig, Josh Wooden and Rowan Jones.

  7. Crullers says


    I suspect that somewhere along the way in J-school, aspiring young journalists are taught a formula as to when someone or something has crossed the “much maligned” threshold.

    As to what that formula is, the rest of us may never know.

    It’s a bit like the “disgraced former businessman …” moniker.

    Or a “damning Ombudsman’s report…”

    Incidentally, has anyone ever seen an Ombudsman’s report that hasn’t been labelled “damning” by the press?

  8. Richmond’s much maligned is surely Richard Tambling. At Geelong it was David Spriggs, followed by Shannon Byrnes, who is, due to his solid form, passing the baton to the much maligned Simon Hogan.

  9. #5 You could go with the McManus family Crio, as Rove was also much-maligned at times.

    #6 Thanks Limmers. Happy to have “official endorsement” from a WCE aficionado.

    #7 Agree Dips – I had overlooked the obvious in Tambling. And David Spriggs also falls into that other category of “elite athlete” – code for “not as good at playing footy as running around”.

  10. smokie88 says

    Hey Dips,
    How about Austin McCrabb?
    He was so maligned that Blighty wouldn’t even let him join in the huddle!

  11. smokie88 says

    North’s most maligned player in recent seasons was Shannon Watt.
    One day I actually heard North supporters calling him the “Anti-Coleman”,
    because he had had over 100 goals kicked on him that season.

  12. Peter Flynn says

    Brett Spinks, Stephen Handley, Stephen Reynoldson, Brent Grgic, Mark Bairstow (in-a-Norm-Smith- kind-of-way), Sean Simpson etc

  13. David Downer says

    A lovely first-at-bat Arma.

    “Much maligned” is indeed a bewildering social science of its own.

    The list presented features blokes displaying varying traits – unfulfilled potential, inconsistency, tendencies for off-field drama’s, others for on-field drama’s, clanger kings, the perenially injured, some perceived as “too soft”, some as “too hard”. Then there’s the uncommitted, big game non-performers, the one-dimensional, the others that keep you guessing, awkward lumbering ruckmen, nippy small forwards.

    How they become MM before being referred to as just “maligned” is anyone’s guess. And “at times maligned” then “oft maligned” would be the logical sequence before graduating to “much maligned”, of course.


  14. Nice contribution Arma,

    Given the range of playing eras covered here, was there not a gap for AMOL or are we leaving him in the bag for a future release.

    Pondering further the topic “much-maligned” would be reasonable to comment that this affliction in many cases seems to descend upon certain players when the finals descend upon the competition.

    Looking forward to further opinions from young Arma.

  15. I see that Jason Laycock has been labelled as “maligned” today; making me wonder if being generally maligned like this is actually worse than the traditional “much-maligned” tag?

    Al Paton: “ESSENDON has confirmed the delisting of four senior players, including maligned ruckman Jason Laycock, and one rookie.”

    That is all

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