AFL players are a lot like elephants. Some of them act badly because they’ve had a hard life, or have been mistreated…but, like elephants, some of them are just jerks. Fans of The Simpsons may recognise this adage, which in my opinion could not be more appropriate to the issue of players who repeatedly misbehave off-field.
Just this week, Aaron Edwards was thrust onto the back pages of newspapers for all the wrong reasons, after being caught travelling at 98 km/h on Queens Road and subsequently refusing a secondary breath test. Of course, it’s not this first time Edwards has been involved in controversy off-field, with the former West Coast forward being implicated in a police investigation, and more recently being found passed out at a Lionel Ritchie concert (although being found conscious at the concert would have been damning enough).
There have been numerous other repeat offenders over the years, including Alan Didak, who found himself in the press for separate off-field discretions in each of the last three years. Incidents such as these have led clubs to introduce a host of player welfare programs addressing issues such as responsible alcohol consumption and appropriate treatment of women. The AFL has also just proposed a new alcohol policy which would include a published “league table” of clubs’ alcohol-related incidents, as well as increased emphasis on alcohol education.
The vast majority of AFL players have never been caught driving whilst over the blood alcohol limit, or been observed in the CBD with marital aids protruding from their pants (hello, Mr. Fevola), but there will always be a minority who can’t help but do such things over and over again. I’m sure both Didak and Edwards received numerous hours of ‘education’ following their first and second indiscretions, but it didn’t stop problems from arising again. Ultimately, you can’t teach people who aren’t willing or able to learn, and that undoubtedly applies to a small percentage of AFL players. Unfortunately for the remainder of players, they are forced to waste their time being educated in things that ought to be self-evident. At only 18 years of age, Western Bulldogs recruit Ayce Cordy admitted as much in a recent interview with afl.com.au, stating that he feels “undermined” by the constant spoonfeeding that occurs at his club.
All this being said, I don’t believe the average football fan has the right get all pious with players who make a one-off mistake with alcohol. After all, you only need to look at the line in the Locker Room bar during half-time to see that many of us like to binge drink every once in a while. However, the same does not apply to players who make mistakes and do not learn from them. We really ought to stop acting so surprised every time these guys show their true colours.
- The Hairy Maggott