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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jeff Farmer Guilty - Again

The Dockers' Jeff Farmer is found guilty by the courts for yet another booze-fuelled rampage. His frequent trips to court are so blatant that he's attracting criticism from fellow footballers for sullying their reputations! Sadly, his employer remains locked in excuse-mode with carefully managed messages setting the stage for his return.

Jeff Farmer was ejected from Perth's Burswood Casino last Wednesday (18th of July). There are no allegations he was involved in anything unpleasant inside, but he was visibly drunk when given the boot. (Perhaps the casino - aware of Farmer's form when on the turps - decided an ounce of prevention was better than a discreet cash settlement.) Enraged by this, Farmer inexplicably smashed the left wing mirror of a car in the car park.

He was duly charged and pleaded guilty in the Perth Magistrates Court, where he was fined $750 plus another $58 in court costs. The piddling fine is typical of those reserved for "footballer justice", representing around 15 minutes of his playing time. The unusually low court costs may be due to the special prices negotiated by AFL clubs at the start of each year, where they buy court time in bulk to save money.

In addition, Farmer has his own "Frequent Flyer" loyalty program with the Perth Magistrates Court and his next appearance will be free, following various prior matters, including a conviction just two months ago for bashing up a bouncer at a Perth nightclub.

Despite previous convictions for alcohol-related violence, the magistrate Michael Wheeler was moved by these mitigating circumstances:

  • Farmer's "acceptance that he had an alcohol problem".

  • Farmer being "upset at the news that Chris Connolly had resigned as coach of the Dockers".

  • Farmer being "disappointed at being ruled unfit to play against Adelaide last weekend."

  • Farmer getting "glowing reference from now-sacked Dockers coach Chris Connolly".

  • Farmer "had suffered financially from of his 'spontaneous act of stupidity', because two of the player’s sponsors had dropped him".

  • Farmer being "'humiliated' by media coverage of the indiscretion".
  • (The West Australian, 25/7/2007)

As a result of judicial sympathy for these torments, Farmer "escaped being placed on a community-based order". I would point out that Farmer has been harried in the media so often for his drunken crimes that it beggars belief that he is still capable of feeling humiliation.

In a desperate bid to maintain his position with the club - he's 30 and, as Magistrate Wheelan warned, entirely lacking in any skills or qualifications - Farmer played the "rehab" card. Pioneered by others but perfected recently by Ben Cousins, this is now an all-purpose method for ensuring players can keep on doing what they want - on and off the field. As Peter Everitt (from the Sydney Swans) explains the racket:

"This is where players now probably hold a trump card as in 'I'll come out now and say I've got an alcohol problem, a drug problem, a sexual problem', whatever it is so their contracts don't get ripped up," Everitt said on Fox Sports News. "We've seen it a couple of times. I don't know if we'll see it at all clubs."

Everitt said clubs were now obliged to look after players who admitted addictions and not punish them and this was a stand backed by the AFL.

"The 'Wiz' (Farmer), you would definitely think, would be close to his last chance, but now he's got a whole new lease of life," Everitt said.

"He could probably play even this weekend, if he's up from his (groin) injury, by coming out and admitting something."


"It's a sad time for the individual, there's no doubt about that, and there's a hard road ahead. We've seen that with Ben," Everitt said. "But at the same time, is the AFL in a predicament? Can they ever sack someone?" Asked if players now had a 'get out of jail free' card, Everitt replied: "No doubt."

"This is the sad thing now. We are not afraid that we're going to get sacked and we won't get sacked because we'll sit there and blame it on (the addiction)," he said. "I'm not a hundred per cent sure on the issues surrounding depression, alcoholism and all the drugs.

"But if you're smart and put your hand up and rely on certain things you won't be thrown out on to the scrap heap in flames.

"There is a problem there (with Cousins and Farmer). I'm not doubting that.

"But what I'm saying is that you can do it (misbehave) until the club says 'I'm ripping up your contract' and the player can say 'I've got a problem'. (FoxSports, 25/7/2007)

If "Spida" Everitt can see through the scam - and is willing to point it out in public - then you know it is both obvious and widespread. This is just another example of clubs putting their immediate short-term interests ahead of the longer-term interests of the game and their obligations to the rest of our community.

To get a sense of the scale of hypocrisy and selfishness involved, consider these carefully spun words from Farmer's employer, Docker's CEO Cameron Schwab:

"The first point is everyone recognises and understands what an important player and an important person he is for our club," Schwab told Channel Nine.

"But for Jeff to actually realise the next stage of his career he has to come to terms with what he is doing from a behavioural point of view.

"He is letting down the club, letting down himself, he is letting down his teammates.

"We need to get some very strong assurances from Jeff that this will be the last time we go down this track.

"But I think there is a possibility he will continue his career with the club, without wanting to pre-empt where we are at."


"You just don't like to deprive people and supporters of their best players.

"Jeff has got a court case on Wednesday, we will wait for that outcome, and assess things after that.

"But we certainly went the other way with Jeff last time, suspending him for six weeks, and that appeared to not help him. So we may look at a different way to approach that." (The Age, 24/7/2007)

Schwab's starting point for analysing this is that Farmer is a good player for the club and his ending point is not wanting to hurt the club. He explains that suspending him for drunken criminal violence didn't work last time, so they won't try it again. His strategy seems to be to put his energy into managing the negative publicity, rather than improving the standards of his players or ensuring discipline.

This might help them win on the weekend, but what future is there for footy? How long before we see a team take to the field composed entirely of convicted child rapists and terrorists, cheered on by morally-bankrupt fans? When the last remains of decency and honour are sacrificed at the altar of winning, will anyone even care?

Citations: The West Australian, 25/7/2007; FoxSports, 25/7/2007; The Age, 24/7/2007

Word Count: 1187

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Teague Gets Lucky Break

Carlton occasional David Teague must be counting his blessings after he avoided a conviction for rendering an elderly woman a quadriplegic in a traffic accident last year.

Teague was driving an unfamiliar hoon wagon borrowed from a friend on June 18, 2006 at around 10:30am. He had just picked up his girlfriend, Hannah McNamara, after an early morning fun run. He was attempting to turn into McCutcheon Way, Collingwood but was going too fast and skidded out of control and mounted the curb on the opposite side of the road.

David Teague: "I'm glad with the result"
Source: News Corp.

Tragically, he plowed into a parked Corolla, in which an elderly woman was asleep. As a result of her severe injuries, she is now a quadriplegic. Teague was charged with careless driving.

Ford Falcon XR6 Ute: Similar model to the one driven by Teague
Source: Carpoint

This week, he fronted up to the Melbourne Magistrates Court (AFL Division) to answer these charges. He pleaded not guilty, due to a supposed technical glitch: the floor mat "bridged" both the accelerator and the brake.

In a taped interview, Teague told police the car accelerated unexpectedly as he turned.

"As I've gone to take the turn, I've taken my foot off the brake and as I've taken my foot off the brake, the car has sort of accelerated as I've gone around the corner," he said. "I can remember trying to turn and I've thought to myself, "Can't turn'."

Ms McNamara told the hearing that as the car careered out of control she called out "David" and he replied "I can't" before colliding with the Corolla.

"It seemed like there was something wrong, he wasn't in control," Ms McNamara said.

Two mechanical experts gave contrasting evidence over the likelihood that the car's foot mat interfered with the accelerator and contributed to the crash. (Herald-Sun, 17/7/2007)

With this introduction of reasonable doubt by a paid expert witness, the court dismissed the charges:

Melbourne magistrate Gerard Bryant today found Teague not (not) guilty of careless driving.

"I find that there is a reasonable hypothesis consistent with innocence," he said.

"I can't exclude as a reasonable hypothesis that the floor-mat interfered with the proper operation of the brake and the accelerator pedals." (The Age, 18/7/2007)

What can I say? Very little, as it happens, thanks to our defamation and contempt of court laws. One's mind does wonder to the possibilities of other traffic accident cases where expensive expert witnesses could have created similar doubts in the minds of magistrates - except the defendant lacked the profile, connections and money of a professional footballer.

For the record, there was no evidence of alcohol playing a role. In all the reports we turned up, the question of drug use was not raised. For what it's worth, I hope the police have a standard protocol for testing drivers in serious traffic accidents - especially on Sunday mornings! - for prescription and illicit drugs. Let's all pray the police didn't rely on the hopelessly compromised ASADA drug testing regime for this aspect of the investigation.

Perhaps the best thing that can be said is that Magistrate Gerard Bryant has sent a powerful message that the presumption of innocence is in fact alive and well in Australia, despite recent events. (At least, as far as wealthy, male, famous and white footballers are concerned.)

The downside from this observation is that David Teague has now used up all the presumption of innocence for a 500km radius for at least three months. Please, fellow Victorians, don't lend your mobile SIM card to anyone until the end of the year, just to be safe!

Let's keep in mind the real tragedy: while Teague has walked away from this, his victim cannot.

Citations: Herald-Sun, 17/7/2007; The Age, 18/7/2007

Word Count: 650

Tags: footy, court, traffic,

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Footballers Make Bad Company

In a move that has shocked even seasoned AFL player watchers, Collingwood's Alan Didak has been named and weakly-chastised for partying with Hell's Angel and alleged drug dealer and murderer Christopher Wayne Hudson. The persistent and widespread association between footballers and organised crime figures - especially bikies - can no longer be ignored and demands urgent action by footy's real fans.

The scene on Thursday, June 28 was depressingly familiar - a po-faced footballer uncomfortable in a shirt and tie, an angry club official, the salivating media and the glare of the public gaze as yet another footballer awkwardly stumbles his way through a written statement. This time, however, it wasn't another drink-driving or drug scandal. This time, the statement revealed that the ugly mutual appreciation and respect between outlaw motorcycle gang members and professional athletes had real repurcussions.

Excusing the Inexcusable: Didak's mea culpa
Source: The Age

It transpired that very late on the Saturday of the Queen's Birthday weekend, Alan Didak, Colin Sylvia and Chris Hudson were drinking together in a number of nightspots in Melbourne, including the strip club Spearmint Rhino. While Sylvia had passed out drunk, Didak accepted a lift home from Hudson and another man at around 4am. This car trip involved firing shots from a handgun out the window of the Mercedes-Benz coupe while crossing Bolte Bridge, a visit to the Hell's Angel's HQ at Campbelltown and more shots fired when police attempted to pull the car over. Didak was dropped off in the city at 6am, where he took a cab home to Kew.

Some two weeks later, Hudson was again at Spearmint Rhino in the early hours. There, he allegedly severely beat a stripper, Autumn Daly-Holt. Minutes later, Hudson was apparently attacking another stripper, Kara Douglas in downtown Melbourne at 8am when bystanders intervened. Solicitor Brendan Keilar and Dutch backpacker Paul de Waard were allegedly shot by Hudson, along with Douglas. While Douglas and de Waard have recovered, sadly Keilar died at the scene. After remaining at large for some days, Hudson turned himself in and is now facing several charges relating to firearms and, of course, murder.

Party Girls: Bashing victim Autumn Daly-Holt and shooting victim Kara Douglas.
Source: The Age

While the events were separated by a week, there is enough commonality in the locations and people involved that Didak is regarded as a witness by the police - albeit one with a terrible memory. From all accounts, Didak did not disclose what had happened, leaving some to argue that had Didak come forwards about Hudson and the gunplay that night, the murder and other violence could have been avoided. Others argue that Didak cannot be expected to anticipate criminality in others - even if they are firing handguns in the city.

However, the real issue is what Didak and Syliva were doing drinking in a strip joint with a motorcycle gang member. The nature of their relationship is unclear but may go back months. Why do these young men seek each others' company? Who, exactly, is trying to impress whom? Certainly, they have a lot in common: plenty of spare time, large amounts of cash and an unhealthy, proprietary attitude to women. It's worth noting that Alan Didak has made these pages before for his public displays of aggression with now ex-girlfriend, Cassie Lane. Similarly, Colin Sylvia has been to court for allegations that he assaulted his girlfriend Elise Whichello, also in public.

This is not the first time friendships between motorcycle gang members and footballers have come to light: the Coffin Cheaters go way back with WA's own Ben Cousins and Michael Gardiner. The word out there now is that Cousins - back from a miracle cure for his raging crystal methamphetamine addiction and eager to prove his suitability to return to the game - is once again associating with Gardiner and others with criminal connections:

The Sunday Age yesterday reported Cousins was last week at Melbourne's Beach Hotel with former teammate Michael Gardiner and Victor Kizon, brother of Perth's John Kizon [a convicted heroin trafficker], and another former Perth man who allegedly works for a company owned by the Coffin Cheaters motorcycle club.

He had travelled to Melbourne with the latter two on a private jet as guests of a Perth real estate company. (The Age, 18/6/2007)

Two years ago, the Hell's Angels allegedly abducted and tortured an "associate" of three Carlton players, Lance Whitnall, Nick Stevens and Heath Scotland. (Yes, that's right, the same Heath Scotland who was convicted of hitting a woman at a nightclub and was alleged to have done it again in Ballarat. Is anyone else detecting a theme here?)

The well-practised response from Collingwood to Didak's behaviour has been by-the-numbers: express "shock", "surprise" and "disappointment". Indicate it's touch-and-go that Something Serious might happen. Wheel out a contrite footballer mumbling some psycho-babble about personal growth and responsibility. Announce some minor restrictions (a curfew!) with regards to that one player. Wait a few days and finally, keep fielding him as if nothing has happened.

Of course, any pretensions of shock or surprise that Didak could involve himself with undesirables while attending Spearmint Rhino were severely undermined by comments made by club president Eddie McGuire last year in an earlier Didak court scandal:

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. (The Speccy, 10/10/2006)

That's right: Eddie specifically used attendance at Spearmint Rhino as an example of bad behaviour for an AFL player. Sadly, Eddie only banned his players from attending strip clubs after this sordid incident. It begs the question: why did Eddie link Didak to Spearmint Rhino - by name - in October last year? When Did Eddie find out that Didak attends this particular venue? Why did he allow Didak to attend this venue after specifically naming it in this way? Let's hope that someone with more clout than us puts these question to Eddie for a response.

Treating dangerous and bad men like children - curfews and alcohol bans indeed! - will only further infantalise them and encourage them into stupid cat-and-mouse games of monitoring and enforcement. ("Ooh ooh! I saw Didak with a beer at 12:30am!") If these scumbags don't know that it's wrong to beat up women, to hang out with bikies in strip clubs, to involve themselves with gunplay and drugs and organised crime figures, then they shouldn't be on the team. You cannot contract them into being ethical human beings who can represent their clubs with honour.

Unfortunately, most AFL fans have accepted that a number of senior and feted AFL stars have a long-standing relationship with bikies and career criminals. Drugs. Cash. Women. Violence. A match made in heaven. But it's a testament to the basic goodness of the Australian sports-loving public that Didak was repeatedly booed by the large crowd at his first match since his connection went public. (I choose to believe that this included even the die-hard toothless Collingwood fans.)

However, the public needs to go further to signal our discontent. Club officials and players are in a dangerous game of brinkmanship here, seeing how far they can push before we push back. The only language they speak is numbers: crowd attendance and club memberships. The AFL Player Spectator is calling on true football fans to ask themselves the following questions:
  • Has footballer behaviour improved since they started not needing real jobs anymore?

  • Are you consistently proud of they way your club's players deport themselves in public?

  • Has it been good for the game - or the players themselves - that footballers receive hundreds of thousands of our dollars a year in cash?

  • Does the behaviour you see week-in week-out reflect the values you'd like to see in your club?

  • Given the current AFL and club leadership, do you think it will get better or worse while the money continues to roll in?

  • Isn't there a local amateur competition in your area that could do with your support instead?

For years we've watched this rancid culture grow under the nurturing environment provided by professional footy. Enough is enough. We urge Australians to take a break from attending AFL club matches and writing cheques for membership. Please, redirect your energy, support and cash to a local competition. If, at the end of this season, the bean-counters at the AFL clubs actually see a blip in their figures, maybe - just maybe - we'll see some real changes in attitudes that will secure the long-term interests of the game.

*** UPDATE ***

Alan Didak has agreed to give evidence against his drinking buddy and sometime-driver, Christopher Wayne Hudson (formerly of the Hells Angels motorcycling enthusiasts group). While this move is to be commended, there are doubts about Didak's credibility:

Collingwood footballer Alan Didak was with Hudson on the morning of June 12, when shots were allegedly fired from a black Mercedes at a factory in suburban Campbellfield.

The court heard that Didak would offer evidence he was with Hudson on the night of the factory shooting.

It heard forensic evidence would link the firearm in the Campbellfield shooting to the CBD shooting.

However, Hudson's lawyer Theo Magazis told the committal mention hearing Didak's credibility was "very much in issue". (The Age, 7/11/2007)

While it's unlikely that the prosecution's case hinges on Didak's evidence, it does highlight the potential problems that arise when footballers' underworld experiences are "managed" by club spin-doctors.

Citations: The Age, 18/6/2007; The Speccy, 10/10/2006; The Age, 7/11/2007

Word Count: 1720

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Speccy Production Notice

Please note that The AFL Player Spectator has relocated to a new address:

The reason for the change was the unwieldy URL and capacity issues with the web host.

There should be no interruptions to the posts, comments or updates feeds or emails. If you experience any problems, please leave a note here and I'll try to sort it.

*** UPDATE ***

Unfortunately, we seem to be experiencing some problems with The Speccy's Update Feed. It no longer seems to be showing updates in order of recency, rather in order of original post (which is not the useful). I gather this is a result of moving to the blogspot platform, but I will have our IT department look into working with Blogger to get it fixed.

*** UPDATE ***

Good work, boys! The Speccy Update Feed is back and fully operational. Subscribe for all the gory details, follow-ups and latest news on those lingering stories.

Word Count: 66

Tags: footy



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