The human interest story surrounding the AFL Grand Final this week is definitely going to be about the Hill brothers, Bradley, who plays for Hawthorn and Stephen who is a Docker, and we’ll hear how, not since the Belcher brothers, Alan (Essendon) and Vic (South Melbourne) 101 years ago, have two brothers played in a final against one another which is no doubt remarkable and why we want to acknowledge it and we wish the Hill brothers well for the Grandie.
On another tangent however we believe the bigger human interest story that’s going to take place at the G on Saturday is how the Hawthorn boys intend to protect Sammie Mitchell from Ryan Crowley’s heinous tactics.
Every Hawk is going to have to take a turn at trying to put their body at least once between Crowley and his opponent, and we figure that’ll be Sam Mitchell given his form in the Preliminary against Geelong where he rounded up a lazy 38 disposals.
Our main incentive in rooting for Hawthorn is, as a result of the conduct and anti-sportsmanlike behaviour players under Ross Lyon, namely Ryan Crowley and to a lesser extent Hayden Ballantyne's exhibit. Behaviour we find unbecoming in football, and quite frankly unmanly.
AFL is one of the toughest games in the world. You have to be hardened to play it and no one here is advocating removing the bump or good old fashioned pressurized tackling that we saw the Dockers employ against Sydney on Saturday night to devastating effect.
I remember Crackers Keenan saying in the 1995 Grand Final, “If you threw an FJ Holden into the Carlton back line right now, they would eat it, they are ferocious!” And this is how we love footy to be played, ferociously. But when a guy is just pinching someone over and over and badgering them verbally – it speaks to the character of the guy doing it.
More than likely Crowley doesn’t believe in his ability to play the game and beat his opponent without employing his over the top tactics. It's the only game style he knows.
It seems there’s always a place for snipers in Ross Lyon’s teams. It used to be those ants, Baker and Milne who gave everyone the screaming irritts, but now at the Docker’s, it’s Crowley and Ballantyne.
Crowley is the best nullifier around stoppages this year and yet he couldn’t make the squad of 40 All Australians and you know why not?
Even though they won’t go on public record to say it, the selection panel of Andrew Demetriou, Mark Evans, Kevin Bartlett, Luke Darcy, Danny Frawley, Glen Jakovich, Mark Ricciuto and Cameron Ling don’t classify him as All Australian material because of the way he goes about it. We applaud the panel's exclusion of Crowley.
This is in stark contrast to the Dockers who voted Crowley, fairest and best last year. We’re not sure what they classify as fair down there in South Terrace but it’s not the same as the rest of the country. Might be that crazy wind that gets up and blows a gale over there, might get inside their heads and start whispering … Freo heave ho we are the Freo doctor!
The results Ryan Crowley gets are undisputable, he kept Kieren Jack, the proudest, toughest, hardest working young Captain (apart from Joel Selwood) in the league to 11 touches in Saturday nights Preliminary Final which was a good result for Freo – but a bad result for football because of the way Crowley went about it.
Why? Because Crowley bloody pinches like a little girl who hasn’t been taught that pinching is heinous!
This year in June Brent Harvey, North Melbourne’s stalwart midfield champion was so pissed with Crowley’s tactics, on the field he raised his jumper to show the effects of Crowley’s girly tactics (admittedly any kid with this bad an affliction would be confined to a mental institution for unwarranted aggression) which led to an AFL investigation and Crowley was fined $1200 for pinching.
What is even less manly about Crowley’s behaviour is that he denied pinching Harvey. Poor form, not copping it sweet, which tells us Crowley is less than ok about fessing up to his behaviour. Crowley’s evidence stated "I never intentionally, accidentally or in any way pinched Brent Harvey at any stage throughout the game," he said.
Explicit denial is the kind of deflection other extraordinarily weak West Australians have historically employed, but I’m digressing to politics and businessmen there and need to stick to football. This flat out categorical rejection of his actions publicly indicates that even Crowley is wary of discrediting himself, or of exposing the most potent weapon in his armory - pinching. I’m embarrassed for him, even typing it!
Originally there was talk of the Dockers fighting the charge of misconduct (for pinching) against Crowley on Brent Harvey, but then Chris Bond said the Shockers (is that a typo) wouldn’t be challenging the tribunal’s misconduct charge, they would be supporting Crowley. It read like they were backing someone with an addiction.
Maybe Crowley is addicted to being a prick on the field – plenty before him have been – but Crowley seems to have elevated it to a new level, or debased it, which ever way you look at what he does.
Lyon like many a deluded parent refuted claims that Crowley is a pincher. Lyon was confident the pinching charge would be overturned – it wasn’t.
Brent Harvey said that Crowley had pinched him over 300 times. That’s 75 times a quarter. It took the jury 19 minutes to find Crowley guilty – therefore no one on that panel or anyone who has watched him play football is in any doubt he employs this tactic. We can’t see the wonderful dual Brownlow medalist, Gary Ablett just having a natural inclination to hold Crowley’s hands, he does it – to stop Crowley pinching him.
If you threw down the challenge to Crowley to play the Grand Final without the pinching none of us here reckon he’s capable of it. Crowley’s game plan would undoubtedly suffer if he was to stop what has become his only tactic in annoying the shit out of his opposition.
Let’s face it, blokes will always gob off and that little flea Ballantyne is all yabber, yabber. But Crowley talks shit to blokes as he’s ripping their flesh off, and that’s before the balls bounced, and it’s what many players take exception to.
If the opposition aren’t mentally tough enough to get the ball in the face of verbal nonsense that’s their problem – if they let Crowley get into their mindset with the verbal sledging that’s their issue. Mental toughness requires players to ignore what the opponent is crapping on about and go get the aggett.
But pinching is a whole different issue, in effect it is a hold on a player and is impeding their ability to get to the contest. Therefore it should policed by the umpires.
Crowley’s tactics are an embarrassment to good sportsmanship, and if that ever goes out the window completely we may as well all give the game away. Greats of the game like Mark Ricciuto and Cameron Ling, who aren’t prepared to select him on the All Australian side are providing our game with a true service – a standard of what is good sportsmanship. It seems Freo does not uphold the same code of conduct given Crowley was last year's fairest and best winner.
The umpires can’t be everywhere, but if this Saturday afternoon Crowley is in breech of misconduct, and retarding a player from gaining access to the ball they must award a free kick, particularly when they see Crowley pinching Sam Mitchell. There’s no doubt the awarding of that free will be contentious, but if they’re doing their job they should have no problem with that.
Brad Scott from North Melbourne said that Crowley back in the 80’s would’ve been dealt a blow, flattened. Cowardly acts like constant pinching are part of the game now because retaliation has all but been ruled out now by a strident tribunal which works to enforce the safety of players, particularly their heads. There isn't one of us who didn't see Brett Staker's rattling away after Barry Hall king hit him.
In May on twitter Crowley said “We do have the best fans going, but It [his typo] really frustrates me when our fans boo when we chip around or switch the ball when nothing is on.” Equally Mr Crowley frustrates the average footy fan, we’d never boo because that too is unparalleled in being un-sporting, but we might be tempted to call, “Chewy on your boot” on Saturday if, and that’s if, he gets a set shot. What we’re hoping is that Hawthorn players will protect Crowley’s opponent and for once level the playing field for Crowley’s opponents.
We do hope there are enough Hawks on Saturday prepared to put their bodies between Crowley and Sammy Mitchell to save that poor bugger from what Gary Ablett calls “playing the man”.
Ablett, watching a game between Freo and Carlton was outraged at the treatment Crowley was giving out to Juddy – he tweeted "Crowley is a joke! Play the ball, not the man! That's why Lingy was such a great player he ran both ways! #givejuddafreekick" . The tweet was shown at half time and most of the football world applauded Gazza calling it as it was.
We’re criticizing Crowley’s game tactics too, as is our right as supporters of what we’d like to be the fairest game for all players, regardless of whether you rack up possessions in the midfield. Other taggers nullify good mid-fielders without pinching the crap out of them and we’re hoping Sammy Mitchell has plenty of mates helping him out Saturday.