On Carlisle

By Tom Briglia

“I’d like to thank Hawthorn for their professionalism” – Adrian Dodoro

What should have been a simple, uninsightful trade period wrap is now a simple, uninsightful look at the worst of footy journalism and journalism when it comes to treating footballers, with attitudes towards rape thrown in for good measure. And then, of course, the operations of the AFLPA, and the power now wielded by players and their agents.

But let’s start vaguely from the start.

Also does anyone genuinely not think the timing of this video being released was suspect at best? A Current Affair would have been holding onto this for at least a number of days. And also if you’re going to take potshots at St Kilda for their culture and this being “another fuck-up” (which I wouldn’t agree with going by my stance of players and illicit drugs alone, but we’ll get to that) then surely you have a crack at Essendon for being responsible for providing the environment led him to that kind of thing? And this is before talking about Essendon running a pharmacologically experimental environment on its players, regardless of WADA finding the individual players guilty or not.

“Could this be one of the biggest footy scandals of the year?” Someone had to physically go into a recording booth at Channel 9 and actually say those words in a specific tone knowing it would be used for the ACA story that night. Let me guess – it was about the rape allegations against the Hawks players, yeah?

No of course it wasn’t, silly me. Hawthorn is a big team with a winning culture. That’s enough to sway what’s in the public interest when it comes to rape allegations against taking an illicit substance.

For good measure, Collingwood’s own version of this was swept under the rug ASAP in the aftermath of the 2010 premiership. Collingwood fans took on Mick Malthouse’s quarter time tirade directed at Milne in Round 3, 2010 for the remainder of his career but I’m pretty sure I never heard them booing Dane Swan for being convicted for bashing a cleaner with two other top blokes. But he won a Brownlow and plated in a premiership team so I guess he made amends.

Again, if you’re big enough and successful enough. If Jake had gone to Collingwood do you think ACA would have touched the story? Tracy Grimshaw might be a Saints supporter but that would mean fark all in this. Going back a day or so, if Jake and McConville had spoken to the AFLPA about this and he was going to Collingwood do you think they would have told them to keep it quiet and just wait until after the trade to spring the surprise? A perverse outcome is that whilst Carlisle is having his contract rewritten by the club (and will cede a strike next to his name under the new drug policy), McConville actually can’t be sanctioned by the AFLPA because he was acting on their advice. This actually does matter if reports are correct that we wouldn’t have completed the deal had the contents of the video been known to the club earlier. Incredibly perhaps, Eddie McGuire cracked the Ahmed Saads (it was brief, but thanks Ahmed) but still managed to speak sense on the issue and noted the power imbalance of the AFLPA and the individual players as opposed to the clubs. I don’t know if the AFLPA understands that supporters pay their memberships and go to games over decades to support a club, not chiefly the individuals running around.

Either way, for now Essendon has managed to get us again. Not just the Lovett deal, even when we’ve been good and they’ve been bad they’ve given us trouble on the field (see 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010), and otherwise we were scoreboard fodder for them for a century.

The older and more experienced I’ve become as a Saints fan alerts you to more and more bias throughout the media and footballing public against St Kilda as a whole. How would any club smaller than Essendon or Collingwood have fared in the media and in the public’s eye throughout the last couple of years?

Nowhere near well enough when you don’t have an entire newspaper going into bat for you. Sam Landsberger and Jay Clark at the Herald Sun in this case couldn’t wait for the Saints to mess something up. The spectre of Hawthorn loomed large and often led the online edition of the paper – for their faux-presence in the Carlisle trade, in case you were wondering – not for the rape allegations. That was somewhere further down the page.

Dodoro demanding Essendon wanted Billings before negotiations were done? Because he couldn’t gun hard enough for it himself, Jay Clark gets a “respected list chief” as well as Essendon mouthpiece Tim Watson on board to talk up how much sense it makes if St Kilda is “unprepared” to give up pick 5, as if the Saints were likely to turn up to negotiations have not given this whole thing much thought.

Landsberger really got in on the act when Essendon rejected St Kilda’s offer including Essendon’s picks 23 and 25:
“Frustrated Essendon ­officials spent the first week of trade talks waiting for an offer from St Kilda — and rejected it immediately…Despite the mooted deal ­delivering Essendon pick five which it desperately wants, the Dons were insulted and did not consider accepting it…A rival list manager told the Herald Sun the Saints should just get the deal done…’Good clubs find a way,’ he said.”

His excited tweet when the Essendon leaked the rejection to the Herald Sun (amongst literally everything else) simply, er…didn’t stack up given what the situation at the time (and ultimately) was seemed to imply there were literally no further negotiations possible, ever, in getting this specific trade and done and St Kilda had blown because good clubs find a way and I’ll see ya later.

I’m sure Sam would have loved throwing in that last particular quote. “Good clubs find a way”. Never mind that the Bombers requesting Billings from the outset is pathetic overs to begin with. Rather, Clark wrote about it as it as a bold and genius move on Dodoro’s part. St Kilda’s offer might have been overs in our favour but I’m pretty sure it was diluted in its sense of entitlement compared to Dodoro’s initial request. But no, Essendon are made to look reasonable, intelligent and strong-willed.

Do we remember how the Herald Sun reacted to the St Kilda schoolgirl story? I seem to remember the club logo stamped across the front page in the summer following the 2010 Grand Final Replay as the football world rejoiced that St Kilda were still St Kilda – a basketcase of a culture and the founding club with still only one premiership. Good luck telling anyone the actual facts of that saga without having to look anything up (and then trusting what you see enough to be your source). But what do you hear most amongst the standing room wisecracks? “Schoolgirls” and “rapists”.

It’s a slippery slope and the justice system here isn’t perfect (no shit). There’s a few a key issues here.

One is the attitudes and overriding naivety when it comes to footballers taking drugs – of the non performance-enhancing kind, which is a distinction we now have to make because of the Bombers. What is it about illicit drugs that garners such distaste from so many people? Increasingly a higher proportion of people throughout our society have taken these substances. Some a more dangerous than others, some are more addictive than others and this invites the relevant comparisons betweens what illicit drug use accounts for when it comes to public and private disruption as opposed to alcohol and cigarettes. But why are people so against players doing this as opposed to the occasional line done by many people you might know, or perhaps yourself. Yes, there is addiction but that’s on a different plane altogether, in the way alcoholism is to the many of us who drink without it taking over our lives. I’d certainly say the most questionable thing Jake did was film himself doing it and then sending it out to a whole bunch of people. Either way, there’s probably a disconnect between the public and what these illicit substances actually do, and there’s definitely a disconnect between the public and the way they measure footballers.

The uncomfortable thing for Saints fans is something that shouldn’t be uncomfortable to say just because they’re St Kilda supporters. I noted a few others (and myself) pointed out that ACA‘s promo ignored the Hawthorn rape allegations despite its shouting. These were exactly what Stephen Milne was under the most part of a decade but as mentioned it was only when Mick Malthouse – coach of the league’s biggest club and the one that would take out St Kilda on Grand Final (Replay) day – had a crack at him for it that people really decided to take notice and being having their shot at him on game day in a bigger way than the traditional distaste of an opposition small forward. It wasn’t the reporting of allegations that the case had been deliberately botched by police soon after an incident occurred. I dare say very few Saints supporters would have noted that Milne was cited on that night and against Collingwood again two seasons later for using homophobic slurs. Perhaps fewer might have loudly made observations that more recently he pled guilty to a lesser charge of indecent assault in that rape trial, and avoided conviction and was fined $15,000. Again, I didn’t hear Collingwood fans – or perhaps anyone – booing Dane Swan. The fact that one human plays for the club you support does not make them infallible, and nor should it make them or the club as a whole any more or less fallible for that person alone.

There’s one key kind of redemption when it comes to the wider footy world – that of winning. For the most part members and fans don’t genuinely know if a player is a top bloke or not; they’re measured by if they’re a premiership player or if they’re any good, and if they’re a GOP then if get talked up by teammates about what great people they are around the club.

Can this new St Kilda that Finnis, Summers, Bains and Richardson are building make itself great enough to be the Geelong that turned a drink driving Stevie J into a multi-premiership winning great of the club and game? Or the Collingwood that turned a cleaner-bashing (three on one) Dane Swan into a premiership hero and Brownlow medalist? Hawthorn’s won three flags in a row now so two players being investigated for rape, it seems, is no huge deal. No one will do a Craig Hutchison and be over-zealous in their reporting and name the wrong player as involved in the Milne incident. No one will name anyone for as long as possible.

For all of Finnis and co’s good work, for a long time we’ll still be hearing about how we are the old rabble of St Kilda that can never move beyond that one premiership, which we “celebrate” the 50th anniversary of next year. What does it take to move beyond that image? In a game filled with boorish and narrow attitudes, Carlisle playing in a St Kilda premiership seems to be the only thing that will make people reconsider in the foreseeable future.