Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : AFL Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

 

 

 

FIGHTING THE IRISH WITH MACHISMO

As published in the Herald Sun

It's truly mystifying that the AFL seems incapable of making the international series against Ireland work. What was coach Kevin Sheedy thinking when the usually sedate Western Bulldog, Lindsay Gilbee, told the Irish press Australia would be looking for revenge after the loss in the first match in Galway? A player known for his skill rather than a capacity to physically intimidate, Gilbee would never have been so provocative back home. What is even more mystifying is that the threats came to fruition, in front of 82 000 at Croke Park, Dublin. Wasn't there someone in the Australian camp capable of telling Gilbee and his mates to pull their heads in?

'It's what we learn as kids,' said an unrepentant Danyle Pearce when asked about the tackle he used to floor Irishman Graham Geraghty early in the game. What's courageous about grabbing a bloke from behind, pinning his arms and ramming him head first into the ground, I thought. Like the outlawed forearm coat-hanger of yesteryear such tackles are now a badge of honour in the AFL. Whereas the coat-hanger could break an opponent's nose or cut his head, the modern tackle usually leaves the defenseless player with a cracked collarbone and torn ligaments. Sometimes, as we saw with Geraghty concussion also comes with the territory. Why people applaud this kind of tackling is beyond me. There is simply nothing brave about it at all.

That tackling is illegal in Gaelic football only compounds the problems that beset international rules. That's why one Irish player quipped 'If they want to box we'll box'. Someone needs to explain to our players that from its formation in 1884 the Gaelic Football Association was synonymous with Irish independence and Irish culture. That's why members were banned from playing soccer and cricket; the derisively named 'garrison games' played by the British army in the military garrisons that dotted occupied Ireland. To make the game clearly different the rules for Gaelic football personified freedom. Unlike soccer there's no off-side constraint and players are free to run without being tackled. It's a lightning fast game played by lithe athletes.

The hotel where the GAA was formed in Thurles, Tipperary.

 

And in keeping with the political origins of Gaelic football the Irish players are amateurs. It's ridiculous to expect them to manage the physical pressure marshaled by professional AFL players. It's no wonder many Australians felt sorry for the Irish players in the Dublin match. What's unfathomable is that at a time when global games such as soccer threaten our indigenous game and we genuinely need international matches our players are given cart blanche to destroy them. Games against Ireland are the only opportunity an AFL player will ever have to play on the world stage. And as soccer grows they just might be a trump card. Didn't someone bother to tell our blokes that?

There's clearly a cultural problem underpinning the current crisis in international rules. I doubt any of our squad was told that the ground where they played their first game - Pearse Stadium - is named after a Gaelic scholar and soldier executed by the British for his part in the 1916 Easter Rebellion in Dublin. And I doubt Irish born JIM STYNES was given the opportunity before the debacle at Croke Park to explain the significance of this place in Irish history. It was here on 21 November 1920 during a football match that the British Army shot dead 14 innocent people, two of them players, in retaliation for the assassination of British agents that morning by the IRA. Gaelic football truly is more than a game.

The wall where Padraig Pearse was executed in 1916 in Kilmainham Gaol.

And is it impossible for our blokes to go out drinking without starting a blue? Poor Brendan Fevola, forced to grab an innocent barman in a headlock because of alleged racial taunts by Irish spectators in Galway. For generations it's been the Irish that have been subjected to racist Irish jokes that depict them as stupid and addicted to the drink. And there was Fev defending blacks that, until Michael Long and Nick Winmar took a stand, had endured merciless racial abuse in the AFL. Fev's defense sounded like something out of a comedy routine.

I don't expect Brendan Fevola to be a role model or Danyle Pearce to pussyfoot around the Irish players. I'll bet that if Barry Hall had been in the Irish side Lindsay Gilbee wouldn't have been telling him to watch out. And what if it had been Barry who was serving Fev drinks in Dublin? The old adage of picking on someone your own size has never been more pertinent. So here we are yet again trying to save the international rules concept from the crude Aussie machismo that is an enduring feature of the great Australian game. What a shame!

Phil Cleary played 205 games with Coburg in the VFA, was reported five times and suspended twice.

This article was written before the AFL finally read the riot act to the bullyboys:


Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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