The AFL Player Spectator Current AFL Threat Level

Millionaires with a Year Ten Education
<     >

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Footy Chicks - The Movie

I finally got around to watching the documentary Footy Chicks, which lifts the lid on the sexual gamesmanship between professional footballers and their groupies.

Women love watching football. But some footy chicks have more on their mind than just the game. Off the field their goal is to get up close and personal with the players. The possibility of sex with a football player is a fantasy for many women and a reality for some. Footy Chicks explores the scene off the footy field - a colourful world of players and the women who pursue them.

I found this a profoundly disconcerting yet unsatisfying film, telling some of the stories of a few different footy chicks without really putting it into a wider social or psychological context. In particular, there was no contrast with sexual gamesmanship outside of the football world: What makes this warrant a documentary? Nor was there any examination of the interaction between these two worlds: How does the footballer/groupie scene influence wider society? Still, I guess it's not a scholarly undertaking but an entertaining attempt to give outsiders a view into what goes on and (to a degree) the rationalisation of the men and women involved.

Some of the women from Footy Chicks
Source: SBS

It's worth noting that the film is almost entirely devoted to rugby in its various forms (League and Union). I'd guess AFL-specific content at less than 10%. That said, I'm sure the rugby and Aussie Rules worlds are not so dissimilar that the scenarios aren't comparable.

Initially, the bravado of the women getting ready for a night of hunting down footballers was compelling and engaging. But then it sort of turned sour when we saw where it could - and often does - end up with the stories of group sex, attempted and actual rapes, demeaning and dehumanising behaviour, team bonding and sexual conquest. While some stories recounted suggest empowered and sexually confident women, others paint a picture of debasement, exploitation and self-subjugation that I found staggering. Honestly, can you still be enjoying yourself when having sex with the eleventh man? Or does being a vessel through which the team bonds carry its own special satisfaction? These are questions beyond my ken.

Interestingly, this link between group sex (in all its forms: simultaneously, sequentially and in parallel) and team-bonding was drawn out in some analytic detail. While the Footy Chicks shared some anecdotes, it wasn't clear how they saw it and their role in it. That said, one woman relayed that her girlfriend during one session was upset at being "the pig on a spit". Other women recognise that they're "just pussies" to the men, who don't care at all what they look like yet alone who they are. I'm not sure if this awareness is a good thing or not.

Suprisingly for me, the worst stereotypes are confirmed. The women involved in the active (in many cases exclusive) pursuit of players are young and fairly attractive, but we won't be seeing them on the cover of Ralph or Zoo. Pointedly, the one cheerleader interviewed (who could be in those publications) was wary of footballers as partners on the grounds that they're stuck up and prone to cheating. The Footy Chicks are primarily motivated by the physicality of the footballers, in particular their height. And their social status and, well, achievability.

Certainly, sex is the big driver. One woman had a collection of photos of naked players on her phone as trophies. She also pointed out the footballers she'd had "Ronnie" (her slang for sex) with and rated their competence. Yet in fantasising about players, this same Footy Chick talks about having her hair noticed, being picked up, getting married and making baby footballers. This somewhat infantile remark seemed at odds with the rest of her actions and attitudes. Is that deep down what she really wants or even expects? More realistic motivations (ascribed to others) are limited to bragging rights amongst other groupies and "tickets to the Brownlows". While some of the women some talked of being "elevated" to the realm of girlfriends or even wives, comments from the men indicated that in their minds there is a clear distinction between "girlfriend material" and, well, the others.

This tension - get noticed, get known, but don't get labelled a slut - wasn't really teased out, but would have made for some interesting analysis. In particular, interviews with women who "made it" as players' girlfriends and wives asking how they dealt with that tension and the widespread infidelity would have added emotional depth to the film. Is there a bargain? How is struck? How is it monitored and enforced? Perhaps these are topics for a follow-up documentary.

If you're at all interested in the sexual politics of Australian footy, this is a must-see doco. It's not for the squeamish and, while it didn't drive to the misanthropic despair it seemed to inflict on Speccy regular Ben Wallace, the ugliness and baseness with which people can treat each other certainly left a nasty taste in my mouth.

Trailer on Fairfax

Web Chat on SBS

*** UPDATE ***

Please be advised that this disturbing documentary is re-screening on SBS this Friday, 1st of June, at 10pm. Anyone with a strong stomach and an interest in footballer behaviour should check out this insiders' account of sexploitation and predation.

Word Count: 929

Labels: , , ,


<     >

Thursday, October 19, 2006

AFL's Influence on Australian Culture

One of the central messages on this blog is that footy is "the engine-room for the boganisation of Australia". In the northern states, rugby powers the underlying ugliness that leads to, for example, the Cronulla race riots of last summer. For the southern and western states, it's the attitudes and behaviours in the AFL that trickle down and wreak havoc on society. Today, we look at one case in point: an anti-Semitic attack by a regional Aussie Rules football team.

On Saturday, 14th of October, a busload of about 20 amateur footballers from the Ocean Grove Football Club left for a day of drinking at the Caulfield Races. At around 6:30pm, they were driving through Balaclava (part Melbourne's Jewish area[1]). They spotted a 33 year-old Jewish man, Menachem Vorchheimer. What followed is pure disgrace:

Mr Vorchheimer said the men yelled "F--- off Jews" and "Go the Nazis" before motioning as if they were shooting a machine gun at him and his children.


When the bus stopped at a red light, Mr Vorchheimer went to the driver's door.

"I wanted to find out where they were from so that . . . I could make approaches to that organisation," he said.

But the bus driver appeared to ignore him and took off when the light turned green.

As the bus drove past, two men reached out the back window, grabbed Mr Vorchheimer's [Shabbat] hat and skull cap [yarmulke] and hurled more abuse. [NB: traditionally, Jewish men were the small skull cap at all times, and the broad-brimmed Shabbat hat over the top during the Sabbath.]


Mr Vorchheimer said the men threw one of his hats out the bus window but when he asked for the other hat he was attacked.

"I was pulled toward the open window and then punched by a right hand into my left eye by a passenger on the bus. I fell back and was in enormous pain."

Mr Vorchheimer said he felt blood running down his face as the men threw his other hat out the window.

"Meanwhile my kids are on the sidewalk crying and screaming," he said. (The Herald-Sun, 17/10/2006)

Menachem Vorchheimer Shows Off Handiwork of Ocean Grove Football Thugs
Source: Herald-Sun

While police are still investigating the matter to examine individual charges, we can condemn the cowardly, insensitive and hate-filled actions of the entire football club. To compound matters, the reaction of the club officials is staggering:
[The president of the Ocean Grove Football Club, Michael] Vines says he is disappointed players were allegedly involved in the racial and physical abuse of the man.

"The last thing we want is our footy club blasted all over the front page of a newspaper and getting this type of publicity - like any sporting club we expect our players to behave in a responsible fashion," he said. (ABC News, 17/10/2006)

This isn't about "behaving responsibly" and avoiding bad press, it's about obeying the bloody law! This wasn't they boys getting drunk and throwing up - this was a hate-crime, involving cruel taunts, assault, theft and public humiliation. But it gets worse:
"If that did in fact occur, on behalf of the club I would apologise to him most sincerely," [Club President Michael Vines] said on Southern Cross Radio today.

Club coach Matthew Sproule said Mr Vorchheimer's hats were removed "accidentally" in a tussle through the bus window.

"The driver ... did not know the person at the back had the hat. We realised the person was chasing us down the street for his hat. We pulled over and we put the hat to the side, then we got run off the road by another person who wouldn't let us move after his hat was returned," he said on Southern Cross Radio.

"We don't know (who threw the punch) with all the commotion that was going on at the time.

"At the time the man in question asked for an apology and we gave an apology to him and he said, `No, it's 10 seconds too late. I'm calling the police.'" (The Herald-Sun, 17/10/2006)

Player/coach Matthew Sproule - who should have been in a leadership position on this - was involved with the pushing and shoving and failed to rein in the troops. He's now attempting to "blur out" any culpability of his club (accident my arse) and paint his victim as a "deal-breaker" who called the police despite some sort of "deal" over the apology. Combine this with the half-arsed conditional/tentative apology by the club president and it's clear there is a crisis of leadership in Ocean Grove.

The only positive from this whole sorry saga was that normal citizens surrounded the bus to stop it fleeing the crime scene and up to 50 witnesses stepped forward to provide statements to investigating police. Note that these upstanding people were not footballers.

It must be asked - what were those dickheads thinking? I grew up in Victoria's Southwest, on the Surf Coast, and I'm guessing that for many of those young men it was their first time in the Big Smoke. No doubt their mindset in setting out on the trip was to a) drink at least as much as everyone else at the, races; and b) show the uppity city-folk that they weren't overwhelmed or cowed by the tall buildings, traffic and crowds. Couple fear of the unknown with "small fish in big pond" syndrome and that bus of drunken knobs was a ticking time-bomb. For many of them, I'm betting Mr Vorchheimer was the first Jewish man in traditional garb they'd ever seen. They reacted like they would to any outsiders - with hate and violence. (Hence the gene pool in Ocean Grove must be getting a little murky, if you know what I mean.)

I'm not going to say that this happened because of AFL footballers. Dumb-shit yokels have been coming to the city, getting drunk and attacking Jews for hundreds of years. Anti-semitism is widespread among uneducated, monocultural morons who have been in-breeding for so long that they react with horror and moral panic to anyone who's not their cousin.

Yet it remains true that most of those 20-odd young men on the bus look up to and idolise AFL players. Can it be pure coincidence that this attack happened in the same month as five AFL players are facing court for drunken arrogance and violence (Heath Scotland, Chad Morrison, Brodie Holland, Alan Didak and Ben Johnson)? No, the AFL clubs tacitly condone illegal behaviour of their players by failing to sanction them in any meaningful way. This policy of "tolerance for talent" leaches out through the VFL and down into amateur leagues. From there, it spreads far and wide in the national consciousness, given the prevalence and high regard for footy.

Here's an example of how the hateful, violent mindset of the professional leagues is effectively exported to the amateurs:
"A former VFL [ie professional] footballer has been jailed for assaulting an opposition player during a match.

Former Broadford senior coach Paul Lawrence Tilley, 42, was jailed for six months in the Bendigo County Court yesterday after being found guilty by a jury of intentionally causing serious injury to a North Bendigo [ie amateur] player two years ago.

Tilley played 15 VFL games for Fitzroy and St Kilda in the 1980s.

Judge Roy Punshon sentenced Tilley, of Wallan, to a maximum of 18 months, but suspended a year of the term. (The Age, 17/10/2006).

AFL officials' reluctance to stamp out these attitudes stems from a desire to make money. A ban on law-breaking players means lower ticket sales and reduced TV audiences. This is why they could do more, but refuse. I'm not alone in the assessment that the AFL lies at the root of this problem but is reluctant to take it on:
Caulfield MP Helen Shardey condemned the attack. She said the AFL needed to do more to educate footballers at all levels about behaviour. (The Herald-Sun, 17/10/2006)

The prospect of sane, reasonable and violence-free footballers is unattainable. But we should not give up trying to reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks. To achieve this, we must understand where the hate - in this case, ignorant anti-semitism - is coming from, how it permeates society and why it's allowed to exist.

*** UPDATE ***

There have been more developments in this story which, quite rightly, refuses to go away. Firstly, it has become apparent that a serving police officer was involved. An (as yet unnamed) off-duty police officer was the driver of the bus who refused to provide Mr Vorchheimer with details of the group. He has become the subject of another police investigation, this time by internal affairs.

Secondly, two miscreants have come forward and admitted to participating in the assault. The third man, who struck Mr Vorchheimer in the face, has still not come forwards, although the club assures the public they've narrowed it down to "six possible suspects".

Thirdly, the planned field trip to the Holocaust Museum and Research Center was postponed due to concern it could interfere with the police investigation. There's no word yet on when this educational experience will continue.

Finally, radio entertainer Neil Mitchell has waded into the issue with an opinion piece in the local Murdoch tabloid. Mitchell makes all the right noises, but twists and turns like a worm on the hook to avoid sheeting home full responsibility to that group of drunken young men. Here's some of his moral gymnastics:
There is something about the mix of competitiveness, tribal team bonding and the booze, that regularly turns even sensible young men into yobbos.


[P]resumably they had not restricted themselves to the occasional dry sherry. This was a football trip, after all.

(And that raises another key point, nothing to do with racism. If somebody, somewhere had served fewer drinks, again this could have been avoided.)


The incident that left [Mr Vorchheimer] with a dangerous eye injury and blood pouring from his head could have been avoided if he had not made the decision to confront the ugliness.


[T]here seems little doubt that Mr Vorchheimer's objections escalated the clash from ugly to violent.


If a passing motorist had not intervened to block the bus, it would probably have headed back to Ocean Grove, carrying the hats and impending hangovers.

Mr Vorchheimer would have been left with a horrible story to tell but no injuries.

But what that motorist did, along with several others who helped, was a statement for decency because these people identified as unacceptable the actions of a few idiots. (Herald-Sun, 19/10/2006)

Mitchell goes on to praise the football club president, points out how it's brought Muslims and Jews together and provided an opportunity to showcase mainstream Aussies' values and intrinsic decency.

In my view, he sails very close to the wind on playing up to the prejudiced. While he is extensively critical of the young men on the bus, he casts this as inevitable and normal behaviour. It's not. He's also very keen to highlight the responsibilities of others in this - from those serving the drinks to Mr Vorchheimer requesting his hats back. From all accounts, Mr Vorchheimer's actions are reasonable and legal. Notice how Neil Mitchell plays up the bystanders' intervention as "a statement for decency", yet Mr Vorchheimer's was not. There's no praise for him, just the insinuation that it could have all been avoided if he just copped the abuse as an inevitable (though undesirable) part of life.

In Mitchell's final analysis, Australians have no need for introspection or analysis as to why this happened. And the AFL certainly bears no responsibility for promoting a culture of hate and intolerance. No, it's just part of life and something to be expected. Well, Neil, I call bullshit. These ugly attacks are not to be tolerated or accepted. We must understand why they happen and get at them root and branch.

*** UPDATE ***

The last pair of miscreants in the Ocean Grove Jewish race-hate case have had their day in court. In a surprising move by a Victorian judicial figure, one was even convicted:

Magistrate Julian Fitz-Gerald in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court fined Grubbers captain and best and fairest winner James Dalton $1000 but did not convict him of behaving in an offensive manner.

Mr Dalton's teammate Matthew Cuthbert was fined $750 and convicted for using insulting words, which Mr Fitz-Gerald described as appalling, offensive and racist.


Mr Fitz-Gerald said Dalton and Cuthbert's behaviour was "criminal, hurtful, insensitive, ignorant, at its base racist and anti-semitic [and] is to be condemned and I do so". (Geelong Advertiser, 15/11/2007)

To understand these horrific and appalling actions by drunken young men, we need to understand football culture. A culture based on exclusion, derision and mindlessness. These yokels are just re-enacting what they see from their superstar AFL heroes. Worse still, the small-town amateur club is adopting the denialist and hostile approach more befitting of a professional club:

President Michael Vines hit back at claims made in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court that the club's efforts in the wake of the abuse had been sparse.


Mr Vines said Mr Vorchheimer's children had recently launched a civil claim against the Ocean Grove Football Club.

Mr Vorchheimer's wife took the action in the Equal Opportunity Commission on her children's behalf, after they saw the incident.


But Mr Vines said the club did not accept any legal liability to Mr Vorchheimer or his family because the incident occurred in the off-season and the bus trip was not a club-organised event. (Geelong Advertiser, 16/11/2007)

Yeah, way to go, big guy. The end-of-season bus trip to the Caulfield Races wasn't organised by he club so it can shirk responsibility? Even Eddie McGuire would be proud of that one.

[1] Known within the community as "The Ghetto". This is both technically accurate (the Jewish quarter of a European city is historically referred to as a ghetto) and ironic (the modern meaning of the word is associated with slums and urban decay, yet these suburbs are extremely genteel and expensive).

Citations: The Herald-Sun, 17/10/2006; ABC News, 17/10/2006; The Herald-Sun, 17/10/2006; The Herald-Sun, 17/10/2006; Herald-Sun, 19/10/2006; Geelong Advertiser, 15/11/2007; Geelong Advertiser, 16/11/2007

Word Count: 2450

Labels: , , ,


<     >

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Long March ... to Court

You can take a player out of the AFL, but you can't take the AFL out of the player. Revered former AFL star Michael Long, of the Bombers, will front the beak next month over an alleged bout of late-night bashing in a Darwin pub. The Aboriginal footballer has been held in high esteem by many Australians, but sadly, may yet prove that their faith was misplaced.

Both The Australian and The Age seem to be running the same basic copy (NB: Age cited here since it stays online longer.)

Long, 37, a former premiership player with AFL club Essendon, will deny allegations he assaulted David Henry in Darwin's St Mary's social club after the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) grand final on March 25, his lawyer said.

Mr Henry has accused the Aboriginal sporting hero of striking him four times in the head during a late night altercation.

Long was later charged by police with assault.

Long's lawyer David De Silva told Darwin Magistrates Court on Tuesday that his client, who was interstate, intended to contest the charge.

Registrar Brenda McGarrity adjourned the assault matter until November 16. (The Age, 9/10/2006)

There's no doubt that Michael Long has done much to advance the interests of indigenous people in this country, especially indigenous footballers. But if the allegations are true, that's hardly an excuse. Hell, if Nelson Mandela beat someone up in a pub fight I'd be equally condemning. While his (non-football) service to the community might be a factor in any sentencing, let's hope it doesn't influence findings of guilt or otherwise.

We'll be following this story closely, along with the upcoming trials of current Magpies Brodie Holland and Alan Didak.

Citations: The Age, 9/10/2006

Word Count: 299

Labels: , , ,


<     >

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Didak Crosses The Line

By now, you've no doubt heard: Alan Didak has lived up to expectations with a big win for Collingwood. No, I'm not talking about the Copeland Trophy - I'm talking about the next court appearance by our esteemed AFL players.

It's no secret that the Magpies have long been regarded as favourites for this dubious award. With ticking time-bombs like Chris Tarrant and Ben Johnson on board, it was just a matter of time. Didak - disgraced for his earlier public row with pin-up Cassie Lane - was always a major liability. But let's go through what happened.

The word is that Didak had consumed "five or six beers" over an hour or so with a friend at a nightclub in Hawthorn. He then jumped into a cab around 1am and asked to be taken home to Kew, about a $10 cab fare. The driver was reluctant to proceed. It's not clear whether this was due to the small fare, concern at Didak's ability to pay, his apparent drunkeness or his reputation for volcanic eruptions. Given the terrible spate of taxi-driver assaults recently, we should not presume that the driver was not just displaying commonsense and reasonable care for his own safety. Let's face it: alcohol-influenced footballers plus taxis are often a recipe for disaster.

More money was offered, with the driver bidding up to $25.

"The taxi driver said he would not take me," Didak said. "He wanted $25. Obviously, I didn't think it was a reasonable price, so I stayed in the cab but he ordered me to get out." (The Australian, 7/10/2006)

At this point, Didak was being a first-grade knob and law-breaker. Who would think it's acceptable to wage a Ghandi-like, one-man, sit-in protest in someone else's cab? Only a footballer. Fortunately, a police patrol happened by, witnessed the dispute and ordered Didak out of the taxi. What subsequently transpired is unknown, but Didak ended up at the City Watch-House to sober up, where:
The club's chief operating officer, prominent former Melbourne lawyer Eugene Arocca, picked Didak up from the police station when he was released. [Eddie] McGuire said Mr Arocca saw Didak was not drunk.

Speaking to Mr Arocca, who was with him during the telephone interview, Mr McGuire said he said: "Eugs, was he sober?"

"He was sober," was Mr Arocca's reply.

Mr McGuire said he asked Mr Arocca, "Will it be vigorously defended if he's charged for being drunk?, to which Mr Arocca replied "Yep". (SMH, 6/10/2006)

Was he really drunk? The police believe so, charging him with drunk and disorderly conduct. He admitted to drinking quite a few beers fairly quickly. I guess the upcoming case on November the 8th in Melbourne Magistrates Court (AFL Division) will settle it. While his lawyer will be appearing for him, this will still count as a court appearance for the purpose of the footy betting pool. (Some smart cookie is offering $75 for each Collingwood contract, believing it will pay out $100 in a month. This suggests they believe there's a less than 25% chance of another club pipping them at the post.)

With the benefit of a few days' breathing space, it's worth examining the spin at work. First is the reaction of the club's CEO Greg Swann. He was reported in The Age as stating "There was no suggestion he was drunk, there's no suggestion of a court appearance." Uh, really? He's answering a charge of drunkenness in court. Once again, reality and public statements from a football official slide past each other without as much as courteous nod.

This "brute force" approach to bending reality to their corporate interests belies Swann's lack of sophistication. Enter the man with a PhD in Spin, Eddie McGuire. His first salvo - which I sadly cannot cite online as I read it in mX - was to claim that Alan Didak was going home, not heading out to Spearmint Rhino. Apparently, that's a franchised strip club. Only Eddie would employ his intimate working knowledge of Melbourne's sex industry in defence of an embattled player. The logic is that a player can effectively trespass and become a drunken nuisance as long he's not going to a strip club. Interesting.

Eddie's next tack was to argue that the five or six beers sunk in an hour or so did not make Didak drunk. He only seemed drunk:
"Some of the information we get is that the officer who was there thought he was a little wobbly on his feet and you tend to be that way when you've just had a knee reconstruction," Mr McGuire told Southern Cross Broadcasting today. (SMH, 6/10/2006)

Wow. Credit where it's due, he is brilliant. PBL have done well to secure his services - well-worth boning a hundred journos to help pay for genius like that.

The last piece was an appeal to the public that he must have been acting reasonably, because Collingwood learnt their lesson after the Chad Morrison TAC sponsorship affair:
For player welfare, and in line with the club's lucrative Transport Accident Commission sponsorship, Mr McGuire said players were taught to act responsibly when drinking.

He said Didak was following the guidelines. (SMH, 6/10/2006)

The underlying morality - we follow the law because we're paid to - is just glossed over. Should they lose TAC sponsorship, would they stop acting responsibly when drinking? Seen in this light, Eddie's remarks seem more like a threat to me. In any case, Didak patently wasn't "acting responsibly when drinking" or else he wouldn't have engaged in civil disobedience campaign and found himself locked up in the City Watch House.

The real wonder here is what prompted a drunken footballer to cause a ruckus in that cab. Sure, Didak is an angry young man, full of frustrations. Perhaps he was still reeling from the almost-universal condemnation of his glamazon girlfriend Cassie Lane as worst-dressed at the Brownlows? Perhaps it was frustration at missing next season due to knee surgery? Perhaps it was just plain-old interaction effects between his post-op pain-killers and the booze? We'll likely never know.

But one thing we can be sure of: as long as someone taking home hundreds of thousand of dollars a year will argue the toss on a $25 cab fare, there'll always be "dickhead footballer in court" stories.

Citations: The Australian, 7/10/2006; SMH, 6/10/2006; SMH, 6/10/2006; SMH, 6/10/2006

Word Count: 1089

Labels: , , ,


<     >

Monday, October 02, 2006

Graceless Winners Ignore Kids

Sometimes a picture says a thousand words. This beautiful photo by Tim Carrafa was used in The Australian to highlight the selfish acts of some West Coast Eagles players on receiving their Premiership Medal in the 2006 Grand Final.

Little Kid Shunned By Triumphant Footy Hero

Source: Tim Carrafa in The Australian

Yeah, you're number one, alright.

Apparently, we shouldn't feel too bad for the kids publicly rejected in this way. Auskick coach and chief apologist Darrell Marr defends the brutish players:
"So it's no wonder a few of them forgot about the kids yesterday – they've got a premiership medallion, and they don't think of anything else, to be quite honest." (The Australian, 2/10/2006)

Sad, but true. The sooner the poor little tykes realise the massive, overwhelming importance of footy over any form of civility, the sooner they can adjust to living in Australian society.

Citations: The Australian, 2/10/2006

Word Count: 163

Labels: ,


<     >

Footbrawlers In Pub Bashing

It seems the end of season hijinx are well underway, with several high-profile players involving themselves in a pre-Grand Final pub brawl. (Please note we're still on the Red threat level.) Following a depressingly familiar pattern, allegations of assault are made, but as yet, there's no word on consequences for the players.

The events took place at the Prince of Wales Hotel (in St Kilda) and involved a mixture of Brisbane Lions and local Saints players. While accounts are still sketchy and video footage is being examined, the gist seems to be that current and former "heroes" had gathered for a session at lunchtime on Thursday (28th of September) at Sapore restaurant. The group of up to eight players allegedly included well-known figures Fraser Gehrig, Michael Voss, Simon Black and the lesser-known Steve Lawrence and Craig McCrae.

It was much later at 1am, inside the Prince of Wales Hotel, that the fracas kicked off. (I'm willing to be they weren't all sipping lemonade for the intervening 12 hours.) Jarrod Rouse, 27, of Box Hill and his girlfriend Jaclyn Cameron were also enjoying a drink in the pub:

Jarrod Rouse, 27, said his girlfriend Jacqueline [sic] was subjected to lewd comments and gestures.

"They were being sleazy. We all said we didn't want any trouble," Mr Rouse said.

He said Lawrence, who plays for Port Melbourne, made a threatening gesture with a pool cue as they sat at their table.

Mr Rouse, who admitted he was drunk, said Jacqueline then pushed the cue back at the former St Kilda player.

"It escalated from there. I was just there trying to protect my girl," he said.

Mr Rouse said fighting broke out, during which he wrestled with Gehrig and was struck by others.

Jacqueline said: "There were four or five people kicking my boyfriend."

Mr Rouse's friend Jules said he was punched and knocked out after the violence spilled outside.

Jules said he remembered little after the initial angry words.

"I remember the bloke putting the the pool cue in Jacqueline's face. I must have been king-hit pretty soon after that. I was out cold," he said.

Mr Rouse said he had spoken to police. (The Herald-Sun, 29/9/2006)

No further news has been forthcoming, but here are some choice quotes from other sources:
"I found myself on the ground being attacked, being stomped, being kicked," [Rouse] told Ten News. (The Australian, 29/9/2006)

Ms Cameron told Channel 7 News last night ... "I pushed it back onto him. They pulled down my dress at some point. They pulled the button off Jarrod's pants and tried to pull his pants down," Ms Cameron said. (The Age, 29/9/2006)

Mr Rouse and Ms Cameron have not been shy about letting people know what happened. The public is being asked to believe that a group of current and former footballers - after drinking for 12 hours - made lewd comments to a young woman in a pub. They go on to allege that when she reacted to having a pool cue waved in her face, she was attacked, while her boyfriend was given a good kicking by a group of four or five of them and his mate was king-hit and knocked unconscious.

This paints the group of footballers as arrogant, drunken thugs, used to throwing their weight around, disrespecting women, quick to resort to violence, not fighting fair and showing no qualms in hospitalising people with whom they disagree. Could this be right?

Of course, we have to hope that the wheels of justice begin to turn, but it seems to even a casual observer of our footy stars that this is at least a plausible account of what went down. The ugly drink-and-biff culture is well-established. There are plenty of instances of footballers using group violence as a bonding ritual. Throw in the nasty sexual tinge of allegedly pulling down Ms Cameron's dress plus the homoerotic humiliation of Mr Rowse in removing his pants and we've got typical AFL player misbehaviour on our hands.

We can only hope that the deafening silence in the media this weekend and lack of official police statement doesn't continue. Nor that these vociferous complaints will be drowned out by the familiar rustling sound of - yet again - fat wallets being opened.
*** UPDATE ***

Justice may yet be done in this disgraceful case, with detectives looking to charge some of those involved. Eight players will be sweating on this, including high-profile players Fraser Gehrig, Michael Voss and Simon Black:
Detectives will decide who will face court after they complete a review of evidence against the group, which includes current and former football stars.

Police have confirmed some AFL figures are likely to be charged with assault.

Brisbane criminal lawyer Michael Bosscher, representing Voss, Black, [Craig] McCrae and [Craig] Lambert, said his clients denied any wrongdoing.

Det. Sen-Sgt Phil Hubbard, of St Kilda police, said he expected decisions to be made late this week on who would be charged. (Sunday Herald Sun, 3/6/2007)

*** UPDATE ***

Yep, I'm delighted to report that members of this pack of brawlers have been charged:

Brownlow medallists Michael Voss and Simon Black and St Kilda forward Fraser Gehrig are among six men who have been charged over a brawl at a St Kilda hotel on September 29 last year.

Police charged former Brisbane skipper Voss with unlawful assault, while current Lions co-captain Black has been charged with recklessly causing injury and assault by kicking.

Gehrig faces one charge of unlawful assault.


Former Brisbane and St Kilda AFL player Steven Lawrence has also been charged with intentionally causing injury, two charges of unlawful assault and another charge of recklessly causing injury.


"Both Michael and Simon are disappointed with this decision," their lawyer Michael Bosscher said in a statement. (The Age, 6/6/2007)

I'll tell you what's disappointing: that drunken (coke-fuelled?) footballers run around this town like they own it, molesting women, king hitting people, sinking the boot and all while enjoying the full support of their employers. Here's hoping making an example of these idiots will scare the rest straight.

The court hearing is scheduled for August 7th, but given how loathe the courts are to inconvenience players mid-season, I'm expecting to turn up with my popcorn and sketch pad, oh, I dunno, early October? (Depends how Brissie does in the finals, I guess.)

If past experience is anything to go by, the courts graciously try to squeeze AFL players' court appearances into the tiny window between the Grand Final and the clubs' end-of-season drug-binge/sex-tourism trips. (To be fair, the courts should be grateful that the footballers even deign to attend at all.)

*** UPDATE ***

In a triumph of modern technology, security footage of the attack has been leaked to the media. This presents a rare opportunity to watch a group of highly-paid drunken footballers thumping, bashing, kicking and brawling their way to glory.

Note that The Speccy has rated the video as MA 15 (Marauding Arseholes, with combined IQ of 15).

*** UPDATE ***

While this is still before the criminal courts, The Hun is reporting that civil action has been launched against this pack:

THREE-time premiership captain and Brownlow medallist Michael Voss is among a group of former and current AFL footballers being sued over a pub brawl last year.

Voss, fellow Brownlow medallist Simon Black, St Kilda spearhead Fraser Gehrig and former Brisbane players Steven Lawrence, Craig McCrae and Craig Lambert, are facing civil action over the fight at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Melbourne on September 29 last year.

Pub patrons Jarrod Rouse, his girlfriend Jaclyn Cameron and friend Julius Smith are taking legal action against the players. (Herald-Sun, 30/8/2007)

Good for them! I hope they take the players' shirts.

Citations: The Herald-Sun, 29/9/2006; The Australian, 29/9/2006; The Age, 29/9/2006; Sunday Herald Sun, 3/6/2007; The Age, 6/6/2007

Word Count: 1185

Labels: , , ,


«           *           »