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Monday, June 18, 2007

Freo in Top-End Ugliness

In a devastating return to form, Chris Tarrant led the Dockers into pub brawl victory at a popular Darwin nightspot. The Tarrant "scuffle" reportedly has left at least one staffer unconscious, a politician bashed, locals shocked and a poor woman with the horrible image of Tarrant's pimply white arse burned into her retinas.

[With this blog taking heat for a lack of AFL criminal behaviour, it couldn't have come at a better time too. God bless beer. And you too, Chris Tarrant, you angry dumb thug.]

The details are sketchy and still emerging, but here's the story as it currently stands. The Dockers lost to the Western Bulldogs in Darwin on Saturday. By the wee hours, they were drinking in Darwin's The Lost Arc bar. At about 2am, Tarrant allegedly bared his arse to an unnamed woman (a strength and conditioning coach) in the company of Damian Hale, AFL coach at the Australia Institute of Sport and Federal Labor candidate. Perhaps for emphasis, Taz slapped his bare arse.

At this point, Mr Hale demonstrated a distinct lack of understanding of what it means to be an AFL superstar. I almost can't believe anyone with AFL experience could be foolhardy enough to confront a drunken footballer with these words, even with the brute's pants around his ankles:

"It was just offensive, I thought, in the way he basically brought down his trousers and bared his backside to her," [Damian Hale] claimed. "It was just bizarre, I was stunned.

"I said to him, 'Mate, just because you're an AFL footballer doesn't mean you can treat her like this'. His behaviour was insulting and unacceptable to a lady." (Fox Sports, 19/6/2007)

Hello? (Tap, tap.) Yes, it bloody well does! Don't you get it? He's a footballer. He can shout at her, punch her, imprison and terrorise her, betray and abandon her - hell, he can urinate on her. And it will all be forgiven. Hell, by AFL standards, baring and slapping one's arse to a woman is the equivalent to a formal offer of marriage on bended knee with a solitary red rose in the teeth.

At this point in the exchange, Hale alleges, Chris Tarrant punched him in the face.

"He's just punched me, gave me one and then he took off, so I didn't retaliate or anything and then we left almost straight after that," Hale told the Nine Network. (Herald-Sun, 18/6/2007)

Ah yes, punch and run. Classic cowardly bully. No doubt if Tarrant's brawlmate Ben Johnson was backing him up, he might have stayed around a bit longer to sink the slipper. But by himself? Zip - he's gone, disappeared into the crowd.

Needless to say, the Darwin locals turned hostile. The footballers and their camp left, with some bottles being thrown at them as they departed. Apparently, Freo's assistant coach Mark Harvey went to intervene in an altercation involving Heath Black's partner and was king-hit by someone who disappeared back into the crowd. Harvey may have hit his head, but briefly lost consciousness. On the telly news, Freo officials were very keen to point out that it wasn't anyone from their team who punched him out and everything is really super-fine and not to believe local reports of a prior confrontation involving Tarrant and Jason McCartney. Hmmm.

I should mention that, 12 months ago, Chris Tarrant admitted involvement in a vicious Port Melbourne car park kicking that resulted in serious head injuries and a man in intensive care for some weeks. Here at The Speccy, we can't help but wonder if the lenient special treatment he received at that time by his employer, the media, the legal system and the wider public might not have contributed to this incident.

Chris Tarrant is a violent young man and even committed football fans are quick to dismiss him as a thug. (He lacks the serious talent of an Ablett, Carey or even Cousins that buttresses these men with excuse after excuse by their loyal apologists.)

Tarrant also has an extremely litigious manager, who made all sorts of nasty media threats regarding the reportage of Taz at a Jet concert smoking a cigarette. I image he's on retainer, so he'll be earning his money this week.

As the spotlight turns once more on Tarrant, his team-mate Jeff Farmer is due to return to the field after his club-imposed six-week ban for an ugly nightclub assault. Here's hoping that Freo does the right thing this time, too, though it's looking doubtful.

While Mr Hale declares he does not wish to proceed with the matter, it is still possible the legal system will be involved. In particular, it would be fascinating to see how Darwin's famed magistrates would deal with this case.

Students of both jurisprudence and history could witness how 19th century legal precepts can be applied in the modern world. On the one hand, a footballer has allegedly been hitting people in a Darwin pub (a cause for celebration, apparently). On the other hand, a woman's honour was besmirched (really not on). What to do? Perhaps the beak could reach across the bench and bitch slap Tarrant - that might make everyone happy.

*** UPDATE ***

It's starting to sound a lot like the entire Fremantle cohort is so unlovable and boorish that they are shunned by even Darwin's drinkers and forced to retreat under a hail of bottles.

The latest word is that Freo is handballing responsibility for investigating this incident (and presumably punishing Chris Tarrant) over to the AFL. It all just got a bit too hard, especially with comparisons to Jeff Farmer's six-week suspension making an uncomfortable (and expensive) prospect for the club.

Further tidbits include: allegations that Tarrant was jumping on cars in Mitchell St after the Dockers left the bar; up to 20 Freo players and officials were involved in the confrontation before things kicked off; police won't be making any inquiries unless Mr Hale or his female colleague make a complaint; Mr Hale's position has shifted from being "dead-set over it", to wanting an apology from Tarrant to his female colleague.

We can expect the results of the AFL's investigation by Thursday. Given the ease with which a truly shocking drugs scandal was recently whitewashed, I'm confident we'll be seeing Mr Tarrant on the field very soon ... and in these pages.

*** UPDATE ***

The word is in on Chris Tarrant's penalty. My earlier prediction was a little off - a one week suspension and a half-week ($5,000) fine.

Allen Roberts (AFL investigator) completed his inquiries yesterday, along with his recommendations. This decision by Fremantle is a step in the right direction and re-inforces the "new code" that's been in operation this season: off-field misbehaviour will be countered with on-field sanctions. Perhaps this is a result of handing responsibility to the League, rather than leaving it entirely up to clubs? If so, this model should be explored further.

It's worth noting that Tarrant's suspension was nominally three weeks, but the last two have been "suspended" pending good behaviour. A "suspended suspension"? The AFL has picked this up from the Melbourne Magistrates Court (AFL Division), where footballers are routinely (ahem) "punished" by being forced to promise they'll obey the law in future (eg Colin Sylvia). Along with the newly-discovered concept of "provocation", this is an unwelcome import from the legal system into the AFL.

*** UPDATE ***

More evidence of a sick culture at Fremantle, with news that six players have been suspended for disciplinary problems stemming from alcohol abuse:

A DISCIPLINARY crackdown has seen six Dockers sidelined for this weekend's AFL match against Port Adelaide - four of them for a mid-week drinking session.


[Antoni] Grover, [Des] Headland, [Steven] Dodd and [Brett] Peake were all censured for drinking mid-week, while [Paul] Hasleby was dropped for missing last Sunday's recovery session after the win over Melbourne and [Dean] Solomon was late for the same session. (PerthNow, 30/8/2007)

Credit where it's due, it looks the Fremantle leadership team is prepared to take a hit on-field - odds shortened from $1.33 to $1.22 on news of the suspensions - to drive off-field behaviour. I hope they think of it as an investment in the club.

Citations: Fox Sports, 19/6/2007; Herald-Sun, 18/6/2007

Word Count: 1294

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