|BRAVO, Chris Johnson. Take a bow, Luke Hodge and Darren Milburn. Garlands
and rose petals for Trent Croad. Well done the lot of you.
Not just for further besmirching Australia's reputation for poor
sportsmanship, but for continuing the tradition of Australian violence in
these international rules series.
To see Johnson doing his Charles Atlas thing on Friday was cringe-making.
He'd been huffing and puffing all night, looking to make a statement and
when Philip Jordan ran past, the opportunity presented itself: out went
Johnson's arm, down went Jordan.
Jordan, like all Gaelic players, is an amateur. In fact, the County Tyrone
man is an accountant by trade, which means most of his strength work might
be done by pressing the buttons on his calculator or clipping coloured
pens into his shirt pocket. He is 82 kilograms; Johnson, who might spend a
dozen hours in the gym each week, is a buffed 89 kilograms.
Not content with that, Johnson then smacked Mattie Forde in the moosh and
took a swing at Anthony Lynch, both Irishmen understandably having taken
umbrage at the treatment meted out to their fallen teammate.
A contrite Johnson later apologised to his family and friends. What about
the Irish team? What about the people who'd paid good money to see this
abomination, and those who thought they might spend Friday night indoors
to watch a hybrid series where fostering goodwill was supposed to be as
important as the result?
A special mention must go here to Australian coach Kevin Sheedy, who must
surely have kissed the Blarney Stone full on the lips in a previous life.
Straight-faced, he blamed the Irish for the violence, saying they'd been
niggling all night with the "un-Australian" tactic of tripping. Presumably
then, when his Essendon full-back, Dustin Fletcher, who has faced the
tribunal four times on tripping-related charges, decides to stick out his
leg again, Sheedy will have no problem when an opponent turns around and
gives him the Chris Johnson-patented forearm jolt.
Hodge and Milburn did themselves an injustice, too. Neither player could
be accused of lacking courage but when was the last time they went
headhunting in the AFL? Hodge says he's a season or two away from being
ready to captain Hawthorn. On the strength of Friday's display when he
chased an Irish opponent for 30 metres, belting him all the way I'd say
you could probably add a year or three to that estimation.
So out of line were Johnson and co that regular, mild-mannered,
footy-going folk have bombarded radio stations and newspapers with
expressions of outrage. And it begs the question: what is it about
Australia's insecurity on the sporting field refer its cricket team ad
nauseam that it has to resort to such overt physical and verbal
intimidation of opponents?
One columnist, writing in the Irish Independent yesterday, thought he had
the answer: "It's understandable that men with blond highlights, suntans
and names like Lindsay and Shannon are probably going to over-compensate a
bit in terms of machismo."
Or, in this case, Chris, Luke, Trent and Darren. It's time to wise up and
leave the egos in your AFL locker. If you want to start kicking sand in
opponents' faces, see how you go with Glenn Archer and Jonathan Brown next