Last week, during the traditional Queen's Birthday matchup between Collingwood and Melbourne at the MCG, AFL personalities, past players and journalists took part in 'The Big Freeze 2', raising money for Motor Neurone disease, a cause dear to the Dees in particular, as legendary ex-coach Neale Daniher was diagnosed with it three years ago.
This was also the AFL's 'White Ribbon' week, promoting the need to find a solution to violence against women and family violence, and it brought the announcement of the clubs which had been granted a licence for women's AFL teams.
A big week in Aussie Rules, by anyone's standards, and a week promoting equality in what has always been a blokey world, despite the fact that these days, 50 percent of the AFL's audience is women.
Then the murmurs started about the banter between Eddie McGuire, President of Collingwood, James Brayshaw, President of North Melbourne, and Danny Frawley, ex-St Kilda captain, amongst others, on Triple M during The Big Freeze, with respect to The Age's Caro Wilson. This is part of the transcript below.
McGuire: ...I reckon we should start the campaign for a one-person slide next year. Caroline Wilson. And I'll put in 10 grand straight away - make it 20. [laughter] And if she stays under, 50. [laughter]
What do you reckon guys? Who else is up there? I know you're in JB?
James Brayshaw: No, yep, straight in.
Danny Frawley: I'll be in amongst it Ed.
McGuire: Is Duck there?
Wayne Carey: Yes, I'm here mate.
McGuire: Duck's in. Danny's in - already spoken up.
Frawley: Yeah I'm in Ed.
McGuire: I could do an auction here today.
Frawley: I'll actually jump in and make sure she doesn't - I'll hold her under, Ed.
McGuire: I reckon we could charge $10,000 for everyone to stand around the outside and bomb her.
Damien Barrett: I'm on Caro's side now, Ed. I'm on Caro's side these days, Ed.
McGuire: She'll burn you like everyone else, mate. She's like the black widow. She just sucks you in and gets you and you start talking to her and then bang! She gets you.
Brayshaw: If you ran that auction from down there, I reckon you'd start grabbing some bids out of the seats too. There'd be money piling in everywhere.
McGuire: It will be magnificent. I think we should do that next year. It's all good for footy.
Brayshaw: Bloody oath.
Today, Eddie McGuire talked a lot about how it was a joke, and it wasn't his fault, and used words like "It was all done in the spirit of the fun of the day and seeing who would be next going down the slide." He has yet to apologise to Caro Wilson herself. Danny Frawley has apologised unreservedly to Caro, and has noted, after speaking to his wife and three daughters on Sunday, that he has realised just how bad his comments were. "It's not good enough, I take full responsibility," he said. Brayshaw was yet to comment as I wrote this, but earlier today, the CEO of the AFL, Gillon McLachlan, made a statement with respect to the behaviour of Brayshaw, Frawley and McGuire. Actually, scratch that; to be frank, he mostly talked about McGuire.
Gill McLachlan has outlined the following. Despite 'technically' being able to ask Eddie McGuire to stand down as President of Collingwood, he has not. He has, he said, 'consulted' with various women, who are apparently happy with McGuire's apology, and there is an understanding within the AFL of the seriousness of the incident. This is part of his statement, and I am including it because it speaks to my absolute bewilderment with respect to his lack of action.
"Last week was a great week in the history of our game.
"We announced licenses for eight clubs to be part of the new national women's league.
"With three other sporting codes we signed a leadership commitment to work with 'Our Watch' to combat violence against women and children.
"On Saturday night two of our clubs participated in a game dedicated to 'White Ribbon.'
"But in that same week we also had comments made on radio that were disparaging and insulting to a woman that has done so much for our game, breaking down barriers for women journalists, and being a role model for so many in our industry.
"The fact that the comments were made on radio a week ago, and were not called out, is an indictment on everyone working in football.
"The fact that we can still argue that this was done in jest shows a lack of understanding of this issue.
"I understand that the men who made these comments feel horrified that they could be construed as creating an environment that makes sexist behaviours or a culture of violence against women more acceptable. But the truth is these comments do.
"The statistics and data say so."
Firstly, Gill, the comments were called out. They just weren't called out by the AFL, but by a freelance journalist, Erin Riley. Perhaps they weren't noticed at first, that's true - but have you stopped to consider why? It's because McGuire, Frawley, Brayshaw and co have no relevance or relatable factor for at least half of the AFL's audience - and so they weren't tuning in. Does not being listened to equate to the comments being harmless? Of course not. That's like saying four or five guys standing round in a pub commenting on wanting to hurt a woman have no potential power to cause harm, because no-one else hears what they are saying over the music. It doesn't change the fact that four or five guys are talking about hurting a woman.
The same applies here.
McGuire and McLachlan have both made reference to the fact that nobody 'picked up' on the radio chat all week, as if that means that it didn't happen, or the words used were in some way negated. That in saying Caro Wilson was a black widow, and holding her under water, watching her drown, was 'all good for footy'; purely hilarious, light-hearted banter based around her being a journo - not a female journo mind, just a journo - and never intended to reflect violence against women.
I have supported the Pies since I was six years old. Six. If you ask me what I love about the club, I will tell you 'the loyalty and the grassroots approach to footy.' When asked what I detest, it's pretty simple; Eddie McGuire, Jeff 'Joffa' Corfe, and the one-eyed bullshit members come out with at the games. I absolutely understand why people hate us as a club. We are pretty unlikeable, much like Caro Wilson, who has an opinion and is mouthy, and is not afraid to go up against men like Eddie McGuire and James Brayshaw. I love our terrier tenacity, our spark, and our all for one attitude. I even like being disliked, also perhaps a bit like Caro Wilson. It lends power to us.
Our biggest downfall? Our arrogance. And leading this arrogance is a man who says that wanting to hold a woman under water until she stops breathing, referring to her as a black widow, and paying for the privilege, is nothing to do with her being a woman, and is good for AFL.
Let me tell you something, right now, Eddie.
Not only are you a coward for the fact you have not stepped down from the presidency today, nor apologised to Ms Wilson and to your club, but you are a bully. That word has been mis-used a lot of late, similar to the word 'bigot', but in this instance it rings true.
The definition of a bully is 'a person who uses strength or influence to harm or intimidate those who are weaker'. Today, you have influenced the actions of the AFL. You have used your strength to maintain a position you do not deserve. You have intimidated those of weak moral courage, and you have harmed your club, and women who play, follow, and love the game of Aussie Rules as a consequence. You have harmed young girls and boys - particularly boys - just starting in the game, who will see this kind of talk as acceptable - because if the Presidents of Collingwood and North Melbourne say these things, then it must be OK.
You are engendering violence by your refusal to influence change for the positive, rather than keeping the status quo of the negative.
When a young VFL Pies player cracks a joke about holding a woman down, potentially in front of the new women's team, or laughs about making her shut up by keeping her head under water, how is his coach supposed to address this? Because Eddie says it, and he doesn't get in trouble, so there's nothing wrong with it... right?
Think about that, Mr President. And I hope you understand just how sorry you, Gill McLachlan, and any bloke who doesn't have a problem with keeping you in place at Collingwood should be.