Just when the AFL tries to present a shiny, corporate face as a multi-million dollar business, along comes a story like today’s news that Brisbane asked to play the Western Bulldogs in Round One next year, to set up a “Jason Akermanis grudge match”.

The people behind the AFL fixture say they were too far down the track to facilitate the request but, disturbingly, they did tell The Age that the League had been keen to meet the Lions’ demand.

Why? Since when has it been OK to target an individual player to this extent? It should be said that Akermanis being Akermanis, he probably would have milked the occasion for all it was worth, but that still doesn’t alter the fact that the Lions and League were working to cook up a dangerous precedent.

Akermanis and the Lions had a big falling out, to the extent he didn’t play the second half of the 2006 season, but it’s time to move on. He’s a Bulldog now and yes, he can expect plenty of words and maybe the occasional sneaky jumper punch when he faces his old team, but it would be nice to think he and his premiership-winning teammates could also shake hands and show some dignity.

What the Lions were requesting, at its most base level, sounds like “A Jason Akermanis King Hit Showdown”. Maybe they planned to have a cash prize for the first Lion to knock the wayward mouth out of his senses.

Most players get shunted out of a club against their will. Akermanis’s biggest crimes were to actually admit he didn’t like Leigh Matthews, the coach, and then to actively look for a new football home. Honesty from players obviously isn’t appreciated at the top level of footy.

How strange that a club like Brisbane could be so immature, so over-emotional as to try to cook up a Round One scenario where it’s them versus Aker. How much stranger that the AFL thought that was a good idea.

And then you get to the fine print. Brisbane thought a Lions-Bulldogs match in Round One would be a sellout if the hype and hate media machine could work its magic. Smashing Aker was only the dessert. The main course was money.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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