The AFLPA then revealed that on the same night that a player was subjected to a vile racial slur. It, too, was on “social” media, on the weekend the AFL celebrated Indigenous players.
Then a story was written detailing the awful experiences of Robert Muir as an Indigenous VFL player. It was a disturbing piece by Russell Jackson on the ABC, chronicling a life of racial abuse in football that plagues Muir to this day.
In one incident detailed in the story, Muir told of the Collingwood cheer squad waiting for him outside the St Kilda rooms at Victoria Park after a game during which he had been racially abused and punched Collingwood’s Ray Shaw. Muir waited until he thought his abusers had left but when he finally got to his car, a straggling fan ran at him and threw a bottle that smashed the windscreen of Muir’s car.
These three stories on one night all feel connected. Instagram is the new outer, where some feel they have the licence to say whatever they want under the cloak of anonymity. The silence, or worse the urging screams, of those around them in the stands, and on the ground in the football of Muir’s era, empowered the bile to percolate and rise to be given full, throaty voice.
Football fortunately doesn’t tolerate that now at games and in crowds, so the coward retreats to the keyboard or a phone app to send their abuse. There is no crowd around, but the audience is more targeted for the racist or the thug to reach the player they want and, when repeated, potentially reach a much bigger audience.
Pleasingly the Muir story drew a prompt, appropriate and sincere apology from St Kilda, an earnest expression of regret and desire for reconciliation with the player who’d felt shunned by his club.
Football belatedly acted on the experiences of players like Muir’s on the field through the efforts of Michael Long, Nicky Winmar and others and has now shaped itself as an agent of change but it must also be recalled that Adam Goodes’ experience was of this generation, not Muir’s.
THE GAME IS A STAGE
The threat to Grimes was plainly outrageous. But let’s separate the threat with the cause of that anger, which stemmed from an ongoing frustration with players milking frees.
Grimes’ free for a push in the back came from what appeared incidental contact. It stopped an Essendon goal, and helped shift the momentum of the game just before half-time.
The action of fellow Tiger Nick Vlastuin later in the match in drawing a 50-metre penalty by throwing his head back when Tom Bellchambers clipped him on the shoulder also led to a goal. Vlastuin gave the umpire cause to think he’d been hit in the head when replays suggested he was hit in the shoulder.
Staging is a lingering issue in the game, acknowledged earlier this year with the comments of Alastair Clarkson and later the fining of Tom Papley. It needs to be addressed by more than issuing a fine.
Also to be clear, Richmond were the better team with 66 inside 50s to 24, 12 more shots at goal and deserved the win.
IF YOU DON’T MIND
Free kick tallies are not meant to be even and umpires call what they see, but seriously, did Port Adelaide play the perfectly legal half of football?
Was there not one moment of indiscretion where the Port player infringed and Hawthorn should have been paid a free? In half a game?
The holding the ball rule was not rewritten this year, it was re-imagined. So what you imagined wasn’t a free kick before, suddenly was. Now it has imagined itself as something else again.
Previously this year you only needed look at the ball to be thought in possession and penalised. In the Hawthorn-Port game, you could take the ball out to dinner and still not be seen to have spent enough time with it.
Yet for all of that about umpires, what absolutely decided this game was the most perfect piece of play for Butters’ decisive goal. It was a moment, ahem, served like butter on a plate when in the ruck contest Scott Lycett let the ball drop to his low hand to offer it on his palm to Butters flying through a gap in the pack like Nick Davis to goal.
DREAMING OF DARWIN
There is a difference watching a game celebrating Indigenous culture and influence in the game when it is a game played in front of an overwhelmingly Indigenous crowd. Dreamtime in Darwin was so good it should become semi-regular.
When 90,000 people normally go to the MCG for the game it is difficult to see either team giving up the money it generates, but perhaps playing in Darwin once every three years in rotation with a home game for each club is an option.
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.