When the rain tumbles down in July.

                                  When the rain tumbles down in July.


I’m sitting in a suburban lounge watching the rain tumble down. I’ve had to change my plans. I was planning to walk to the shops to buy milk, bread and butter in an indifferent attempt to set right the past fortnight I’ve spent drinking stout over the school break. But I’m rained in, which doesn’t bother me much. I know what mum would say, “oh don’t moan. The Earth needs a good drink”. Fair enough.


I get out the schoolbooks and begin wrestling with the upcoming semester and especially the latest directive from the newly appointed principal. The gist of which is that Faculty Heads, one of which is I, are to introduce the newly adopted “Instructional model” of teaching within the first week of term. The directive advices that research by the renown Vic Zbar and the in-house data are conclusive, this new approach will make us all better teachers and the students will be more successful. I ponder the thing awhile; surely careers will be made over this latest education initiative. Not mine, my own teaching career peaked the day I quit the railways and enrolled at uni.


My eyes turn to the whisky decanter for it is a truism of rainy Sunday arvos that they are improved by a wee dram. My inner self has one of those Warner Bros moments when the good and evil selves do battle.


Saintly Steve: “The day before term starts is meant to be alcohol free. That’s a rule you made, so stick to it”.


Evil Steve: “It’s Sunday arvo, it’s raining and rainy Sundays are made for drinking whisky and playing chess, or watching The Mighty Mayblooms play Freo in Tassie (and it’s on the tele for a change) or for cleaning out your fishing bag etc”.


Saintly Steve: “You’ve written one lesson plan incorporating the new Instructional Model, at least write a lesson plan for each lesson tomorrow.”


Evil Steve: “How many rainy Sundays are you gunna have? Make the most of it.”


Saintly Steve: “You’re gunna regret it!”


The answer was never in doubt but I figure, that as the big hand has only just nudged the 12, I should at least have a cup of tea and a sandwich first. Which I do as I listen to the wireless.


Adam White is conducting the Sunday Huddle. I do like Adam White, he is a fine analyser of the game and I listen intently. The topic for discussion is tackling and specifically the “sling tackle”. Pretty much all of the so-called “experts” are in agreement that the AFL need to do something quickly or somebody will get “hurt”. It’s this word “hurt” that makes me sit up and think a bit.


When I plodded around on Ringwood’s Jubilee Park, all of my coaches wanted me to tackle, dump and “hurt” the opposition and I never doubted they meant every bit of it. The logic was crystal clear, tackle the opposition player so they wouldn’t get up. Do it within the rules and they’d be one down but you’d be all the good.


I think of the sort of people my coaches were; they were fine people. All of them; terrific people who loved the game for its purity, the social cohesion it engendered and never countenanced any anti-social behaviour. They never told you to play dirty but they instructed you to play hard and “to hurt” the opposition. I’m sure all coaches did, but do they still do?


Heck, tackling is as much a part of the game as kicking is. The two go together – ball carrier aims to dispose of the ball before they are tackled. Now, obviously, the AFL sees itself in a nasty dilemma and I fear the very essence of the game is up for grabs. Professionalism has created an industry that the Melbourne Club never ever envisaged in 1858, way back when cocky was an egg and they were drafting rules for a game. Today, lawsuits in America and potential lawsuits here are tilting that game towards something my ol’ coaches probably wouldn’t recognise. The AFL listens to research and data and I have no doubt that careers will be made on the back of it all.


I like hard tackling and I loved the “bump” but I never want people to be seriously hurt. Dazed and confused is really the aim of the tackler. Now, if you don’t tackle to hurt, how do you tackle? To wheel them around until they’re a bit tizzy and giddy? Will it still be tackling if we end up with something like you see in Gaelic or roundball footy? I’m wondering if we’re going to be left with a game to still play and watch, especially in the bush and the ‘burbs’, or are we going to be left with a mere spectator event? It’s this fear of what spectators see that really irks me.


The “game as a spectacle” advocates hounded the bounce out of the game. For years and years, umpires bounced the pill with a commanding thud all around local grounds and nobody worried, we took it all for granted. All of a sudden, the likes of Leigh Matthews worried about how bad bounces affected footy as a spectacle and now we have something akin to basketball.


Sometimes I wonder if the AFL thinks about the game as it’s played in the streets, school yards and local communities. Let us face it, so many people call the game AFL rather than Australian Rules, that the AFL just might be the be and end all anyway. If the tackle goes the way of the bounce and the bump, what is it that will be played on local grounds throughout the suburbs and the bush? Will it still be footy?




  1. Dave Brown says

    Thanks Steve, hope the scotch was nice. I think you can make a tackle hurt without hurting the head. The smack of two bodies colliding at pace is still breathtaking for all involved. Pinning a player’s arms and ramming his unprotected head into the ground is the sort of hurt we can do without.

    Regardless, I would suggest the AFL has softened on this in the last couple of years. Getting rid of the reckless category has meant that a lot of these things are attracting a smaller penalty, if any (see Schulz).

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