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All Under the Family’s Control?

Late on the Friday afternoon that was March the 21st, 2014 I was asked on ABC Statewide Drive ABC Victoria’s Regional Radio Drive program whether James Hird had shot himself in the foot?

This was the hackneyed first question representative of “the AFL family” view that the Brownlow Medallist had somehow taken the Magnum to his now nicely healed navicular bone by not controlling those around him, to wit, his wife Tania.

Tania, and if you don’t know this, check your pulse, had appeared on the 7.30 Report the night before, along with a few other people with a little more courage than “the family” would like, including the former Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett.

These people denounced the bullying tactics of the AFL in a number of instances, not just in relation to Essendon.

James Hird made no appearance on the program, in fact he was on his way to France.

Yet the story was had James Hird shot himself in the foot by not controlling his wife.

Excuse me, have I suddenly been transported back to the 19th Century, Victorian times.

No, these were modern Victorian times, as I already said in the first paragraph, March, 2014 where a compliant media joins in the frenzy fed and managed by “the family”, a frenzy that includes calling for a husband to discipline his wife.

I am sure “the family” and its unquestioning cheer squad would happily have rolled a set of stocks down to Toorak for the purpose.

If, as the AFL claims, it has been working diligently to make its game more inclusive of women, that first question, and all the crazed comments on talkback radio, encouraged by the mostly male hosts, shows they have failed, and failed miserably.

“Can’t Hirdie keep his wife quiet,” said one caller to one of “the family’s” favourite sons on SEN 1116.

There was no outrage from this broadcaster, no hang on we don’t do that in a modern, sophisticated Western society like Australia.

By not doing so, he merely reinforced in that tacit way of so many weak accredited members of the media, that we live in a State where those who have worked their way into positions of power breach the laws and mores with impunity. The State is Victoria, a place governed by footy fever.

All of this in the week that Bill Shorten launched an anti bullying program at, you guessed it, the Essendon Football club. And Andew Demetriou appeared with Victorian premier Dennis Napthine to promote the state’s tolerance and diversity.

A prominent member of “the family” is Bill Kelty, a little Napoleon who was once Secretary of the ACTU who has abandoned his working class roots for a place at the big end of town.

He has a job at Linfox. He is a member of the AFL Commission. He chairs the advisory board of David Evan’s stockbroking company. David Evans, now that name is familiar, you might say.

Yeah, he was the bloke who cracked under the pressure of being chairman of Essendon when he had to choose between the big end of town or a life-long friend.

I was there the night he had his collapse, and some say I might have unwittingly even had some hand in it.

His board has also included as recently as February 2014 the Australian Sports Commission chair, John Wylie, another name you might be familiar with.  He helped manage the August 2013 solution to the AFL’s governance crisis, a solution, with its non-negotiable outcome, that was always scripted as a part of the main game.

Eddie McGuire is also on the Evans board. Now you all know who Eddie is, he’s even in the Humphey B. Bear suit.

He also works at MMM Rocks Football, where he rocked the game when he took a call from a distraught Essendon mother.

A call that took its place in the AFL’s chiaroscuro sealing in many minds the right and wrong of the saga.

Now, in the AFL, there are no secrets. Identities are easily obtained.  Yet no one has been able to identify this woman.

When I asked for help on Twitter last week to find her for my research projects, the answers were wonderful.

“She’s in the glades with the unicorns,” was probably the best.

Anyway, back to our friend Kelty. As some sources close to the club tell it he was the man who was left speechless and unable to carry out the mission entrusted to him in April 2013 to convince James Hird to quit as coach of Essendon.

“The family” was confident Bill would come through for them, they’d even told Patrick Smith of The Australian it had happened.

But they mis-judged that old adage about champions – they get up when they can’t.

Hirdie got up, and kept getting up.

“The family” have since had to turn to different way to finally nobble him, that great get out of rogues and scoundrels in sport all over the world – bringing the game into disrepute

Last week Kelty blundered so badly it might just be his foot and that of the family’s that will need to have the bullet removed.

He’s such a caring soul, Bill, that he felt compelled to come out in support of another member of “the family”.

But what is not fair for Andrew (Demetriou) is … for it to be continuously said by people that in some way he acted improperly. It’s just not fair,” bleated Bill.

Continuing a pledge he made to Demetriou’s kingmaker, Evans’ father Ron, Kelty has also told us that David, who has been doing the Lord Lucan thing since July, “is like a son to me”.

While I dried my eyes, my ears couldn’t believe what came next. 

Kelty felt impelled to expand and explain to us the need for the AFL to end its ‘outsourcing’ arrangement, which of course is code for being subjected to the WADA system.

As Tim Lane wrote in the Sunday Age, Kelty wishes to return the AFL to "what it was" … presumably the more familiar landscape on which the AFL runs its own race.

I was left wondering if Kelty had risen to the to the bait laid by an little known academic? – described once by the family’s public figure head as “some stupid person from Deakin University that I’ve never heard of.”

Or did he just feel the need to shed some light on the matter? Whatever drew him out, Kelty has confirmed for us the main game – ridding the AFL of any pesky outside interference (from ASADA) and putting Dracula back in charge of the blood bank.

This main game is going back to the good old days where the AFL can shed itself of “the modern-day requirement of responsible sports administrations” and not be subject to any independent scrutiny.

In the modern world of the AFL only the family and those that it controls should be allowed to know the truth, let alone speak it.

If we have to ruin the reputation of a Brownlow Medallist, or encourage a little misogyny along the way, or breach the odd privacy or even criminal law, so be it.

As I write this, I have been trying to think of a name for this family … the treatment of women, the blatant breaches of any laws that might get in the way, the disregard for the law and ethics, the whole incestuous nature of who’s married to who, or who’s on who’s board.

Then it occurred to me … just get some big letters and change AFL House to AFL House of Borgia.



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