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  • Writer's pictureThe Chief

Q&A Food For Thought

Updated: May 5, 2020

Without fail, each and every season the AFL tribunal system leaves a littered trail of conjecture and controversy. Numerous attempts from an array of think tanks, taskforces, committees and brain trusts to rectify, tinker with and amend the operation have proven token gesture-ish at best. In fact you’d go as far as to say its verschlimmbesserung (German word of the day for those of you playing at home) which means attempting to improve something but making it worse. Quite simply, it’s patch work with dodgy stitching and the band aids are constantly found floating in the tribunal pool.

As we edge closer to potentially restarting the 2020 season it appears the downtime hasnt been put to productive use as nothing has changed and consequently, especially considering the recent "wild house party" incident, it is difficult to suggest we’re not in for more of the same.

Forgive my cynicism but the reported changes to the governance of the tribunal seem simply an adaptation of George Costanza’s “when you look annoyed, people think you’re busy” philosophy. Claiming operational changes for the portrayal of departmental independence is the “clean desk, cluttered drawer” analogy, masquerading as salary earning, productive, game changing, policy implementation.

Who are they kidding? They’ve bitten all the cherries and now they’re licking the ice-cream! It’s time to demolish the entire judicial and tribunal system and then rebuild it from the ground up, utilising an entirely different angled architectural framework. We need to provide clubs with disciplinary tools that make a genuine difference to the individual but are far from detrimental to the team.

It’s often said if you’re the smartest person in the room then you’re in the wrong room. With that in mind, it seems the various appointees, co-contributors and administrative personnel continually working within the confines of the tribunal operational processes, have struggled to decipher the individual intelligence ladder. The results of their collective actions indicate no one is out of place within that congregational room. Then again, maybe it’s a win for the AFL’s indulgence in social constructionism with an example of successful equality.

What has been done over the last decade has made an absolute mockery of the number one principle guideline in the official 2019 AFL tribunal handbook, which states, “to operate a simple system which is fair and reasonable and can be understood readily by the industry and wider public.”

We, here at The Restump Podcast, have taken the divisive issue on board. We’ve looked at the cases dating back over a decade, reviewed them and run them through mock trials and the results suggest there is far too much subjectiveness. We need to dramatically reduce the human influence or interference in this field, and the way to achieve that goal is to focus on the cause and not the resulting treatment.

Quite simply, fines and suspensions have had their day. They're not working and they’re just not having anywhere near the desired impact, other than serving as the AFL’s equivalent of the camouflaged speed gun in the 60 km zone revenue stream.

Let’s keep in mind the average annual wage for AFL footballers in 2019 was $371k and now think about that in relation to fines and suspensions. Admittedly the foreseeable future remains unclear but within the field of employment across society, more than ample wages will remain. And more importantly the current pay cuts really don't aid the narrative of this article so we're choosing to overlook them.

So when you're on, say, four hundred large a year and someone on a Monday night at AFL house hands you a two week holiday because you unintentionally bumped into someone somewhere on the field containing near on forty colleagues during a full contact, high pressured, split second decision making, season defining game... I imagine your first thought would be, "I'm earning telephone numbers and now they're throwing in a free holiday. This game that just keeps on giving."

Don’t be fooled by players and their public displays of devastation or their apparent remorse when they cop a week or two. It’s a long gruelling painful season in which players carry injuries like Pav carried our beloved Fremantle Football club, so a freshen up is often viewed as a positive, and not just by the subject player. And while players are facing the TV cameras reeling off the generic “I’ve let the club down, I’ve let myself down…” apology, mentally they’re already hanging ten in the green room (sorry for the cringey reference from a non-surfer trying to use the supposed cool dude surf lingo which I stereo-typically believe Connor Blakely uses).

Similarly with fines when a player cops a $1,000, $2,000 whatever sized financial penalty, I guarantee he's saying to himself, "my financial future has just taken a hit and is now in jeopardy. I might have to tighten my belt for the next 42 seconds." Others are no doubt thinking…. “They just hit me in the pocket for $2k…. I better have a monkey on the red dog in the next at Cessnock to try and get it back.”

So, with that definitely being the case it’s imperative we get creative and start thinking outside the box. We need to be handing down penalties that not only actually bite if they’re required but act as a genuine deterrent, severely lessening the potential for initial incident. This is how we treat the cause and not the symptoms.

Now I've given this some thought, a lot of thought, no doubt way too much thought to be honest, but I think rather than handing out numerous game suspensions or fines, for what are subjectively deemed lesser indiscretions, we implement this following new form of deterrent based judicial system.

Let's say a player was getting a one week penalty for an indiscretion. Well instead of the nonsensical week holiday, they have to sit and watch a full episode of the ABC's Q & A program.

Yes I know you see where we're going with this! I can hear the stampede of footsteps clambering to get on board already.

A two week penalty is the episode of Q & A immediately followed by an hour long episode of that excruciatingly painful show called The Feed on SBS. I know you’ve had the unfortunate experience of witnessing both programs at certain stages in the past so you know instantaneously the value in this policy and the positive impact it will have.

Just imagine that system? It would clean up every aspect of the game overnight. However, I know what you’re saying, “That won’t work because the players will just sleep through it.”

Leaving little to chance, we’ve consequently thought of that loophole. We contemplated the toothpicks under the eyelids method but…. you never know how the international criminal court for human rights violations will view things today and lets be sensible here, we didn’t want to go overboard with the policy.

So mitigating the sleeping risk is the fact the individual player would need to pass a pop quiz on the episodes just viewed. Fail the pop quiz and you’re in for a second episode. It's as if we can almost hear the sound of Hayden Ballantyne sighing with relief regarding his retirement.

Our extensive surveys were insightful, showing emphatically that most footballers would pay at least three times what the comparative fine would have been on the current system to avoid watching such programs, studying and passing quizzes.

So we believe we’re onto an absolute winner that will, in the blink of an eye, cut unnecessary fat from the AFL’s administration and clean up the game and the tribunal system once and for all.

Admittedly the plan is still somewhat a work in progress and no doubt it requires some further tinkering. We’re still running pilot tests and putting it through consequential scenario computers and, while the positives are indisputable, there is one unintentional and counterproductive result that frustratingly continues to rear its ugly head from the data.

There is the prospect the potential penalty may actually be too harsh. If, albeit highly unlikely, this new judiciary system doesn’t serve as the deterrent we believe it is, then the forced viewing of such indoctrinating programing may ironically facilitate the fast tracking infiltration of the political correctness agenda into the AFL. It may well devastatingly send the game into an unwatchable robotic state that many believe it is inevitably becoming and some believe already is.

Is it a gamble worth taking? That’s the two thousand dollar wrestling fine question right there.

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