It’s the YAY-FL, where every player wins a prize
The recent fiasco of Lou Richards rejecting an AFL lifetime achievement is evidence of a deeper cultural malaise.
The AFL is awards happy.
No major sporting competition in the world doles out more medals, trophies, plaques and back-slaps on a weekly, monthly, annual and perpetual basis.
Want to make a mint in Melbourne? Buy an engraving pen, a bunch of brass plaques and get in sweet with that AFL mob.
The Brownlow Medal, and all the hype that goes with it, is unmatched as Australia’s premier sporting award. And no one can argue the worth of the Coleman Medal (most goals in the regular season) or the Norm Smith Medal (best on field in the grand final).
But beyond the major gongs, things get gratuitous and often just plain weird.
Awards season starts before the AFL season proper, with the Michael Tuck Medal for best and fairest in the pre season final.
Then bang! It’s time for the weekly instalments of The Rising Star Award, Mark of the Year, Goal of the Year and the Army Award. Contrary to misconception, this is not an award for noted bullet-dodgers like Collingwood bad boy Alan Didak, but recognition of those who display extraordinary onfield courage.
As the year wears on, the AFL Players’ Association kicks in with the Madden Medal for overall contribution to football (won last year by Robert Harvey), the Community Spirit Award (Adam Ramanauskas), the Personal Development Award (Peter Bell), the Football Achievement Award (Shane Crawford) and the Leigh Matthews Trophy for the league’s Most Valuable Player (Gary Ablett Jr), which is kind of like the Brownlow, only different. There’s also the Best First Year Player Award, which is kind of like the Rising Star, only different.
And let’s not forget All-Australian selection, which begins with a 40 man long list which is eventually whittled down to 22, and the clubs’ own awards nights, which take place when the beer-soaked Mad Monday tutus are drying in the spring sunshine.
But for sheer banality wrapped in inanity held together with a toothpick of flimsy consequence, how can you beat the AFL Player’s Mother of the Year Award?
This year’s lucky winner has already been named. Please try not to guffaw your lunch onto the computer screen as you read this snippet of the press release explaining how Annette Campbell, mother of Hawthorn 2008 premiership player Rob, earned her title.
“In his nomination, Rob Campbell noted Annette’s… committed grass roots encouragement which saw Annette honk the car horn every time the future Hawk got near the footy at junior games…”
Here’s your headline: Horny Mum Voted Number One.
OK, so that’s a bit crude, but if you buy the logic that beeping your car horn is award-winning behaviour, well, you might as well give the entire citizenry of New York a massive trophy. Change the Statue of Liberty’s torch to a raised middle finger and you’d pretty much nail it.
So why does the AFL dish out so many meaningless prizes? Obviously, it’s to keep the game’s name in the paper in the interminable three day gap between tribunal night on Tuesday and Friday Night Footy. There’s also the old albatross of having no real international competition to measure itself by – so why not dream up new and ridiculous ways to pit its own against its own?
The problem with this every-child-wins-a-prize mindset, like printing too much money or a Rudd stimulus package, is that you devalue the currency. In this case, the currency is recognition, and those who miss out on the recognition an award brings can feel like they’ve been booted what Lou Richards used to call a “wobbly old punt kick”.
Which brings us to the Richards affair. Oh what the heck, let’s call it Legend Gate. Legend Gate broke when Lou’s playing career – glittering though it was – was deemed not quite glittering enough for “legend” status by the AFL’s Hall of Fame Selection Committee.
His broadcasting prowess, matched only in the last 50 years by Denis Cometti’s, was deemed inadmissible evidence, which is why the AFL Commission came up with the idea of a special Lifetime Achievement Award, just for Lou.
Not good enough, said the ailing 86 year old, who wanted legend or nothing.
Richards’ old club Collingwood went in to bat for their man, and Victorian Premier John Brumby found time to do likewise, presumably because Melbourne’s hospitals, schools and trams were functioning so flawlessly that day.
Readers on the Herald Sun’s website were much less charitable. Most made the very fair point that however you define a legend, it’s not up to the candidate to argue the toss.
Any way you look at it, it’s an unseemly mess. Rugby league might be tearing itself apart with its sordid group sex escapades, but the AFL’s obsession with awards is starting to look a lot like mutual masturbation.
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