AFL has plenty going for it, apart from the commentators

Australian rules football is an acquired taste. Only someone who has grown up with it can get used to a game that is played in an oval field, one which appears to have few, if any, rules, and one which allows players from one side to obstruct their opponents and not incur any penalty.

But even an outsider can appreciate the degree of physical effort required to last 80 minutes of actual playing time; this means that a game takes about two hours to be completed.

What spoils the game to a large extent is the hyper-ventilating commentators who tend to exaggerate everything when there is often no need to do so; the action on the field speaks for itself.
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Collingwood has a sexism issue right at the top

AT A TIME like this, when sexists rise like vermin to the surface, we need writers like the late Sam de Brito, a man who died tragically young.

I still remember how De Brito gave it to Collingwood president Eddie McGuire with both barrels in 2013 after the latter had made his infamous King Kong remarks about the Sydney Swans legend Adam Goodes.

McGuire’s ugliness surfaces periodically, and he was at his brilliant best on the birthday of the British monarch, with atrocious comments about Caroline Wilson, the chief AFL writer for Fairfax Media.
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Why is so much taxpayer money wasted on sport?

How much taxpayers’ money does Australia spend on sport? It appears to be a huge amount and something the governments, both federal and state, would prefer stayed hidden.

Sport is an obsession in the country and politicians know that when the country is occupied with it, then the people won’t bother about the comings and going of those in power.

Hence, they encourage sport to the hilt. Wealthy associations receive big handouts for this and that even though they do not need the money and can manage on their own. This keeps the sport and the sportsmen on-side.
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AFL is not all it is made out to be

IF YOU live in Melbourne for any length of time, you will invariably end up at an Australian rules football match. That is if you have any degree of curiosity – I know people who have lived here for 40+ years and not bothered.

But as a journalist, one often feels that one should explore aspects of one’s living environment that wield a fairly powerful spell on people and it was that that drove me to accept an invitation from a close friend to attend a game between North Melbourne and Geelong a few days ago.

The AFL is played as a league of 22 rounds until the end of August; after that in September the teams which have finished one to eight on the ladder play finals, resulting in the champion emerging on the last Saturday in September. It is a massive occasion for the city, hosted at the grand old Melbourne Cricket Ground, a ground that can accommodate 100,000 people.
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How the AFL shields law-breakers

IN AUSTRALIA, as in many other countries, the use of recreational drugs is illegal. Yet the Australia Football League, the body that administers Australian rules football nationally, knows and hides the names of several players who have been known to use drugs.

The AFL’s drugs policy is a curious beast. It will only name players when they have been caught thrice. The league tests players both in and out of season and any infractions are noted.

In 2012, there were 26 positive tests. Had any of these players been operating under the code of the World Anti Doping Agency and tested positive on match day, that would have meant a ban of two years.
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In Australia, justice can be black and white

IN February 2010, Andrew Lovett, an Australian rules football player, was charged with one count of rape over an incident in December 2009.

Lovett had been recruited by St Kilda that year after spending six years with, and playing 88 games for, the Essendon football club.

St Kilda immediately sacked Lovett. He never got back to playing in the senior league again, even though he was acquitted of the charge in July 2011.

Lovett is Aboriginal.
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I’m not a racist, but…

“Everyone knows the rules at Collingwood: if you racially vilify anybody, it’s zero tolerance. You’re out.” – Eddie McGuire, Collingwood president

WHEN the well-known Daily Show comedian, John Oliver, visited Australia earlier this year to make a series of clips on the issue of gun control, he used some of the material he had gathered for his regular podcast as well.

One statement cut through – Australians are comfortable about racism. And very specific about whom they are racist towards.

That sense of comfort has been underlined over the last week. Adam Goodes, an Australian rules footballer of Aboriginal descent, was called an ape by a 13-year-old fan of the Collingwood club. Collingwood was at the receiving end of a thrashing in a game played in Melbourne, and Goodes was one of those who was really handing it out on the field.
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AFL: exclusive to home-born Australians

AUSTRALIAN rules football is a difficult game to understand. Difficult for anyone who has not grown up with it, difficult for anyone who has got used to other football codes because the structure and rules appear to be more loose than in other games.

One of the ways in which people grow to understand, become interested and then start following any game is dependent on the publicity that goes with it. With the AFL, the publicity is highly insular, nothing more so than the blather that passes for match commentary on radio or TV.

I grew up learning rugby union from the late Bob Harvey, one of the Sri Lankans who commentated on the sport on what was then Radio Ceylon. Most of my cricket was learnt from the commentary of John Arlott, Brian Johnston and Allan McGilvray, on the BBC and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Tony Cozier from the West Indies was another of those who contributed a great deal to my understanding of cricket.
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And this really has nothing to do with race. Really.

MAJAK Daw is a Sudanese migrant to Australia. People know about him because he is the first African to play Australian rules football. A member of the junior string of the North Melbourne football club — Werribee — Majak’s recruitment resulted in a good deal of positive publicity for the senior club that is not especially well-known for performing well on the field.

North Melbourne last won the AFL senior championship in 1999 when it had in its ranks a man considered the best Australian rules player ever – Wayne Carey. Since then the team has turned in indifferent performances year in and year out.

The degree of publicity Majak received grew even more when he was racially abused during a game in 2011. Newspaper and TV coverage was sympathetic to the young man who has seen his share of war in Sudan before he came to Australia.
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Sexism reigns in AFL commentary box

FOR all the talk about the number of women involved in Australain rules football, better known as AFL, there are fresh indications that, like many other things in the country, it is run by, and meant for, middle-aged and old white Australian males.

The latest indication of this comes in the dumping of commentator Kelli Underwood by Channel 10, one of the two free-to-air channels which won the right to broadcast the game in the last bidding contest for TV rights.

Underwood was given a two-year trial and has now been relegated to doing the job of boundary rider; an all-male team will call the games for this season and, conceivably, for the foreseeable future.

The decision smacks of sexism. It was made after a local tabloid, the Herald Sun, published the results of an online survey that ranked AFL commentators according to the annoyance factor. That anyone could take an online poll seriously is surprising; further the Sun’s readers cannot be exactly said to be at the high end of the IQ spectrum.

My rating of Underwood comes from nearly 43 years of listening to sport on radio and watching various kinds of sport on TV. Among the many commentators I have listened to are Bob Harvey (Sri Lankan – rugby union), Dicky Rutnagur (Indian – cricket), Alan McGilvray, Jim Maxwell, Glen Mitchell (Australian – cricket), John Arlott, Brian Johnston, Don Mosey, Christopher Martin-Jenkins (all British – cricket), Tony Cozier, Reds Perera, Fazeer Mohammed (West Indies – cricket), Dennis Commetti, Gerard Whatley, Drew Morphett, Mark McClure, Stan Alves, Rex Hunt, Anthony Hudson, Sam Newman (Australia – AFL), and many more whose names do not come to mind immediately.

Underwood is no better and no worse than any male commentator employed by a TV channel or a radio station; in fact, several of the men who commentate on the game are much worse than her. She has the right approach to communicating the state of the game, and never allows herself to go overboard. Instead, in the manner of top commentators like Brian Glanville, she builds up the excitement, never indulging in the kind of yelling and verbal diarrhoea that many of the men do.

Hudson, one of the Channel 10 commentators, should not be allowed anywhere near a commentary box. His delivery is poor, he gets excited all the time and screams, and for him every goal is “unbelievable.” But he has the characteristics which Underwood lacks – he is white, middle-aged and male.

This isn’t the first time that a woman has ventured near the commentary box of a predominantly male sport: in 1983, actress Kate Fitzpatrick joined the cricket commentary team of Channel 9. She did not last long, only until the end of that season. There are other women like Rebecca Wilson (who lasted one episode of the National Rugby League’s footy show) and Caroline Wilson, who appears on Channel 9’s Footy Classified and has done so for some time.

The commentators of today indulge in a lot of hyperbole, in the belief that they have to jazz up the game that they are covering. They use tired, worn phrases all the time and try to outdo each other in the use of superlatives. For the most part these days, I turn off the sound if I watch an AFL game.

Australians are willing to endure Bruce MacAvaney (who when describing young Hawthorn footballer Cyril Rioli gushed “what a delicious young player he is), Hudson (who shoots off at the mouth all the time), and Hunt (who is prone to the occasional racist gibe and whose commentary is mostly understood by an audience of one – himself).

At a time when even a country like Pakistan has put a competent woman in the commentary box – sadly, after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, she has not been able to commentate because international cricket matches are not being staged in the country – it seems absurd that a country like Australia, which claims to be oh-so-progressive, cannot do as much.

But then, on reflection, why am I surprised? Graphic evidence of the sexism in the country was provided when elections were held last year. One shouldn’t be surprised that a smaller subset of the population expresses the same sentiment.