The AFL has used the International Rules series against Ireland to export our unique brand of off-field drunkenness and violence. In the first case of its kind, Brendan Fevola - International Man of Stupidity - has brought disgrace to his country with an alcohol-fuelled assault against an Irish barman as well as introducing an exciting new form of biff-artistry to the Irish.
In a brilliant stroke of marketing genius, the AFL player has seized on the tour as an opportunity to build an off-shore fanbase for our homegrown game by showcasing a capacity for thuggery. While the idea of exporting drunken pub bashings to Ireland may seem like carrying coal to Newcastle, the AFL group has cleverly married the existing demand for such activities with the novel twist of Australian thugs dishing out the biff. As aficionados of public bar brawls say, if you can make it in Ireland, you can make it anywhere.
In a carefully planned operation, Carlton Blues star Brendan Fevola (ably assisted by his team-mates) started drinking at 1pm on Sunday (29th of October) at the Galway Races, ensuring he was good and liquored up by the evening. They arrived at the Imperial Hotel where the staff reported "the group of Australian players were "very drunk" upon arrival and one unnamed player vomited in the bar area." (The Age, 1/11/2006). Staff also "claimed that another two Australian players were "messing around" near the reception area of the hotel." and that "The young girl on reception was terrified" (Herald-Sun, 1/11/2006). The scene for Operation Loose Cannon was set.
The Irish barman, identified only as Paul, walked blindly into his role in the publicity stunt by trying to cut off the booze. Fevola reacted like any footballer when he doesn't get his way: threats, intimidation and actual violence:
[Barman Paul] said Fevola and a couple of his teammates were being louts and he had warned them to calm down or he would refuse to serve them.
Fevola allegedly responded by swearing abuse at the barman so Paul went to call the police.
“So I said ‘fine, sorry lads I’m going to have to ring the police’," Paul told Southern Cross Broadcasting today.
"So I walked out to reception not knowing that he was actually following me – he went around the other side of the bar to follow me.
“As I was on the phone to the police he grabbed me in a headlock and pulled me out of reception while he had a bottle in his hand.
“I was just worried about the bottle, so I struggled with him to get the bottle released and one of the fellow barmen came out and took the bottle out of his hand.
“And as he (the other barman) did he (Fevola) swung and hit me in the cheek.
“Straight after that the rest of the team came out and they pulled him off me and they had to restrain him from getting at me again." (Herald-Sun, 1/11/2006)
Paul has been quite clear that Fevola struck him and is reported as wanting to see him charged with assault. Police are said to be reviewing CCTV footage of the incident, and no official word is forthcoming as yet about the legal status. Brendan Fevola denies striking Paul, and is surprisingly sure about events for someone who was by all accounts pissed out of his gourd:
"I've done the wrong thing by getting him in a headlock . . . it was pretty stupid," Fevola said.
"I'm just glad I didn't hit him. I would've been in more trouble if I'd hit him. A lot more trouble.
"It was just a headlock.
"If I wanted to hit him, I would've hit him." (Herald-Sun, 1/11/2006)
Somewhat bizarrely, the Irish police (gardai) aren't the only ones investigating the incident. Used to enjoying quasi-judicial powers in Australia, the AFL executive and the players' union have pulled out their own trenchcoats and over-sized magnifying glasses to engage in a bit of overseas amateur sleuthery:
The AFL held its own investigation into the incident on Monday, speaking to Fevola, other players at the bar, the barman and hotel staff.
Late in the day Fevola faced an AFL disciplinary committee, set up to deal with incidents on tour.
The committee -- Demetriou, football operations manager Adrian Anderson, AFL Players' Association chief executive Brendon Gale, captain Dustin Fletcher and coach Kevin Sheedy -- decided to hit Fevola with a heavy penalty.
Fevola addressed the committee. Demetriou confirmed the Blue had admitted he had drunk too much alcohol.
It was decided he would be suspended from the second Test in Dublin on Sunday.
Fevola won't be fined. (Herald-Sun, 1/11/2006)
Hmmm, his "heavy penalty" includes dodging any fine and not playing in the Second Test (given he was not even selected for the First Test, how likely was he to make it to the Second?). Still, if one of your players heroically acts as a spearhead for promoting the game to a new audience, you can't be seen to be too harsh.
But slight rebukes are par for the course in this kind of incident. What's disturbing is the fact that the seasoned "detectives" of the self-appointed Aussie Rules Footy Squad took it upon themselves to interview bar staff and other witnesses to a crime under active investigation: "Hi, we're Brendan's employer and union rep - tell us what you saw." While some sticklers for the rules might be worried that this could create the impression of tampering with witnesses, it's really just part of the follow-up focus group study for the bold new initiative.
This a tried and true method for assessing a new marketing campaign. Some of the questions the AFL leadership put to the witnesses would have been:
- Were you impressed by the imposing physicality of the AFL players?
- How did the levels of drunkenness compare with your own footballers?
- In a car park brawl, how would you rate the Aussies' chances?
- Did the display of naked aggression make you want to watch Aussie Rules in future?
And so on. No doubt this same kind of careful planning went into selecting Brendan Fevola for his role in this stunt. They needed someone with a proven record in shenanigans, but without the truly killer instincts of some of the more psychopathic players. Handily enough, The Australian provided a brief CV of Fevola's past experience in his capacity as drunken dickhead:
Fevola has tested the trust of Carlton fans and officials with off-field disciplinary problems and on-field petulance.
Fevola, whose cheeky personality has made him a favourite on Channel Nine's Footy Show, first found fame for all the wrong reasons in 2001.
Fevola's frizzy 'fro made him easily identifiable as the culprit behind a prank at Victoria University's Maidstone student village in May of that year.
He was labelled pathetic by former president John Elliott after he sprayed a female student leader in the face with a fire extinguisher and fought with security in a pre-dawn incident involving team-mates Matthew Lappin, who is also in Ireland, and discarded Blue Andrew Merrington. "I ran to the foyer, and as I was getting there, the door opened and I saw a guy with dark, curly hair wearing a white top, just before they blasted me with the fire extinguisher," the student said.
"It was really hard, hurting my eyes and my face and I was just trying to get a hold of them and grab them."
In another incident that year, Fevola and team-mate Ryan Houlihan harassed the manager of a North Melbourne dry-cleaner after a big night out.
He was also evicted from a Brunswick hotel amid accusations alcohol had been stolen and staff abused.
In 2004, the Blues punished Fevola when he missed a morning training session shortly before the start of the season.
It was revealed he had been involved in an altercation with Crown Casino security staff six hours earlier while leaving a party which was also attended by Formula One star Michael Schumacher and boxer Anthony Mundine.
This year, Fevola had charges of driving while disqualified dismissed after proving a cancellation notice had been sent to an old address.
He was fined for talking on his mobile phone while driving. (The Australian, 1/11/2006)
Nothing too serious, but a proven record of loutishness and a "cheeky persona" that ensures the Australian footballing public will soon forgive him.
Of course, the test of whether this surprise move to appeal to Irish bloodlust will pay off is in the Irish public reaction. While the story is generating some buzz in the Irish and UK media, it remains to be seen if this will translate into attendance figures and TV ratings. Here's hoping the Irish have more sense than us when it comes to hero-worshipping vicious thugs.
Oh dear, it seems this story just keeps getting worse.
For starters, it's now being alleged that the intimidation and threatening behaviour wasn't limited to just Brendan Fevola:
In a new twist, the barman dragged two other unnamed Australian players into the row, saying they and Fevola made threats to junior bar staff before the Carlton star allegedly assaulted him.
But the barman stressed neither of the other two players was involved in the physical altercation.
"They threatened my junior bar staff. I made the decision to refuse them drinks, and they got very aggressive, threatening me," Paul said. (Nine News, 1/11/2006)
Of course, the poor Irish bar staff are unfamiliar with the Australian custom of meekly complying with any and all requests from big shot footy heroes (it helps if you tug your forelock and don't make eye contact). I don't think Fevola's ever heard "no" before.
Next, The Fev showed us the childish lack of insight or self-reflection that can only come with being raised in a bubble of privilege:
Fevola risked further AFL sanctions by questioning the disciplinary committee's decision to send him home, and expressed surprise at the furore his actions had caused.
"I thought it was pretty harsh. They have to look like they're doing something, I suppose," Fevola told the Nine Network.
"I just can't believe that I'm not playing for my country and I've let them down and obviously my country as well, so it was pretty shattering." (Nine News, 1/11/2006)
To compound this, Bubble Boy went on to come with a bizarre excuse for his own behaviour - racism at the hands of the Irish! This is a striking example of what can happen to an idiot sportsman when cut adrift in a foreign land, with no spin doctors or media advisers to shield him from saying what he really thinks: It's everyone's fault but mine.
Fevola told reporters the Australian team had been sledged constantly since arriving.
"Everywhere we've gone, the people have been giving us shit, and when a few of the boys were at the casino playing poker, they were sledging the Aboriginal boys ... everywhere we've gone they've just hammered us. With everything."
He also claimed the barman whom he put in a headlock at the Imperial Hotel, an incident local police are still investigating, had goaded him and his teammates.
"It was probably just a build-up from everyone giving us shit throughout the whole week," Fevola said. (SMH, 2/11/2006).
It's called banter, you dolt! You only need to observe a group of more than five people from any of (Ireland, Britain, Australia and New Zealand) in the presence of beer and you will get banter. (The Irish, in particular, are adept at this art form.)
To the credit of Andrew Demetriou, he has come down pretty hard on Fev for this lame excuse (well, short of actually doing anything):
"We've spoken to (the players) and all of them - as one - said they had not suffered any racial abuse. In fact they said they have been treated very well here," [Demetriou] told Southern Cross radio.
"I think it's a very unfair slur on the Irish public. It's just completely untrue."
Yesterday bar staff told theage.com.au they did not know Fevola or the other Australians were football players when they arrived at the Imperial Hotel.
Mr Demetriou said it was disappointing Fevola had attempted to shift the blame for his drunken rampage, which the AFL chief labelled "dangerous, aggressive and totally unacceptable."
He said Fevola owed it to the Irish people to apologise for his comments. (SMH, 2/11/2006)
The bartender, Paul, is still upset that Brendan Fevola managed to slip out of the country, reputedly holed up in Norway waiting for the media storm to blow over. (NB: The story's getting picking up more steam in the UK and Ireland thanks to the new "Irish Racism Made Me Do It" angle.)
Asked if he wanted to press charges, Paul said: "I will indeed, yes."
But he said police had been unable to tell him whether charges would proceed.
"If it was anybody else that made that assault they would have to appear in court either on the Monday or the Wednesday and he's been allowed just to leave the country, which I don't understand." (Nine News, 1/11/2006)
Ah, Paul, poor Paul. Don't you get it? He's a footy superhero and winner of the Coleman Medal! He's not bound by your puny laws and scoffs at your futile notions of justice.
That punch-happy drunk, Bredan Fevola, has done it again, heaping shame upon his club and encapsulating the dangerous arrogance that permeates professional footy.
This time, he was busted urinating on the window of a Prahran nightclub. Well, why not? When you're a top AFL footballer and member of your club's "leadership group" (whatever the hell that means) then, hey, the world is your toilet! You can just piss where ever you like. Even if that means getting your cock out in public in Melbourne's gay district. Sure, why not? (Truth be told, had any Carlton fans been present they would have desperately scrabbled around on the ground, sopping up his piss with sponges and paper towels for storage and later veneration. That's the mentality we face here.)
Of course, Fevola hasn't exactly been keeping a low-profile this past month. He jeopardised the lives of little kids by recently speeding through a school zone at 20 km/h over the limit. Naturally, he avoided any unpleasant consequences from that. And for an earlier traffic incident that came to light:
Fevola avoided a charge of driving while disqualified in 2006.
When police caught him talking on his mobile phone in Hampton late in 2005 they discovered his licence was already suspended for the loss of demerit points. But the driving while disqualified charge was later struck out because of an address mix-up.
Fevola said he had not received notice of the licence suspension because he had changed address after his wedding. (Herald-Sun, 28/2/2008)
Travelling the world. Getting drunk. Beating people up. Breaking traffic laws. Endangering lives. Screwing teenaged models. Cheating on wives. Opening restaurants. Pissing on bars. Getting paid millions to play footy and be hero-worshipped.
Ah, it must be good to be king.
Citations: The Age, 1/11/2006; Herald-Sun, 1/11/2006; Herald-Sun, 1/11/2006; Herald-Sun, 1/11/2006; Herald-Sun, 1/11/2006; The Australian, 1/11/2006; Nine News, 1/11/2006; Nine News, 1/11/2006; SMH, 2/11/2006; SMH, 2/11/2006; Nine News, 1/11/2006
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