It’s with unease that we’ll reflect on Jason Gram’s career at St Kilda.
According to Michael Gleeson it was already decided by the club to delist him, but, by finding himself in trouble with the law again on Monday, Gram wrote his own epilogue.
He wasn’t a serial offender throughout his career in the way the much higher profile Ben Cousins and Brendan Fevola were. The Andrew Lovett incident happened in his apartment, but that wouldn’t have happened if Andrew Lovett wasn’t there. It’s only out in the open now that he had been suspended indefinitely by the club early in September after, well, a Jason Gram incident (or, series of smaller ones – as far as we know). But after the stalking charges he faced very publicly earlier in the week he’ll be remembered by being mentioned in rubbish jokes by partisan idiots still bringing up the “St Kilda schoolgirl”.
Had his personal issues not encroached upon his footballing career, we’d remember him instead for his frustrating Jason Gram Specials that hurtled aimlessly through the air to no-one in particular. We’d remember him for his breakout 2006 season in which he really got his run and rebound game together, which earned him 2nd place in the Trevor Barker Award and us all incredibly excited about his future. We’d remember him for his vital role in the 2009 backline; and particularly for his 2009 Grand Final performance. Whilst he was one of many culprits who blew a good chance at goal that day, he tied for the Norm Smith Medal – only to lose it on countback to Paul Chapman. If the Saints had won that day – and it’s a big, hugely irrelevant “could have” now – Jason Gram may well have been the best player on the day the club won its second premiership.
Instead, from the point in time that may have seen him go down in football history, he was patchy. The Jason Gram Specials never went away, and injury conspired against him too.
I feel uneasy writing about this kind of thing. Ultimately, this is about someone else’s personal issue, whether or not we support him because he is/was a St Kilda player, or whether we’re jumping on to Facebook threads to try and relate this to Stephen Milne being accused of rape eight years ago. He might be an AFL footballer but he’s also a fallible human being. As a fellow fallible human being I hope he can get over his issues. I only know about his situation what almost everyone else does, sprinkled very lightly with insider information that’s questionable. Either way I can’t claim at all to know exactly what the situation is. We all know that it’s seriously effecting him – that’s public knowledge. And it’s a messy place he’s in.
As is the nature professional sports and their fans, there’s all sorts of attitudes towards Gram being offered on forums, Facebook threads and Twitter, despite people not knowing or understanding the mechanics of the situation. You can pity him – some may even genuinely be able to empathise with him – for the kind of psychological state he would be in right now. Some have criticised him for throwing away a privileged lifestyle and career. Then, of course, there’s that camp that are cracking gags about the club’s culture.
From a purely football perspective, a lot of fans could take or leave his presence on the list, and I’d tend to be one of those. At 28, realistically he won’t be there the next time the Saints are rumbling the top end of the ladder, and his absence opens up a spot for youngsters like Siposs, Newnes, Dunell and Ferguson. Gram’s currency as a St Kilda player, given where the club was, probably reached its use-by date at the end of the 2010 season.
But that’s an easy thing to say in hindsight, and likewise it’s easy to say things from afar as supporters and observers. None of us except Jason Gram himself can really know what he’s feeling. He deserves the same degree of empathy we would give to anyone else we’re not personally familiar with, but there’s a balance required here. I don’t think you can just treat this as a purely football issue; we have to recognise that it goes far beyond that. But it goes far beyond us, too.