When men were men and mud was mud

This rant has been brewing for some time.
It stirs every time I walk past Princes Park. Every time I see or hear Andrew Demetriou. Every time an unnecessary 50 metre penalty is paid. And every time I visit Etihad Stadium (which is infrequently).

Yes, this is the nostalgic rant of a 30-something footy fan who grew up watching Carlton in the ‘80s and ‘90s and who yearns for a time when men were men and mud was mud.

I find myself feeling a little hollow when I watch footy of late (and not just because Carlton probably won’t make the finals this year.)
It’s something about the style of play, or more particularly, the impact of rule changes and frequently annoying umpiring decisions that often leave even the most experienced commentators perplexed and frankly, leaves my navy blue blood a little cold.

Last night’s game against Richmond (Round 18) is a case in point.
Sure, it wasn’t slick footy – a fact I actually enjoyed. And despite missing Juddy to the chicken-wing ruling, the boys played with spirit and some of the new players looked like they were on the way to earning a permanent spot.
But what is it with the overuse of the whistle, the inconsistent application of the rules and the incompetence of a goal umpire who apparently needed someone with a worse view then him to verify his own decision making?
It took the joy out of the game and didn’t guarantee for a more accurate result anyway. (In fact, I think the call on the Bryce Gibbs “touch” was just wrong, despite Gibbs’ assurances to the contrary.)
Why do the administrators of the game seem to be striving to make it perfect, measured and clean?
That is not the footy I know.

The footy I know is about standing in the freezing cold outer with the smell of beer and cigarettes and the sound of swearing, the week’s frustrations being verbally exorcised .
The footy I know is messy, ugly – so too, were many players come to think of it – but that made the flashes of brilliance all the more exciting.
It wasn’t measured and slick. It wasn’t netball with shorts.

And it didn’t use pretentious phrases like “stoppages” and  “forward pressure” to describe fundamental acts of the game.

There’s no denying there are good things about today’s game; the athleticism and skill of the players is as impressive as their rock hard bodies.

But what I wouldn’t give to see the rough and tumble of a VFL game of old, when hair was greasy and unkempt, jumpers were long and looked the same each week (despite any potential clash), socks were pulled high.

I know we can’t go back. But maybe, just maybe, there are a few rules we could implement to ensure our great game doesn’t lose its soul entirely. And so, I end my rant with this slightly ridiculous but equally serious list for consideration by the Carlton board – or anyone else that cares to listen.

  1. Home games against interstate teams to be played at Princes Park. Local games to be played at the MCG.
  2. Every player will have at least one mentoring sessions with Bruce Doull, David Rhys-Jones, Tommy Alvin and Ken Hunter.
  3. No coloured boots are to be worn unless you have won a Premiership.
  4. Helmets are compulsory, eliminating the need for high contact rule.
  5. Full strength beer to be sold in the outer.
  6. No neck tattoos.
  7. No-one from Collingwood allowed on staff. Ever.
  8. All 50 metre penalties to be reviewed by committee and umpires fined for over-use and misuse.
  9. Video review abandoned, never to return.
  10.  Clash jumpers to be banned. Period.


  1. Bruce Doull and Bryce Gibbs come from different planets. Doull would think Gibbs’s hair cut is outrageous.

  2. Love the 10 commandments Mady. The shelving of Princes Park seemed so unnecessary.

  3. Great stuff Mady. I fear that Litza has spawned a generation of Blues ranters. Can see you all sitting on the front porch, with a steel framed guitar, spitting out chewing tobaccco.
    “To sing the Blues, you gotta live the Blues.”
    You make a very good point about umpiring any hardness out of the game. Yesterday’s towelling of the insipid Lions was supremely boring. But it was impossible to tackle anyone on the ground without a head high free being paid (for both sides).
    In the last quarter Nic Nat laid a brutal but fair bone crunching tackle on a poor Lion. Pure ball and all wrap up at high speed. No hint of being high or in the back. I think the umpire paid the free because it looked scarey.
    Ever since that appalling Ziebell suspension, the umpires have looked determined to turn AFL into basketball.
    I am not one eyed – Glass deserves a week for recklessly running back with his eyes off the ball into a leading Jonathon Brown. Noone was hurt, but as soon as you take your eyes off the ball and charge the man, you deserve to go.

  4. Rule Number 7 – so it’s all Gavin Brown’s fault then?

  5. Great call on Princes Park. It would be to Carlton what Kardinia Park is to Geelong. A true home ground for fans, a cauldron for the local football community to gather and enjoy the true spirit of the game.

  6. Cheryl Critchley says

    Great ideas! Can we add that home games of Melbourne teams actually be played in Melbourne?

  7. Cheryl, I don’t think the AFL will have anyone putting their hand up to go to Cairns to play the Suns after next year. Will they force someone to do it, seeing as they want a game up there? I wouldn’t put it past them.

  8. Ben Footner says

    I’d like to go back to the days when a player actually had to have prior opportunity before being called for holding the ball. One rule that frustrates the hell out of me ever since they changed the interpretation of it a couple of years back.

    There is very little reward for being first to the football these days, you just end up being call for holding the ball, or reported for brushing off an opponent ‘incorrectly’ in your intent to get the footy.

  9. elise biggs says

    your rant rings true. Go to the VFL – it’s good football and can be muddy. Plus you can go out to the huddle. And you may kick a ball on the ground at halftime. Dunno about the full strength beer; it’s pretty annoying when you have to let people squeeze past every few minutes during play to get beer or go to the toilet.

  10. Andrew Starkie says


    you’re preaching to the converted here. Most Almanackers lament the changes in footy. When my anger gets too great I console myself with the thought that no matter how the bastards bastardise our game, it will always be footy, the world’s best sport. It will always be about 36 blokes/gals running around an oval chasing a ball. And it will always be about the fans for it will always be our game.

    On the issue of human error, pro sport bodies – footy, cricket, tennis – have been trying to eliminate human error for years through camera replays, referrals, challenges etc. I don’t like them for a number of reasons, including the erosion of the umpire’s/referee’s authority.

    Yep, clash jumpers are nothing more than a means of getting even more money out of the fans.

    On that point, did you notice the AFL announced the increase in prices of finals’ tickets at 5pm on a FRiday arvo. That’s what govts do when announcing unpopular policy changes. I’ve felt for sometime time now, the AFL is sounding and acting more and and more like the govt of a small country and the clubs are the political parties and lobby groups.

    Bryce Gibbs appears to be playing in self-preservation mode these days. Selfishly.

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