Don’t tar and feather all AFL players
Something about the Warne/Hurley tryst got right up Peter Costello’s nose last week.
In a rant that first bagged Warne and then slagged the self interest of elite sportsmen, the former Australian Treasurer ultimately suggested that parents should fear AFL-run sports clinics.
“Any right-thinking parent would quake with fear to hear that footballers were coming to their daughter’s school to give a little bit of inspiration,” he wrote.
Now, in the past I’ve been quick to skewer wayward sports stars. But to tar all AFL footballers with a single brush is akin to suggesting all politicians are rednecks because a few on the Right like to parrot the policies of One Nation.
With online news polls across the country showing that many Australians actually agree with Mr Costello, it’s worth speaking out against his ridiculous generalisation.
Perhaps Mr Costello spent his childhood in a quiet room, balancing profit and loss tables. But generations of Aussie kids have grown up idolising their favourite AFL stars, wearing their numbers and emulating their kicking styles on school ovals at lunchtime.
For AFL clubs to harness this passion and engage boys and girls in physical activity is not only a good thing. It’s absolutely essential.
Researching last week’s column on childhood obesity, it became quite clear that in the absence of adequate government funding, elite sports men and women are propping up efforts to enthuse a sluggish generation of school children.
I also heard new SANFL Commissioner John Olsen say on Friday that footy clinics in the APY Lands have actually boosted retention rates among indigenous kids.
And Mr Costello thinks players should be mocked for this?
Two years ago, my two boys learned basic skills through the terrific Auskick program (administered by the AFL and coordinated by local clubs). Last year they donned their first teeny-weeny football guernseys in the Bridgewater Raiders Under 8s.
It was a hugely positive experience for the entire family. Jack and Harry learnt that teamwork works and that mediocrity isn’t too much fun (a principle we adults are far too reluctant to impart these days). Max and I learnt that our local community is filled with really nice, supportive people, all of us having a good old laugh barracking from the sidelines.
The greatest gift, though, was the work of 20-something Bridgewater brothers Steve and Haydn Smith in coaching the tiny team. At times they must have felt like they were herding highly excitable cats, but these guys remained respectful, focussed and motivated.
They didn’t proffer guidance on life skills (as Mr Costello assumes is the role of visiting ALF players). They just showed themselves to be mature, kind-hearted young men. As a result, my kids have been asking about the return of the footy season and Steve and Haydn all summer.
Those striving to maintain competitive sport at the grassroots level in Australia will tell you that sustaining club membership is an ever greater battle against busy lifestyles, apathy, insurance premiums and red tape (from police checks to health and safety regulations).
That’s a great worry, especially when you consider that 85 per cent of teenagers do not engage in enough physical activity to benefit their health and as a result now have lower life expectancies than their parents.
Comments like those uttered by Mr Costello rouse suspicion on the motives of all AFL players, instead of focussing on the abysmal behaviour of a tiny minority. In turn, they fuel community resentment that could ultimately raise apathy levels among even more parents and their expanding children.
For better or worse, children are big on idol worship. I for one would rather it’s a Crows or Power player – or Steve and Haydn Smith – than an inane TV character like iCarly or SpongeBob SquarePants.
Peter Costello is wrong. And those footballers who have never stepped out of line, who help with school clinics that get kids excited about exertion, should be cheered, not jeered with cheap shots by Australia’s elder statesmen.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
Australia. Where you die for your country and get a rest area named after you http://t.co/hO6LpfwDvI
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…