Bruce Francis: Two Birds with One Stone.
It’s amazing how much you can learn about a rotting carcass in a radio interview of 4 minutes and 59 seconds. Last Saturday, 22 July, I learnt Caroline Wilson can’t be trusted or that she is a second-rate reporter – both when you really contemplate. We also had further confirmation about how the AFL behaves when trying to control the media.
Wilson appeared on 3AW Football with Tim Lane. The best mud thrower in the business was having another whinge about living in a glass house. Unlike the funny Eddie McGuire comment about dunking Wilson in the ice bath at the MCG when he and his mates affectionately treated Wilson as one of the boys, this time it appears that she had reason to complain. But she blew it.
Wilson claimed that she was the recipient of a stinging telephone attack from the AFL’s top media executive Sarah Lukin over her (Wilson’s) column on the AFL’s sex scandal. Wilson was seething at Lukin’s attack, and on Saturday 15 July told 3AW’s Tim Lane what Lukin had said. During Saturday’s (22 July) follow up Lane said: “I think it was worse than bullying. I think it was disgraceful.”
We waited with baited breath for Wilson to tread, for her, relatively new ground. We thought she was going to name a person and give a precise quote. My experience over the last five years has been that Wilson viciously denigrates someone but often assigns the quote to unnamed sources or “Fairfax media has been told”. But this time we were about to get the full Monty from Caroline – a name and a quote. Except we didn’t. All we got was an Empress without any clothes. Wilson pulled the “It was a private phone call” and I can’t reveal what was said to anyone other than to Tim Lane, my husband and my boss. Sounded a bit like the bloke who claims he can keep a secret, it’s just the people he tells who can’t.
I was dealing with the media before Wilson was born and learnt a very hard lesson about how it operates. If Lukin didn’t start the conversation with “This is off-the-record”, then it wasn’t a private conversation. The fact that she told Lane what was said demonstrates that either the conversation wasn’t a private conversation or that Wilson can never be trusted not to blab.
As a journalist, Wilson had an obligation to inform us how a senior AFL executive behaves. She had no right to continue to look after Lukin or the AFL, as she did so egregiously during the supplements saga at Essendon. She had another exclusive courtesy of Lukin, but this time in clear breach of both the AJA and The Age’s ethical standards, she didn’t go with it. We should have had another Tugger Tancred at the AOC on our hands.
Thanks goodness Michael Warner had higher standards when the then Chairman, Mike Fitzpatrick, delved deeply from the AFL playbook and abused the former chairman of the Swans, Richard Colless with disgusting language.
Given neither Wilson nor Lane would tell us what Lukin said, we are forced to explore Lukin’s background to get an understanding where she was coming from:
Lukin was employed by the AFL as a consultant to handle the West Coast Eagles Ben Cousin’s saga.
Lukin, at the behest of the AFL, was employed as a consultant by Essendon to handle the supplements issue. As it transpires, her involvement was a disaster for James Hird and a blessing for the AFL commissioners and the Essendon board. Although Hird had no legal or moral responsibility for the supplements program, and although he was on a separate branch of the organisation structure from where the program was run, Lukin demanded on 5 February 2013 that Hird accept full responsibility for everything. That got the AFL commissioners, Andrew Demetriou, Gillon McLachlan and David Evans off-the-hook, well temporarily at least, there are a few megalitres to pass under that particular bridge.
Just prior to the Essendon-Fremantle match in April 2013, Lukin thought that she had convinced Hird to resign as coach, an outcome that the AFL commissioners had coincidentally decided upon in a telephone hook-up a couple of days earlier. Interestingly, Wilson informed her few readers that Hird had resigned. Liz and Caroline were clearly premature, which suggests that they could have done with some Tribulus, which Stephen Dank was giving to the players for premature problems!
. 4. On 2 September 2014, The Australian’s Chip Le Grand quoted from a sworn affidavit from Essendon strength coach Suki Hobson that provided an insight into how Lukin manages a saga. ‘According to Hobson’s deposition, Ms Lukin at a meeting attended by Evans, former Essendon chief executive Ian Robson and football department staff, discussed “going with’’ the rogue operators. Hobson recalled the following exchange:
Hobson: “So aren’t we concerned with what actually happened?”
Lukin: “No, it won’t help us moving forward.”
Clearly, all of the above examples indicate that Lukin is employed as a spin doctor more concerned with the symbolism of the medicine rather than the health of the patient.
In my youth I attended a function given by an Ambassador to Australia and he explained that an ambassador’s job was to go abroad and lie for his country.
In my naiveté, I thought that as the AFL and clubs wax lyrical about transparency, the media units should be obsessed with the truth in the same way medical doctors are, rather than embracing the ambassadors’ play book. The patient will never get better if the doctor spins a yarn to cover-up an ‘illness’.
Given Lukin’s track record of being a better spinner than Warnie, with an action like Muralitharan, it is safe to assume that she launched a blistering attack on Wilson for revealing details of the sex saga. Just what words she used to do that we might never know. In her conversation with Suki Hobson, Lukin made it very clear she had little interest in the truth. Now, despite all those fancy claims The Age makes about its chief football writer, there must be some doubt about Caroline Wilson’s commitment. Her failure to reveal to her readers and her listeners what Lukin said betrays those people, and also betrays every professional journalist in Australia. Sadly, anyone having a conversation with Caroline Wilson – private or public – would be advised to be cautious because she is clearly selective in her reporting about how the AFL goes about its business.
Thankfully, Wilson is not the only one privy to the deceptions, the flagrant conflict of business and other interests and the character assassinations. If nothing else, the past few weeks have proven how rotten the AFL’s culture is. The carcasses, like the stenches, are mounting.
AFL chairman Richard Goyder will soon learn, if he doesn’t already know, the sort of challenge faced by Hercules when he was ordered by Eurystheus to clean out King Augeus’s stables. As Hercules apparently said at the time, it’s a rotten job, but someone has to do it.