Shawry has been reading Blitz again.
Umpiring and Essendon. An open letter to Essendon, (and other club), people.
Dear football followers,
Across the board the umpiring has been confusing, inconsistent and -in my opinion- far too difficult to manage. Umpires are charged with managing the hardest game to umpire in the world, with constant adjustments and tweaks, experimentation and change. Even as we communicate there is so much talk of more change, starting points and wider goal squares. I have given them a 6/10 this year under extreme difficulty. I’m not an umpire apologist. In my playing and coaching days they were the ‘white maggots’. But we did talk and communicate our thoughts after matches with the two teams and always left on good terms and a handshake. Arms around umps on the ground was commonplace and banter- although going too far at times- was funny and clever. Now the fines and the reports stop all this.
I have to be an ‘umpire’s man’, because I want to be. I teach and coach 15-18 years old. I have to set an example and I have to teach RESPECT, CONTROL and RESTRAINT. Have I thought that umpiring decisions influenced the result of a Brighton Grammar game, an Essendon game or a Clarence v Glenorchy game down in my old home town? You bet I have. But not one of those umpires cheated.
In 1991 as a young coach of Fitzroy, we were 1-9 after ten games and travelled to Footy Park, Adelaide. Mission impossible against a juggernaut. There were 21 players 10 staff and 35 supporters versus 50,000. We lead all night against superior forces. We lead with 90 seconds on the clock. The Umpire was Anton McKernan who now umpires in the APS school system in which my team Brighton Grammar plays. McKernan in that last 90 seconds paid 3 free kicks to the Crows. One to Andrew Jarman, one I think to David Marshall and certainly the last one (against Paul Roos for holding the ball) to Rod Jameson who calmly slotted the gaol AFTER the siren. Heartbroken. I dont remember a team giving as much and losing. Fitzroy people painted slogans on AFL House in Jolimont. I understand the emotion of people as they invest so heavily in the love and passion for their club. I never thought of conspiracy theories or accusations of cheating against McKernan. I thought he umpired the last 90 seconds very poorly. The replay on YouTube will confirm this. McKernan is a man of integrity and character. He was in 91, and he is now.
I challenge the conspiracy theorists strongly. Essendon have been on the back end of lopsided numbers, inconsistency, confusion and even incompetence. That’s it. To say that the AFL is complicit in this or consorting to influence games as some sort of continual payback at Essendon is sheer lunacy, rubbish. Absolute rubbish. Accusations of cheating are incorrect. Umpires get it badly wrong but LOOK PAST THAT. Our teams and coaches get it badly wrong. Maybe the current crop of umpires is low on talent, over coached, too defensive, too attacking, under coached or poorly developed. Heard that before, I bet. It could be your own footy team. Injuries to Essendon, a bloke called Scott Pendlebury and the brilliance of DeGoey had far greater influence on the end result than any populist recurring theme about dishonest umpiring. I concede crowd influence at packed opposition stadiums like Perth and Adelaide. I have witnessed that as a coach. I’m not sure how the game gets around that. Human nature or just better, tougher umpires.
The theorists had little to say when Essendon comprehensively outplayed finals aspirant North Melbourne despite conceding free kicks 11-22. Hey, maybe we played good footy and our crowd was vocal in their support?!? Great win-crap free kick count. We dominated one of the premiership favourites, WCE by 28 points on their own dung hill. Yep, in Perth, where the free kick count was 17-33. Another emphatic statement made. Not on Twitter or FB, just the old fashioned way, by the people on the stands (our support) and the people on the ground (our players and coaches/support staff). Great win –crap free kick count. Never Complain: Never Explain.
The Essendon I know and grew up with is beyond that. We fought our own battles internally, solved our own problems on AND off the field, took care of each other, played hard (win or lose) and never ■■■■■■ whinged. We won premierships. That’s why we are Essendon, so please stop dragging us down into the land other clubs have frequened. I know it’s ■■■■■■ hard to cop because you look at the numbers, and they are exceptionally lopsided. But we win because our players suck it up and push through that. Go through procedure and channels which the club is doing but don’t descend to average and mediocre comments. Use ‘us against them’ in the correct way; in the stands and on the ground.
Unfortunately in 14 ½ years the level of play has been mediocre at best without a finals win. The saga embroiled us all and changed lives as we know. I rode that wave too, remember? I get it totally. They are my friends. But that, combined with a below average finals record, has ‘made us all’ finger pointers and complainers. A generation and a half only know Essendon as this and that’s so sad. So those of you that know better and know Essendon, please preach to the generations emerging that this is not the real Essendon and we will eventually return as a power. But if you influence the young generation with these, at times, vile and totally unnecessary accusations, you are doing our next group of young people a major disservice. Is this how we act??
There is no directive, there is no cheating and there is no conspiracy theory to influence games by umpires. There are no phone calls coming from AFL House to umpire coaches to ‘get Essendon’. I share your frustrations Essendon people, but you are beyond that IMO. You are so wrong to target good honest people going about their work in a game they love with the label of cheats. They may not be good enough and may not be able to handle the pressure, or make poor decisions. Gee they sound just like players!
I have enjoyed Twitter immensely and the great friendships I have made (mostly with people I have never met). I enjoy ALL club people, but obviously have a greater passion for Essendon and subsequently its people. These claims are getting us nowhere and diminish our standing when we are trying so hard to win back respect on and off the field. Emotion is a wonderful thing. Use it powerfully but use it wisely to drive your club to be better. You have every right to demand higher standards from your club. Focus on that and ensure you are using your ‘power’ constructively.
The conspiracy theorists may even suggest the AFL “got to Shawry”. Let me assure you that, due to my vociferous support of Tasmania’s own team, I’m pretty sure I find myself in the black book in the top drawer at AFL House. However, if you don’t want to hear my honest thought on this matter you have the option to press the button in the right hand corner, which says UNFOLLOW. But this is me and this is what I stand for. It’s not a contest or for debate. It’s me. I’ve read yours, now you can read mine. Thats fair.
Suaviter in Modo, Fortiter in Re
(Gently in manner, resolute in deed)