The bizarre media circus surrounding the “non-sacking” of Richmond coach Terry Wallace yesterday, reminded one of the running between wickets style of early 80s Australian openers Rick Darling and Graeme Wood; “Yes, No, Yes, No … oops!”
But as has been widely reported south of the Barassi line, it was the media not the club itself who got it wrong. As Crikey’s Leigh Josey reported yesterday, the Herald Sun website through Mark Robinson and SEN through Craig Hutchison reported it as fact that Wallace was no longer coach of the Richmond football club.
Today the Herald Sun took a very aggressive stance, with chief writer Mike Sheahan saying that the dramas were “so Richmond” and Essendon legend James Hird declaring that Wallace’s position was now untenable, The Age took the Shakespeare “much ado about nothing” line with and The Australian’s Patrick Smith turning his recent vehement criticism of the club 180 degrees in his column “the media has lost its head.”
For this observer who is no longer inside the tent that is the AFL circus — but would back himself to understand the mechanics far better than most — the most interesting aspect is the naively dangerous game that some players, coaches, assistant coaches and officials play by aligning themselves to different media identities.
For instance, while a bit of publicity on the odd occasion can help a budding assistant coach “get on the radar” when it comes to the group of names that are regularly thrown up to possibly replace incumbents who are on shaky ground, it certainly isn’t the be all and end all.
Witness recent “left field” (Re. media-didn’t-see-it-coming) appointments of Dean Bailey, Matthew Knights and Ross Lyon over “certain-next-cab-off-the-rank-coaches” like John Longmire, Chris Bond, Gary O’Donnell and Damien Hardwick.
None of that is to in any way denigrate those in the latter category, nor even to suggest that any or all of those mentioned “played the game with the media” but it does highlight the overrated aspect of “getting them on side”.
Equally former AFL presidents Rod Butterss (St Kilda) and Paul Gardiner (Melbourne) worked alongside selected key media identities, in almost total contrast to Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett, who plays the media — and at times the governing body — on his terms.
Both Butterss and Gardiner are highly intelligent, very successful businessmen, but they soon discovered that their alignments didn’t help them one iota when their own members and/or challenging board members got sick of them.
Leading very successful journalists like Robinson and Hutchison simply don’t guess, they are told. And then they check.
This of course doesn’t mean they will be 100% right 100% of the time, but unlike some lightweights in the AFL media who turn internet blog rumours into stories, and the AFL-approved sycophants who are happy to broadcast whatever opinions they are told to express, neither of the two named simply guess.
This means that now that the Richmond Football Club — with apologies to the parallel between genuine tragedy and sporting matters — now needs to ensure that the Punt Road fire was not started by one of its own.
“Racetrack” Ralphy Horowitz is a former producer at The Footy Show, Sunday Footy Show, SEN and 3AW.