As one of the most controversial seasons of AFL nears its completion, it’s worth remembering the moments which made it this way. Listed below are the most controversial moments of the 2010 season;
#10) Chris Judd takes home Charlie, again!
On Brownlow Medal night, Collingwood’s Dane Swan and Geelong’s Gary Ablett Jr. were raging favourites to battle it out for the games highest individual honour. However, Carlton star Chris Judd came from nowhere and polled 30 votes in just 19 games, to win his second Brownlow Medal to go with his first in 2004. Questions have since been asked by players, officials and fans as to the worthiness of Judd’s win and many experts suggest it wasn’t deserved. Some experts have claimed that Judd shouldn’t have polled three votes in a number of games, such as one where he had just 22 disposals and another where his team lost to Hawthorn by 50 points. In addition to this, Swan, the bookies favourite, failed to receive three votes on a number of occasions, in particular in games where he had as many as 40 disposals. Despite the claims of favouritism from these critics, the media hype eventually died down and Judd received the recognition he deserved. It’s just a shame that the Collingwood fans aren’t yet convinced!
#9) Who will be the coach of the Essendon Football Club?
The fact that this media circus comes in at number nine, highlights the amount of controversy that has plagued this season. Essendon, a proud club with passionate fans, finished their fourth year out of the last five in the bottom four of the competition. They had reached rock-bottom and needed a change, the fans spoke and they spoke loudly! Knights was sacked within 24 hours of the season finishing, suprisingly finishing out the season in the eyes of many. The next five weeks threw up a few key candidates, Alan Richardson, James Hird, Mark Thompson, Mark Williams and Dean Laidley, amongst others. At various times, with the exception of Laidley, all had been reported by various media sources that they had all but signed on and that verbal agreements were in place. Hird had ruled himself out of contention, only to flip 180 degrees a few weeks later. Williams had claimed he was confident of getting the job, whilst the bookies had large money taken on Richardson. In the end, Essendon’s favourite son got the nod, much to the approval of the fans. However the drama didn’t stop there with Mark Thompson, still under contract with geelong for 2011, announcing his temporary withdrawl from coaching duties at Geelong due to health concerns and mental fatigue. The speculation is that he won’t coach Geelong next year and he might find his way to Bomberland afterall, allbeit as an assistant to Hird. Whatever the outcome, the media is running with it, as they have done all along and the public are left baffled, not knowing what or who to believe.
#8) Brendan Fevola’s up to no good, again.
The AFL’s biggest bad boy, Brendan Fevola, was claimed to be up to his old tricks again when he was accused of exposing himself to a mother of four at a football clinic in Brisbane, early in September. The Brisbane Lions were quick to act, suspending Fevola indefinately until a police investigation had been completed and Fevola had been cleared of any wrong-doings. The incident has placed serious question marks over Fevola’s future in the AFL after a series of past acts including urinating on the window of a Melbourne Pub and an embarrassing, alcohol-fueled episode of Street talk at the 2009 Brownlow Medal which saw him sacked from the Carlton Football Club. The outcome of the police investigation is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
#7) Stephen Milne and Mick Malthouse’s “Fucking Rapist” slur.
It seems a long time ago now and the media, surprisingly, haven’t made that big a deal of it during (the two) Grand Final weeks, but in April this year, Mick Malthouse was claimed to have called Stephen Milne of St. Kilda a “Fucking Rapist” during a half-time scuffle between Collingwood and St. Kilda players at Etihad Stadium. Despite initially denying the claims, Malthouse later claimed responsibility for the remarks and apologised to Milne via email a number of weeks later. Malthouse’s comments were in relation to a 2004 investigation by Victoria Police, into claims that Milne and St. Kilda teammate Leigh Montagna sexually assulted a female, however the claims were later dropped and both players resumed their careers.
#6) Stephen Baker cops a 9 week suspension.
The AFL handed St. Kilda’s Stephen Baker the largest penalty ever under the Match Review System, after he was found guilty of three charges of striking and one of misconduct, in his club’s round 13 win over reigning premiers Geelong. Baker, already known as one of the games most dirty players, had an ongoing battle with Geelong star Steve Johnson all night and was initially facing a 12 week ban, however a n early guilty plea reduced the penalty by 25%. Johnson was also cited and suspended for three weeks for his involvement in the ongoing tussle.
#5) Ben Cousins’ tell-all documentary
Ben Cousins, the so-called pop star of the AFL, exposed all in a two-part documentary which aired on Channel 7 towards the end of the season. The documentary, highlighting the highs and lows of Cousins’ addiction to drugs in previous seasons, was watched by millions and recieved mixed reviews, with some experts claiming the documentary would help educate children and teenagers the harmful affects of drug use, whilst others suggested the documentary was a waste of time and nothing but an attention seeking exercise to boost Cousins’ public profile. Either way, Cousins’ return to the field in 2009 and 2010 was a success and he bowed-out in style at the end of the 2010 season. He has since taken up a number of roles on various football television shows.
#4) Jason Akermanis continues to bark…
The AFL’s most outspoken player, Jason Akermanis, once again found himself in the hot seat after numerous claims against various players and officials within the league. The former Brisbane Lions star, who found his way to the Western Bulldogs, focused his comments at his clubmates, in particular coach Rodney Eade and captain Brad Johnson, after a series of claimed media leaks and issues surrounding Akermanis’ position in the team. In addition to this, Akermanis caused an uproar earlier in the season when he claimed that homosexual players within the AFL would be best off “Staying in the closet”. These remarks were widely recieved as being offensive and homophobic, and Akermanis was advised by the Bulldogs to cease his involement in the media, which was seen as the starting point in the on-going issues with his club.
#3) Andrew Lovett’s career finishes in Court
Former Essendon star and new St. Kilda recruit Andrew Lovett never managed a game at his new club after being charged with rape, after a night out with teammates prior to the 2010 season commencing. Lovett had been out drinking with his new teammates on the night when the incident allegedly occured and was suspended indefinately by St. Kilda pending further review. Once charges were officially laid, St. Kilda sacked Lovett in February of 2010 and the matter was left for the Victorian Judicial System. Lovett has since signed with former local club East Perth, as he continues to wait for a final verdict.
#2) The Gold Coast Suns begin their poaching!
With a new club entering the competition next season, the AFL allowed some leniancy to the rules in which a player can be signed. This resulted in the Gold Coast Suns, the seventeenth team in the AFL, conducting business behind closed doors and signing currently contracted players from rival clubs for the 2011 season. Such stars included Hawthorn’s Campbell Brown, Adelaide’s Nathan Bock, Brisbane’s Michael Rischitelli and the Western Bulldog’s Jarrod Harbrow. All four players had been linked to the new club, however all played throughout the 2010 keeping it a secret from their former club. This angered officials, teammates and fans as they weren’t given an opportunity to negotiate new deals with them for the coming seasons. In addition to this, Geelong star Gary Ablett is also widely tipped to annnounce in the coming days that he too will be moving to the Gold Coast for the 2011 season.
#1) The drawn Grand Final
Arguably, the most controversial moment of the season came at a time when the season, usually, should be finishing. The final siren of the 2010 Grand Final produced a result that had previously been seen on just two occasions, a drawn Grand Final. Debate raged, and continues to do so, as to whether or not extra time should be played to ensure a winner is decided on the day. Many players and fans claim that it’s unfair on all parties to return a week later and do it all again, however the traditionalists argue that the Grand Final replay is a unique aspect of Australian Rules Football at the highest level and needs to stay that way. Regardless of the debate, the AFL stands to be the biggest winners as it’s been reported the ensuring replay will generate an estimated $40 million profit for the games governing body. Not a bad little bonus to finish the season with!
In addition to these ten controversies, there were many ‘smaller’ controversies which in previous years, would comfortably make the top ten list. For some unknown reason, the 2010 season produced more headlines than ever before and the hype surrounding football in this football mad town is fever-pitched. Despite this, the game is healthier than it has ever been with record numbers flooding through the gates and tuning in on TV. Kudos to Andrew Demetriou, Adrian Anderson and their colleagues at AFL Headquarters for ensuring the growth of our games continues, despite the controversies that seem to exist.
Bring on 2011!