The AFL Player Spectator Current AFL Threat Level

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Warning: AFL Player Threat Peaks

Please be advised that we are currently experiencing the peak danger period for AFL violence. Consequently, we are on a RED threat level. Last weekend, almost 200 professional footballers played their final match for the season. Their pre-season training is months away. Their alcohol tolerance is way down. A lot of them are angry and frustrated and looking to blow off steam. While the AFL has reluctantly agreed to extend their drug monitoring throughout the off-season, past experience and statements from players suggests that many will be taking drugs. Now is the time to be at your utmost vigilance.

To add fuel to this fire, over the coming weeks, another 40 pissed off young men are unleashed on the streets each week as their teams fail. Young men steeped in a culture of aggression, violence and domination. Awash with testosterone, booze and drugs. Looking to cut loose and "bond" with their droogs through the ritual subjugation and humiliation of women and men alike.

The threat is real. This blog has documented just some of the numerous bashings and rapes that footy players have committed in recent years. In the event that you become a victim of footy player violence, you cannot rely on anyone else to bring them to justice. The AFL and the clubs may try hush money. Senior police have admitted that investigators' incompetence in these matters can border on corruption. You have to rely on yourself and your sense of judgement.

Please, people, I can't stress this enough: do not engage with AFL players. If they even turn up at the pub or bar where you are drinking, leave immediately. If you don't feel safe, don't risk it: ask the bouncers to escort you into a waiting taxi. It's just not worth spending time in hospital, the court system or therapy because of the selfish actions of a few dickheads.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sacrificing Manhood for Footy

Allegations have emerged today of a shocking practice at Collingwood: forced sterilisation of its players. Former Collingwood premiership player James Manson has come forward about his involuntary vasectomy, carried out under the guise of one of his many groin and hernia operations:

"You don't have a low sperm count," the doctor told the retired ruckman. "You have no sperm count at all. You've had a vasectomy."

"No, I haven't," Manson replied. "Yes, you have," the doctor said. (The Age, 28/8/2005)

Manson is now undergoing complex fertility treatment, including IVF, in the hope of having children with his wife. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident and at least one other player from Collingwood's premiership team is believed to also be undergoing IVF as a result of Collingwood's groinal practices during the period.

Manson warned other players through the AFL Players' Association:

"If it means a young kid of 19 or 20 thinks about the treatment he is receiving and looks beyond a footy career to the rest of his life, then it's worth it," Manson said.(ibid)

In any case, younger players should consider making a deposit at the sperm bank as insurance. Or at the very least spend a Saturday night in the off-season at an outer suburban nightclub.

While Manson has discussed the issue with Collingwood President and media personality Eddie McGuire, no statement is forthcoming. This is not surprising, as it is impossible to imagine what one might say in defence of the practice of rendering key players infertile - without their knowledge or consent.

It also seems like a short-term tactic: many great footballers come from high-profile footballing families, such as the Abletts and the Shaws. Indeed the AFL has a specific Father/Son policy that allows sons to play with their father's team (for those players whose father is known and prepared to admit the pregnancy).

The supposed benefits of the procedure are still unclear. While the reduction in illegitimate offspring may help the players' finances, it probably won't help the club. Another possibility is that Collingwood may have been labouring under the (false) belief that a vasectomy would have castration-like effects of producing larger, docile players, better able to focus on training and more pliable and responsive to club discipline. Of course, the concomitant desire for such gelded players to gather groups of women, bathe them in oils, comb their hair and guard them from menfolk would interfere with their training regime.

But rather than speculate, perhaps we should let the results speak for themselves: during the period of forced sterilisation, Collingwood won its sole premiership for the last forty years. That said, the club's behaviour in this matter is unconscionable and we here at The Speccy to do not condone it.

Citations: The Age, 28/8/2005

Word Count: 467

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Profile: Gary Ablett

With the recent press about the Ablett clan (both on the field and off it), it's timely to go to the source and remember Gary Ablett - the man they call God - as arguably the best player to ever pick up a footy and a person whose very public flaws epitomises the dangers of confusing talent with virtue. The lesson for AFL players and fans is that a "good player" will face temptations and situations that can quickly render them a "bad person".

Growing up in regional Victoria in the 70s, he dropped out of school at 15 and worked as a brickie's labourer. During this period, he successfully avoided jail despite various charges for assault, drug possession and related matters. After an aborted attempt at cracking the big leagues with Hawthorn in 1982, he was picked up by Geelong in 1984, willing to overlook his earlier criminal past and on-field disappointment. This is when his football career took off, and, for over a decade, was perhaps the stand-out player of his time, winning numerous awards. In 1986 he found religion as a born-again Christian. He also retired briefly in 1991 before coming back mid-season and continuing to play until 1997 (35 years old).

Many argue that it was his post-football career when the wheels fell off. Convictions for drugs and other matters were recorded against Gary Ablett before and after his 15 year footy career. None were recorded (of which I'm aware) while he was a carefully managed prize asset of the Geelong Football Club. One explanation is that he stayed away from trouble (including drugs) throughout his 20s. That's not the only possibility.

What is clear is that after football, Gary Ablett was prone to going on drug-fuelled benders lasting several days. During one such spree in 2000, he was holed up in the Park Hyatt with a young woman, Alisha Horan. She was a star-struck 20-year old, "an infatuated fan", who had been accompanying Gary for a couple of days after inquiring about cleaning his house for him. Tragically, she died from a drug overdose after Gary Ablett gave her some of his heroin.

Gary "God" Ablett, left, and Alisha Horan (dec).

Ablett had himself been given a large number of ecstasy tablets - he claims 12 - for free by a well-wisher. Another sports fan (named Butch) gave him a small amount of smack gratis at the notorious Mansion nightclub. (About the most dodgy den I've ever visited. Maybe it was cleaned up since 1997 when I was there - but I doubt it.) The night ended up with Alisha and Gary back at his hotel after they'd consumed the tablets and been drinking heavily. Gary cut up a few lines of heroin, tried to hide it from her, but let her have some when she found him out, telling her it was cocaine.

Up until this point, it may seem like Gary Ablett is living a playboy's dream: strangers giving you free drugs, enough cash to afford swanky hotel rooms and partying with beautiful 20 year old women. But the same lack of character that allows a celebrity sportsman to enjoy themselves in this manner results in fallout for those around them - and then themselves:

In March 2001, coroner Noreen Toohey found that Ms Horan died from a combination of heroin, ecstasy and amphetamines. Ms Toohey said that Ms Horan had "become enmeshed in a culture of alcoholism and drug taking with her football hero" and had been "partying out of her league".(The Age, 28/2/2003)

Ablett was criticised for introducing a young person like Alisha to his seedy world, giving her drugs (including heroin), delays in getting her medical assistance and "protect[ing] his arse" (in the words of Alisha's father) by (lawfully) refusing to testify at the Coroner's inquest. For his involvement in this death, he ended up with a $1500 fine for possession of drugs.

While Ablett has always been regarded by the public as "troubled", these details of just how far he'd gone shocked many. Most of us assumed that this would signal the death-knell for his footy club's ambitions for him to enter the Hall of Fame. In fact, he asked Geelong to stop nominating him, before a surprise announcement of his inclusion just a few months ago.

It's almost impossible to understand how he meets the official criteria of "integrity" and "character". Some, like AFL stalwart Leigh Matthews, believe they should just be dismissed:

"The criteria sounds good when you talk about integrity and character, but you can be the best bloke in the world and if you don't play footy really well, you're not going into the hall of fame - and I don't think you can reverse it."
(The Age, 7/6/2005)

This fuzzy thinking and moral backsliding is typical of an AFL insider: no one is suggesting that "good blokes" are let in solely on the basis of being good. The idea is that you have to be a great football player and NOT be a criminal. Is that so hard to comprehend? But, in the current environment where many are agitating that "fairest" be left out of "best and fairest", it's symptomatic of a footy culture out of control, where winning is all that matters and you do what you can get away with.

AFL Chairman Ron Evans though is trying to have a foot in both camps:

Evans was adamant last night that the AFL Commission would not change its criteria. "I think the 'integrity' and 'character' criteria should stay," he said. "We've applied that to the other inductees and other legends and I think the results speak for themselves." (ibid)

Right, so we should keep the criteria, but water them down to the point that they're meaningless. After all, what kind of "integrity and character" criteria apply when Gary Ablett is let in? It begs the question: who would the criteria exclude?

Gary Ablett was not able to attend the awards night, instead continuing to fight his demons in various rehab clinics around the country. The Hall of Fame induction suggests that footy-loving public of this country has forgotten the naive young women, sacrificed on the altar of fame. But not entirely. After the announcement, some activists had spray-painted a message in metre long letters on the path next to the MCG:


While such blasphemy was scrubbed away within a couple of days, it shows that a few people are still not prepared to accept that such a flawed man should be venerated so widely and so fiercely. No doubt, Gary Ablett would count himself among their number.

*** Update ***

Gary Ablett continues to disgrace himself and his club. Not content with being named the Cats best ever player, he tried to sell a DVD of his acceptance speech to Channel Nine for $20,000. He was in hospital due to a mangled foot from a lawn mower. He pre-recorded his acceptance speech and contacted Channel Nine about a sale. They declined. Gary later had this to say about his tawdry deal:

"I have no idea what DVDs like that are worth," said Ablett, who has fallen on hard times and is understood to be looking for work.


"I can honestly say my conscience is clear before God – it's quite an innocent thing what I've done ... but unfortunately the media have put me under the microscope once again and tried to find anything negative in this story that they did exploit and magnify in an aim to discredit my reputation and attack my character once again," he said.(FoxSports, 12/6/2006)

Yeah, Gary, it's always someone else, isn't it? It's never you.

*** UPDATE ***

Gary Ablett has made his first public media remarks about his role in the death of Alisha Horan:

"Apart from the pain and grief of the tragedy, I felt a deep sense of shame and failure over my own behaviour, and I still feel deep regret and remorse. I just wish I had a time machine," he said. (Herald-Sun, 29/11/2007)

He goes on like this for a few more paragraphs, and has a dig at the "tall poppy syndrome" that sees him criticised for, well, his atrocious behaviour.

The timing of his mea culpa is curious. Until you realise he has a book coming out next month. And, no, Alisha Horan isn't mentioned in it. Surprising, no? But it's not that it's a sordid episode that shows him up as a bad and weak person. No, it's because "I don't want to be in any way profiting from that tragedy".

So why is he mentioning her as part of his pre-launch publicity strategy?


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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Cat-Fighting in Geelong

Seems that two toms from the Geelong footy team were out on the prowl over the weekend. Naturally, the night ended up in the police cells.

Cats forwards Steve Johnson and Andrew Mackie have each been charged with being drunk in a public place.

Mackie was celebrating his 21st birthday at Home House nightclub before the alleged fight at 3am yesterday. (Herald Sun, 8/5/05)

Grrrr ... Meow!! Hiss! Ftzzz!

So the police charged the two naughty kitties with being "drunk in a public place" - a ludicrous notion given that about 85% of Geelong is drunk in public at 3am. Especially at a dodgy nightclub. If anything, police should forcibly administer alcohol to anyone found sober at Home House!

Makes you wonder what was really going on, given that these two spent the night locked up in the police cattery.

Hmmm. But, as Geelong Football Club CEO Brian Cook spun it:

"The police also confirmed the players were not disorderly." (Herald Sun, 8/5/05)

Ah well, thank God for small mercies, hey? Still, Channel 7 is reporting that the police needed two cans of capsicum to subdue the pair "Mackie lunged at a police officer trying to break up a fight outside the club. " (If they can't keep their claws in, perhaps these two cats should be neutered!)

While we don't speculate here at The Speccy, we do sometimes wonder aloud about the special treatment offered to AFL players. Historically, the police employ a range of charges in bar brawls: disorderly conduct, public nuisance, assaulting police, resisting arrest, offensive behaviour. But these guys get "drunk in public". A case of small-town heroes - or do cats have nine lives?

Citations: Herald Sun, 8/5/05

Word Count: 296

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

AFL Players Witness Kidnap

Tongues are flying as yet more AFL football players get caught up in underworld machinations. Three AFL stars were meeting at a pub with a fourth person when that fourth person was kidnapped, beaten and tortured by some other people. Sadly, it's not the first time that AFL players have been in thick of things when it comes to gang violence and organised crime.

(I have to be really careful with what I say here: I'm not afraid of our draconian libel laws since you can't get blood from a stone. You can, however, get blood from a pulverised blogger with a smashed up face and severed toes. Lots and lots of blood.)

Let's step through this.

The three [Carlton] players, Lance Whitnall, Nick Stevens and Heath Scotland, were at the Ivanhoe Hotel drinking with an acquaintance when a group of men, some wearing Hells Angels colours, walked in and abducted the victim. (The Age, 30/7/05)

Let's keep in mind that Carlton is the same club where Laurence "Moses" Angwin stated that many of his teammates "used drugs, usually ecstasy, every two weeks or so" (The Bulletin, 18/5/05) .

Also, witnesses are well-connected enough to recognise and parse bikie colours as opposed to, oh I dunno, a Mad Max-themed party. This suggests they are not totally naive in this area. Personally, I couldn't spot a Coffin Cheater from a Hells Angel from an Outlaw. Unless they have it tatooed on their foreheads, a possibility we should not discount. (Mind you, once the bolt cutters are applied to appendages any notions of a Mad Max homage are quickly dispelled and you can be pretty sure you're dealing with a genuine Bad Scene.)

Now, who was this abducted individual? Apparently the poor bloke's name is Brendan Schievella. The newspaper is reporting that his
... father Mike "Lucky" Schievella, 44, and partner, Heather McDonald, 36, were murdered in their St Andrews home in 1990. The pair, who were known drug dealers, were bound and their throats slashed. The murders have never been solved. Brendan Schievella's uncle, Thomas Schievella, was arrested by the National Crime Authority in 1986 and sentenced to six years' jail for drug trafficking. (The Age, 30/7/05)

"Lucky"? Geez, what sick bastard makes up these underworld nicknames? Anyway, we can be sure that Brendan has many other characteristics besides belonging to what the media blithely refer to as a "crime family". For example, he plays for the Diamond Creek Football Club. But they won't print that, just nasty facts about his family.

OK, so what happened to young Brendan? Apparently, the group
...walked in and abducted the victim ... Witnesses said the man was beaten and then forced into a car and driven away ... The badly beaten victim was taken to the Austin Hospital the next day. Doctors had to amputate one of his toes, which was mangled - probably with a set of bolt cutters. (The Age, 30/7/05)

That is so awful I don't know what to say, other than I hope it hasn't ruined his football playing days. (I've got no major beef with amateur footy, just the overpaid prima donnas in the AFL.) I also hope he was so pissed out of his brain when it happened that he didn't feel it.

Next, it's reasonable to ask about the relationship between the players and the victim: "It is believed the players said they were associates of the victim but did not consider him a close friend."

So, at 1am in a suburban pub, three members of a footy club (coincidentally with that week off) that has well-documented drug problems meet an associate - not a friend! - who "is known to have links with several members of the underworld" (according to the paper) and whose family has a history of drug-dealing. The associate is then abducted and tortured by a group including bikies extensively involved in drug manufacture and distribution.

No one knows why. Not the AFL players. Not the victim. Not the police.

Normally we don't speculate here, but in this case it's fair to assume the bikies were trying to head off late-night discussions around a new grassroots anti-drug campaign spearheaded by Lance Whitnall, Nick Stevens, Heath Scotland and Brendan Schievella. United through a love of football and a realisation that drugs have destroyed those near to them (teammates and family members respectively), the four were - most likely - planning a series of television spots, school appearances and a "Say No to Drugs" show bag in time for the Melbourne Show. Sadly, those dastardly bikies got wind of it and wanted to shut the whole thing down to protect their profits.

And until I get bodyguards and libel insurance, I will ruthlessly delete all comments that posit any alternative theories!

Citations: The Age, 30/7/05; The Bulletin, 18/5/05; The Age, 30/7/05; The Age, 30/7/05

Word Count: 830

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