Adam Goodes – The Saviour

There is only one man I know – and one man alone – that can fix the currently out of control issue involving Adam Goodes.

His name is Adam Goodes.

At the moment the situation has the potential to deteriorate into a massive divide amongst many, many people with untold and possibly irretrievable damage. Needless to say the flow-on effect is with the most impressionable people in our lives – our children.

I will not stand by and witness the ridiculous pandemonium, the irresponsible accusations, the overreacting and the personal agenda’s from pedestals.  Nor will I will be intimidated by do-gooders on soap boxes clutching rosary beads, media representatives taking the moral high ground or people in positions of responsibility who feel the need to act now out of some sort of pathetic pressure from those around them.

For 150 years fans have preyed on players hoping to get a rise out of them. Most – and I mean nearly all of them – have not been seduced into responding, acknowledging or letting it outwardly affect them. If fans sense a hint of reaction they intensify their actions baying for blood.

Two things have struck me in relation to the Adam Goodes saga.

Firstly he is probably the first player I can remember that has taken obvious offence to the booing and reacted.

And secondly he has publicly denounced the people doing it and returned fire.

Both of these actions are like a red rag to a bull for regular footy fans.

I have no doubt there is now a small racist element taking advantage of the situation Adam finds himself in. For those people, I feel terribly sorry for you and offer you my deepest sympathy and disappointment that you think the way you think in this day and age.

For most of the fans booing I consider it to be as simply a reaction to the aforementioned circumstances coupled with the highlighted media frenzy attached to the situation.

Has Adam done anything wrong? Not as far as I am concerned. The only criticism I have of Adam is the manner in which he has dealt with the situation. It comes across to me that he is not taking enough responsibility or giving much consideration to his actions.

Let me say that I do not subscribe to the following negative accusations that are circling around the traps;

  • the way he plays & acts
  • having the 13 year old girl evicted from the stadium
  • being made Australian of the Year
  • Australian of the Year acceptance speech

None of these influence or affect my personal judgement of Adam Goodes, like all Australians he is entitled to his opinion and views. Whilst I did not agree with his speech in it’s entirety, I truly respected his courage and conviction in using the platform to heighten the awareness and focus on the debilitating indigenous situation in Australia.

What I am most interested in right now, is how he responds to the situation and what he makes of it. At the moment he is either deliberately or inadvertently dividing the nation and his advisers are unfortunately providing him with bad advice. This should not be about accusing every fan who boo’s Adam as a racist. We know that’s a ridiculous accusation, however that is where this is heading.

Adam Goodes is obviously a decent person, an incredibly gifted athlete and an outstanding Australian Rules footballer. He has the opportunity to pour water on this drastic, out of control bushfire and reduce it to a great lesson, an incredible gesture of compassion, understanding and empathy.

He will not only become the modern day hero and leader of the very proud indigenous people he represents so passionately but also the entire population of this country, and abroad. People greatly respect humility and taking responsibility – thats leadership.

Adam may not believe he has transgressed by his standards or morals but to understand the thinking of the people booing him and telling them he respects their view would be an incredibly magnanimous gesture that would catapult him to legendary status.  He should hold a press conference and he should say something like the following:

“I am terribly disappointed in the situation I find myself in. I want to take full responsibility for my actions that I understand have upset or even angered people within the community. Rest assured it was not intentional. I firmly and honestly believe that the fans booing me are not racist even though we must accept that racism is still a major issue in our country. I can appreciate some of the things I have done would upset and divide people within the footy community. I also recognise that by having a somewhat political stance on issues that are close to my heart and communicating those thoughts openly that I may disenfranchise some people who may not completely understand the situation I am talking about. I have learned a lot through this difficult time and I know it has made me a better, more compassionate and understanding Australian. I would dearly love to have a respected legacy from all Australians when I retire. Your contribution to me as a person and the game cannot be underestimated. I hope we can all come together for the greater good of this great game. Thank you.”

This has the potential to be a train crash for lots of people over a very long time.

Adam has the power to turn it around into a positive and provide the leadership we expect from an Australian of the Year – I know he has the courage.

Bye Bye to Bye

AFL CEO Gil McLachlan says he is determined to bring back a second bye for players. Or is it really for more money to the AFL by way of an extended season and squeezing every last drop out of a manipulated fixture?

The propaganda machine at City Hall makes a mockery of war time activities. Whilst they are not dropping pamphlets from planes the end result is the same. It’s called the mushroom effect; keep us in the dark and feed us crap. Welcome fellow mushies!!

There is ample evidence to show players are bored out of their brains with poorly managed itineraries and timetables. Let’s face facts they have plenty of time on their hands every week and would have more time if coaches came to their senses and structured a more appropriate curriculum. 

I can only assume the first bye was requested by the representative body, the AFLPA (fully funded by AFL of course). Probably to release the boredom!

The AFL’s request for a second bye under the guise of player benefit can only amount to 2 scenarios. 

Firstly the players must be significantly more bored than they first realised and need more time to get away from the terribly mundane, inappropriate agenda adopted by coaches, OR….

Secondly and more likely is; the AFL are acting like they care about player welfare – their nose is growing on that one though (read Pinocchio) – or they are on the scent of more money by way of an extended “FIX”ture and a “snow-job” on the broadcasters. 

Either way it is a very dangerous ploy. 

The game is under massive scrutiny from a product perspective along with enjoyability and watchability. It is struggling to keep attention and they have recognised that. In fact the AFL has said it can no longer wait around for the game to sort itself out and they are taking active steps to fix it. Now that’s real scary!! 

The competition for eyes and wallets was no more emphatically shown than last nights head to head battle with the world game. There was just on 100,000 people packed to the rafters at the home of sport (MCG) to witness Real Madrid score as many goals as Carlton against Manchester City, whilst there were many more vacant seats than occupied ones at Etihad Stadium in the traditional Friday night blockbuster. It was an embarrassing outcome compounded by the meek effort by Carlton.

The product needs help. 

Now is not the time to dilute and stretch out rounds. It’s time to consolidate. 

Players do not need it. If they do then it’s the clubs responsibility to rest them or manage them accordingly. They have more coaches, support staff, sports science gurus and trainers than players so they can surely manage the 55 player list to satisfactory requirements. In other words if Luke Hodge, Nick Riewoldt or a first year player are rested in a round or two during the season who cares – the team still plays and the show still goes on. After all other sports have been doing it for decades. 

It’s the worst time of a deteriorating season. Teams form coming into byes and coming out of byes are also all over the shop. 

It’s time to consolidate, relaunch the product and say bye bye to the bye. 

Media – Ask Coaches the Hard Questions

The problem with the current state of the game rests utterly and entirely with the media.

There are no other scapegoats so don’t bother searching for any.

Stoppages are killing the game – they have effectively doubled over the last decade. Coaches coach for stoppages.

Think of Linus and his security blanket – stoppages are the coaches personal blanket.

Unfortunately media, journalists and interviewers do not have the inherent skills, understanding, knowledge or ability to ask the right questions to coaches and are severely intimidated anyway.

Until a coach is questioned on his strategy – which is illogical and make little sense, but we will get back to that – they will continue to coach the game into the ground.

Why are more players being hurt when they are tackled into the ground? Simply because they are forbidden to release the ball and therefore have their arms pinned (they actually deliberately encourage tackler to pin their arms) so as to send a signal to the umpire that “the ball is pinned to me, so ball it up”. If they do not have their arms free they cannot brace for the fall and their head becomes the first point of contact. The art of lifting arms in the tackle and releasing it by hands is not allowed these days, is frowned upon and highlighted at game review sessions. We loved the player that seduced and incited the tackle only to raise his arms and release the ball to a moving player who was able to exit the congestion. Not any more. Players must keep it locked in, create a ball up or better still a boundary throw in. If my arms are free I will have to get rid of it so tackler, please lock my arms!!!

Why do coaches want 80 to 100 stoppages a game?

They have a sick and perverse view that they can control the game from the stoppage.

Sure it gives players a breather. It also allows them to restructure behind the ball (defensively) and more frustratingly fill the stoppage area with more players to congest and pressure the player with the ball into error either at the source or down the ground.

There are 2 things that coaches like to focus on; TIME & SPACE.

Reduce the time a player has to make a decision or execute skill AND minimise the space he has to do it and the zone he is delivering it to. Stoppages allow the construction of these facets.

So in the next after match press conference or when you have the coach in for a chat do this;

“So coach….. why do you encourage stoppages?

Then shut up and listen.

He will probably say;

“It’s not me” or “There are several factors that affect it” or some other divergent garbage.

Then ask;

Do you think stoppages allow for greater control tactically?

Then shut up and listen.

He will probably say;

“There is no doubt teams like to control that part of the game and it allows teams to get their structure in place”

Then say’

“So its a specific part of the strategy and tactics of the team to create a stoppage and go in search of a stoppage – its not what it was originated for, an outcome when a piece of play was deadlocked????” Then shut up.

One answer is yes and the other is no.

If he answers honestly and says “yes”, ask;

WHY? Why would you create and encourage such a debilitating spectacle? Why do you think it assists your strategy when there is zero evidence it assists scoring and winning as proven by data? For example scoring has dramatically reduced with the increase in stoppages?

If he answers “no”, ask;

So you don’t want to create stoppages? So how do you explain stoppage numbers going from an average of 35 a game less than a decade ago to over 80 a game now? Don’t your players listen to your instructions or follow your orders?

Then shut up.

You see where this is going. We need to ask WHY several times to get to the root cause of why a particular phenomena occurs, and it traps the coach into disclosing his REAL driving focus and agenda.

I have said this many times over the last 10 years, coaching tactics are driving the game into the ground. Defensive mindsets and associated strategies such as creating stoppages are “un-Australian” and the curse of our game

Coaches are thinking more about their own coaching mortality than instilling a “dare-to-win” attitude. Stop the bleeding, minimise the loss, keep it close and we may snatch it, shut down, lock down, block space, set up zones, numbers at the contest, create a stoppage………….the list is growing.

Its up to the media to expose it.

Blockbuster Mayhem – The Self Fulfilling Prophecy

The AFL have argued that the big clubs get the blockbuster days because they attract the biggest crowds and put on the best performance.

Thats logical however think about the net affect to all of the other clubs?

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The big clubs get bigger because they are front and centre every week. You couldn’t afford or replicate the club promotion, marketing or advertising fee.

Kids will not support teams that are not on TV and not promoted into blockbuster days by the AFL. Thats equally a logical fact.

Are the AFL acting purely on behalf of broadcaster requests?

Are they doing a poor job on selling ALL clubs to potential broadcast companies?

If you logically continue down the current pathway the big clubs will continue to grow and develop which is already evidenced by their healthy and improving balance sheets and the “ignored” clubs will continue to struggle to balance the books. The AFL will continue to orchestrate ways to seemingly (but not actually) equalise the competition.

I really struggle with “equalisation” strategies being a part of a “competition” – those two words cannot live together.

So in a nutshell the AFL thinks this way; We will maximise attendances by matching up teams to play certain events and we will appease the ignored clubs by other means.

This may appear to end up as “roughly” the same end result financially but the greatest error in this judgement is there is zero consideration for ongoing brand development, marketing, sponsorship and advertising – let alone trying to attract generations to follow your team.

The AFL need to take a hard line on this issue, bite the bullet and produce a fixture that talks to the competition’s fairness and equality rather than equalising the mistakes after the fact.

There are few certainties in life and AFL. One thing I am certain of is this;

If you do not provide clubs with an equal chance to be represented on the biggest time-slots they will never be afforded the same benefits as those involved and the self-fulfilling prophecy currently employed will crack open the competition.

I understand AFL executives are paid bonuses on attendances and growth but the orchestrated manner it has been manipulated up to recent times is unsustainable. I also appreciate the courage required to break the current nexus. It’s time someone in City Hall stood up to the plate.