AFL players have this week given the AFL a demonstration of what happens when you mix elite sportspeople with too much spare time – mass criminality. In fact, it’s been happening all summer. Can anyone remember the last time a newspaper was published without a story involving an AFL footballer and a court room?

Today it’s Carlton’s Lance Whitnall leading the debate. The Melbourne Magistrates’ Court yesterday granted him an intervention order against his brother following an argument about a family trip to the Melbourne Zoo.

Last week Lance was honoured with the Carlton captaincy, but the turning-the-corner symbolism of a new captain for a struggling club was tarnished by Lance’s involvement in a late night brawl a week earlier. Police were asking questions. Lance said he was out late because he wasn’t wearing a watch. Carlton coach Denis Pagan stated the obvious: “We haven’t got perfect leaders here.” Nor decent liars.

Carlton’s star forward Brendan Fevola has also had a busy summer. Lara “Where the bloody hell are you” Bingle left a message on his phone asking “Where the bloody hell are you, and can you pick me up from the airport?” Brendan’s wife Alex found it. That followed his assault of an Irish hotel employee on the International Rules tour and his mysterious disappearance in Europe. Where the bloody hell were you, Brendan?

The list goes on. In December last year former West Coast captain Ben Cousins was locked up after drinking himself to sleep at Melbourne’s Crown Casino. Yet Cousins, whose off-field antics are once in a generation type stuff, has this week been shaded by team-mate Daniel Kerr, who was arrested twice in two days. They set high standards over there in the West.

And just yesterday, Adelaide player Simon Goodwin was fined $40,000 ($20,000 suspended) for betting on AFL games; Melbourne player Daniel Ward was fined $10,000 ($5,000) for the same crime.

It’s not only AFL that’s afflicted. NRL players are notorious for their off-field misbehaviour, and this story about a brawl followed by the stabbing of an NRL player’s younger brother is also indicative of young footballers spending their time poorly over summer.

Of course, this is all about under-employment. It’s about 23 year olds earning $400,000 a year and having nothing to do. As far as Crikey can see there is only one solution – Australian footy competitions must run over 48 weeks.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey