The outcome of the game – Carlton vs Brisbane Lions was a catalyst moment not only for Carlton but for the game itself. The media coined the win to be ‘a win for the ages’ considering the week the club had with the exiting of Brendon Bolton, and the divisive choice as senior coach David Teague. The end result was a game that showed the footy world what this team can be capable of. But the biggest and most important aspect was the 19th Player.
Who is the 19th Player? The fans, those that support the team no matter where they are on the ladder or what is happening to their club. Who show up every game no matter where it is. Those who because of distance, watch and cheer and rally behind the team. But this is for the 19th Player who was part of the game against Brisbane.
To be a part of the crowd for that game was incredible and so emotionally charged. I watched as when a call was given against one of our players it wasn’t just the Cheer Squad that stood up and voiced their views, it was everyone. It wasn’t just the Cheer Squad that celebrated the amazing second, third and fourth quarters. It was everyone. It wasn’t just the Cheer Squad yelling out ‘CARLTON’ it was everyone. It wasn’t just the Cheer Squad starting chants, it was everyone. Being a part of that made me choke up because after the really terrible week the club had gone through, seeing so many get behind the boys and the club was something to behold.
Then after the match when reports came through that a fan had been ejected out of the stadium it started an avalanche of fans voicing their concerns about the AFL’s handling of ‘boisterous’ fans and others. That an umpire didn’t like what a fan called him. That opposition fans didn’t like the way a fan celebrating a win and so reported it to security. According to the AFL, they have not given the grounds a directive on how to handle fan behavior, yet the grounds are still making a determination on what constitutes ‘acceptable’ fan behavior.
As yet the AFL has not come out and eased the concerns of the fans in this regard and in this respect, they are ignoring the most important aspect of the AFL – the 19th Player – the fans. They are placing more resources and revenue into re-designing their logo, or opening an office in a country that will never become an important factor or growth in the game. Without the 19th Player, the AFL has no game. Without the 19th Player, there is no atmosphere, no wonderous fan support for a team put through the mill then coming out on top. The extreme support that the 19th Player has on a team and the game has been pushed aside by the AFL and made to feel as if their position in the game is not valid or acceptable.
The umpires must be respected that is a given. The umpires must also be held accountable for decisions that can and do affect the outcome of a game. When the free-kick count is so unbalanced for one side the 19th Player being a major stakeholder of the game, voices their complaint and that voice is shut down, this is not right. This protest must not be one that is aggressive in nature such as racist, sexist, homophobic or incites violence, but it is one that nonetheless must be allowed. Make the umpires professional. Pay them a salary that not only keeps umpires in the profession but entices others to want to become one. Make them accountable and give them the required training.
The premise that the AFL is now putting in ‘spies’ to purge the crowd of those fans that are deemed too loud or too ‘boisterous’ is making the game more clinical and is not what the game of footy is. This is fast becoming an issue where the 19th Player is being told what they can and cannot say. The 19th Player is being sanctioned for just being a fan of their team and the sport. The game against Brisbane Lions is proof that the power of the 19th Player is one where players respond to and it can boost their game and make it what it was at that game – a ‘game for the ages’.
If you don’t believe me, read this:
P.S Thanks Bolts for being who you are and what you brought to the club. You nourished and made leaders of the club. You were for the club and its supporters. Thank you.