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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Didak Misbehaviour a Shaw Thing

Just a few weeks after coming off his "special provisions" contract, troubled Magpie Alan Didak has been unmasked as the secret passenger yet again. No, not in a "hell-ride" involving a drug-dealing murderous Hell's Angel, but in Collingwood's growing Heath Shaw bingle scandal.

But let's back things up. Alan Didak has been a frequent subject on this blog, notably for his 2006 public blue with then-girlfriend, glamazon model Cassie Lane and his confrontation with a taxi driver that saw him charged. (Incidentally, this event caused Collingwood to win the betting pool in the Aussie Rules Misbehaviour Market.)

But what really gained Didak notoriety was his friendship with Hell's Angel Christopher Wayne Hudson. His resulting lift home from the Spearmint Rhino strip club - with shots fired out the window, including at police - and visit to the Hell's Angel's headquarters came to light a few days after Hudson later horribly beat a stripper (Autumn Daly-Holt), shot another one (Kara Douglas) and shot two men who came to their assistance (solicitor Brendan Keilar and Dutch backpacker Paul de Waard). Sadly, Mr Keilar passed away.

Didak attracted criticism for his friendship and association with Hudson, his reluctance to come forwards and his somewhat hazy recollection of events when questioned. That weekend Didak was booed by the crowd in what was possibly the Collingwood cheer squad's finest hour.

As a result of his repeated and accelerating poor judgement, he had special clauses put on his contract with Collingwood, ensuring that he stayed off the booze and kept to a curfew. This for a 25-year-old grown man with a six-figure income! Sadly, these juvenile measures seem to have been necessary. Just a couple of weeks ago, the clauses were lifted as part of Didak's new $800,000 contract. Now we have this.

(You can see why Carlton's Brendan Fevola - himself no stranger to a bingle scandal! - is resisting efforts to have similar "behavioural restrictions" attached to his contract. They actually work.)

Heath Shaw - a relative clean-skin - got pissed on Sunday at a suburban pub, Hawthorn's Geebung Polo Club. He then drove home (at 0.15 BAC or three times the legal limit). Remember, this is a man with a large income and his own free, priority taxi service. Predictably, he ploughed into two parked cars, causing damage and waking the neighbours.

While Didak was spotted at the scene, the pair denied he was in the car. Club president, Eddie McGuire, took that at face value and defended Alan Didak with the memorable line that he "will be accused of the Kennedy shooting next". Of course, the truth emerged within hours and with it the reality: these men had tried to lie their way out of a bad situation.

After humiliating the club and casting a pall over the credibility and competence of Eddie McGuire, they're gone. Alan Didak has been fined $5000 and Heath Shaw has been fined $10,000. Shaw's brother, Rhyce Shaw, has been fined $5000 and suspended for two matches for drinking late on Sunday. Most importantly, Didak and Heath Shaw have been suspended for the rest of the year. Here at The Speccy, we commend the club for taking a decent, sensible and forward-looking stance.

While criticised by some commentators as "a ridiculous overreaction", this indeed sends a powerful signal to players. No, not the bit about getting hammered and driving your car. Hey - many, many players have done that and escaped sanction. It wasn't even the lying about it bit - after all, Scott Thompson's incident also involved a few hours of the who-was-where-doing-what game before the truth came out. No, it was lying to the club and making Eddie looked like a fool that did them in. Headlines like "Magpie lies humiliate McGuire" (Macarthur Advertiser) are just not acceptable given McGuire's, um, tenuous and difficult position at Nine, as failed CEO and TV presenter-sans-show. He can't afford to look like a patsy at this crucial stage of his career.

But just in case we were in any doubt about what exactly the sins were, former club captain Nathan Buckley spelled it out:

Buckley told Radio 3AW this morning that Shaw and Didak's lies were "unforgivable".
"For those players to be out from a football perspective six days before a game, when they have had an eight-day break is just unacceptable and then to top it off by being dishonest to the people in an environment where you rely on honesty and you rely on trust is unforgivable,'' Buckley said. (The Age, 5,8/2008)

Drinking on a school night. Check. Telling lies. Check. Oh, and the drink-driving/jeopardising others' safety part? Well, unless they ran over another listed Collingwood player, I'm not getting a strong sense that Buckley has thought about that too much. Gotta admire his focus, if not his morals.

Another former club great (and uncle of Heath and Rhyce), Tony Shaw, put his oar in by pointing out the effects of a footy club's ingrained tribal rules and over-arching commercial imperative. He also has a sense of where the problems lie:

Tony Shaw earlier told Radio 3AW that by covering for Didak, his nephew had "picked the wrong person".

"I think Heath deserves everything he cops in all ways from the club but the one thing about it, the lying part, there's no doubt there's an unwritten law within footy clubs that you look after your mates and unless they do something that physically harms someone or something against the law ... maybe Heath did the right thing in one way in helping out a mate but he probably picked the wrong person to do it for,'' he said.


"I'd be pretty dirty if I was Heath.''

The club legend said the administration had not handled things properly.

"I the (club's) just trying to make an example and they haven't set the scene prior to this - Eddie (McGuire) will tell you I've rung him a number of times about different players doing different things off the field for nearly four to five years and I think that the protectionism that Eddie's trying to give the club to save their image in fact is detrimental to the very thing that you try to build and that's the culture," Tony Shaw said. (The Age, 5,8/2008)

It's certainly food for though and while it doesn't diminish the culpability of Heath Shaw and Alan Didak, it does go some way to explaining how this cultural problem can be tackled. Hint: Eddie McGuire (and his ilk), with their spin and cover-ups and master media manipulation, are part of the problem.

Let's not forget that it was just two years ago that we saw the terrible Chris Tarrant-Ben Johnson car park assault that left a young man in hospital with severe head injuries. Let's recall how Eddie responded to criticism that the two players would be allowed to represent the club the following weekend, rather than face suspension:

"We're playing for the finals and they owe us. They're not getting the night off, you don't get a day off when you're playing the top side in a big game. They owe their supporters and they owe their teammates and they'd better get a kick." (The Age, 3/8/06)

And let's also recall the so-called Malthouse Doctrine, whereby the really good players become beyond reproach:

"The fact that Chris and Ben are crucial to the on-field success of Collingwood has influenced my decision. Had they been youngsters on the fringe of selection, I might have thought a playing ban was in order.", [said Collingwood coach, Mick Malthouse]. (The Age, 4/8/2006)

Perhaps this is the kind of behaviour Tony Shaw had in mind when he made his comments? In any case, public sentiment has shifted a lot in two years and I doubt that even McGuire would try this "they owe us" line again.

So we've had two players fined and suspended for the rest of the year. The Collingwood Football Club has taken steps to ensure that these two players will behave better in future. More to the point, by taking on the pain of absenting two promising young players, they've signalled that the club is prepared to take a long-term investment view when it comes to player discipline. For all this, they are to be congratulated. It's just a shame that it took lies and deceit to trigger this response, rather than the selfish, criminal, stupid and dangerous act of drink-driving.

Citations: The Age, 5,8/2008; The Age, 3/8/06; The Age, 4/8/2006

Word Count: 1466

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  • There seems balance in the force to have you back commenting (as strange as that is).

    Its early and I only read this piece once, so sorry if I missed the feeling of it, but I am not sure you have done Tony Shaw just. He has called for his old club to be tougher for a long time on these sort of issues, dating way back to the first incidents.

    On Collingwood. As silly as it might sound, I thought they came over very strong on Monday with the press conference that Eddie gave which I personally took as very honest (from Eddie) but I thought the club came over as a bit weak yesterday by not sacking or at least saying they were sacking Didak (if there is some law/contractual thing that means they can't sack him) after saying last year that he was on his last chance and then Eddie's comments on Monday about Heath Shaw's "slimey mate" which to me suggested (again as silly as it sounds) that he blamed the passenger equally or maybe even more then the driver in this situation.

    Before he was shown to have lied, I had a sliver of sympthy for Heath, not because he didn't deserve to be ridiculed for such a stupid thing as driving home drunk, but because others do it, have the same result and only have to deal with the law, but thats the path he choose.

    Also, some said the club was weak last year with Didak and weak when they didn't suspend Shaw on Monday but their punishments must have some bite for Didak to want to put his "mate" in this situation and Shaw to go a long with it. I don't think as good a player as Didak is that he will ever play for the Pies again but I would feel better about this if we knew that today (even if it hurts what the club might get for him) instead of the speculation that will come till trade time.

    On the trusting the players, which I forget if you mentioned, what is the club to do. Its like if you hear something about your partners behaviour. If you ask them over and over again and they say its not true, you have to trust them! I also think a boss has to stand up for his workers and thats why I definetly feel sorry for Eddie in this issue!

    PS. The "Macarthur Advertiser"? Where did you pull that one from? ;-) What next, the Yarraman Primary School Grade 2 Term 3 week 1 project? ;-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:15 am, August 06, 2008  

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  • Thankfully, things have certainly been quiet lately - but that's a topic for another post.

    Not sure how you picked up an anti-Tony Shaw sentiment. I've got a lot of time for him, and I've quoted him favourably in the past. Some may say he's bitter from being rebuffed; I reckon he's got perspective and inside knowledge.

    Yes, I also thought that Eddie McGuire's reference to "scaley mates" had a ring of deflection to it. Turns out it was probably a pretty good character assessment, though one McGuire wouldn't make publicly once he realised said mate was on his payroll. Is this the kind of damaging spin to which Tony Shaw was referring?

    It's of course correct that many people have drunken bingles and don't see it plastered all over the front page of the newspapers for a few days. That's a privilege we reserve for those in esteemed positions of public trust, like politicians and footballers. But, as you say, these people choose this path and it's always possible to take a different one if they can't handle it.

    Re: trust. Sure, it's always preferable to take what people say at face value. However, you have to be clear-eyed about it. McGuire has some experience in business and a lot of experience dealing with people. He's also been around footy along time. He must be well-aware of the code of "lying for your mates" to which Uncle Tony referred. Hopefully he'll take this experience on board the next time he has to take the word of a footballer.

    Well, Molly, looking back over our comments it seems are opinions on AFL misbhehaviour have converged somewhat over the years. Are we just getting older? Something to ponder!

    By Blogger Greg, at 12:10 pm, August 06, 2008  

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  • As I said, I read the post quickly and probably in scan mode, so probably got your views on Tony wrong.

    I would like to think that my views on players hasn't changed much, but my views on your writings or your writings have a little (probably mine). I still say I would love you to right one piece looking at the good things players do, but thats your right not too.

    You have had a quiet year and I hope this doesn't hurt your chances of getting that Anti-AFL award. I wonder who could have nominated you?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:08 pm, August 06, 2008  

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  • Management of an AFL clubs public image is a process that always reminds me of the BBC series Yes Minister. I think Sam Newman made a remark that inimated the actions of Didak and Shaw took the heat off him in the previous week. I keep my footy simple and watchthe games and pretty much try to overlook the off field media issues. Oddly though when Didak was mentioned to be a trade available after this plenty of other clubs were public in expressing interest, yet no club was willing to admit interest in Ben Cousins when he becomes available in 2009. I gues getting drunk telling lies and driving cars is more acceptable than using speed and telling lies.

    By Blogger geoff, at 1:31 pm, August 11, 2008  

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  • Sure, Geoff, it's fine to insulate yourself from their bad behaviour. But keep in mind it's your support for the game (through ticket sales, pie purchases, Foxtel subscriptions and ad-watching) that funds all these off-field dramas.

    And, no, Ben Cousins is unwelcome simply because of his age. Clubs would be falling over themselves if he were even three years younger. They're certainly not going to let something as commonplace as a bit of crystal meth use come into contract considerations.

    By Blogger Greg, at 2:14 pm, August 11, 2008  

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  • I think Greg hits on one of the major reasons why Cousins is less in demand then Didak.

    Others I would add are (and I am not saying they make the system look good or bad, but they go into clubs decisions):
    1) Cousins has played about 8 games in 2 years. No one is sure he can still get the job done on the field.
    2) With the drug policy they won't know the strike numbers that Ben is on and if he "stuffs up" again, will he be suspended.

    I think we would be putting our heads in the sand if we didn't think that a majority of the community would have a more negative image of people taking Drugs then those caught speeding or drink driving!

    Personally myself (even though I am guilt of doing it in my past (and yes I am disgusted in my youngerself)) think that drink driving (or drugged driving for that matter) and speeding (especially the big numbers over the limit) is worst!
    Again, not defending AFL Clubs on this one, just telling you how I think it is!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:20 pm, August 13, 2008  

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  • I think people will always come down hardest on those who jeopardise the safety and well-being of others.

    That's why drink-driving is so unacceptable - far worse than lying to the boss about your weekend.

    For what it's worth, we actually do know about Ben Cousins' drug tests. He's never returned a positive one under the AFL's piss-weak drug testing regime.

    Remember, this is a man who was reportedly spending $3000 each week on his habit.

    So with a couple of freebies up his sleeve and a working knowledge of how to beat the system (not that the system is trying very hard!), I reckon if he were 26 he'd be snapped up in heart beat.

    By Blogger Greg, at 12:37 pm, August 13, 2008  

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  • In the wake of yet another alleged 'footballer acting like an oaf' incident Brisbane Lions midfielder Albert Proud has been handed a suspension by the club after being charged with assault from an alleged glass throwing incident on the Gold Coast.

    Brisbane Lions have confirmed the assault charge which resulted in an injury to a woman on Saturday night.

    I found the story at Brisbane Lions News

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:17 pm, February 04, 2009  

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    By Blogger Jacob, at 9:32 pm, May 17, 2009  

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  • Personally I would hate to be the one deciding on the means of discipline for "off the field" behavior, especially when it comes to key players in a side. There are always going to be nay-sayers no matter what decision is made.

    "What is best for the club" is not always an easy answer, as this incorporates on the field performance as well as public profile. What may be good for one may be detrimental to the other.

    In the end, all we can hope for is that today's players learn from the mistakes of others and take their role as a professional sports person as seriously off the field as they do on it.

    By Anonymous Simon Peirce, at 2:07 pm, July 14, 2009  

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  • I think Didak behaviour has impoved as a result of this. Heath Shaw's as well. But still too many footballers are acting up.

    By Anonymous Tom, at 8:33 am, October 06, 2009  

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