Travis Cloke watches as Collingwood train yesterday. Photo: Paul Rovere
DAVID Cloke's very public bid to land a long and lucrative deal for his son Travis would be dismissed as embarrassing if the stakes were not so high.
In this astonishing season where any one of six teams appears quite capable of claiming the premiership, Collingwood sits tantalisingly close, if not at the top of those six. But the nature of 2012 means that the margin for error has rarely been narrower.
And despite coach Nathan Buckley's stated view that the protracted dispute over his star forward's future is not affecting his form, there can be no doubt it is not helping. Cloke is not disgracing himself on the field by any means, but he can play better and he will need to if the Magpies are to win their second flag in three years.
Collingwood knows all too well about outside distractions. Any hope it had of claiming a top-four spot as it rose in 2008 was cruelled in August that year by the Heath Shaw and Alan Didak drink-driving lying scandal.
In August 2011, the club had lost one game and seemed premiership-bound when - in the space of two days - coach Mick Malthouse aired his frustrations on The Footy Show over his coaching future, and Shaw and Nick Maxwell were exposed in a gambling controversy. Most at the club believe the off-field distractions may have helped cost the Magpies a flag.
Cloke snr is not the ideal person to be negotiating for his son. Not only because he lacks market experience but because this is not a job suited to any father.
When parents become too heavily involved in their children's sporting careers, it rarely ends happily.
It must remain a great source of embarrassment to Greater Western Sydney that its star recruit, Tom Scully, is supporting his father's livelihood in the AFL salary cap. Many years ago the Giants' list manager, Stephen Silvagni, was selected for his first senior game at Carlton and his father, Sergio - a legendary Blue - promptly and quite rightly quit the club's match committee.
Too often the opposite seems to happen. Far from leaving their sons to clubs of their own, fathers sign on at those clubs as well.
And speaking of the Giants, that club has repeatedly confirmed what most suspected all along: it had never offered Travis Cloke a contract. David Cloke, in fact, called them. It is perfectly legitimate for a manager to shop his player around, but less so when the player appears to have no intention of leaving in the first place.
There is also the fact that as good as Travis has been for Collingwood, the club in return has been good to the Clokes. Any off-field issues that could have harmed Cloke's name or that of his family have been deftly handled by the Pies.
It seems unthinkable for anyone who knows Travis Cloke that the 25-year-old would dream of moving to Fremantle. Given how happy he has been at Collingwood, the Western Bulldogs or Melbourne would seemingly not loom as viable alternatives.
The quality of the Magpies' list dictates the club cannot pay him anywhere near what he could command on the open market. And while Sam Reid, Brett Deledio and Michael Hurley are embarking on five-year deals, Collingwood is adamant it does not believe in them.
Cloke may yet get his five years, although Collingwood is insisting four years is plenty. The Magpies have no history of such agreements and Cloke snr's constant attempts to negotiate through the media can only hurt the club and his son's reputation.
The closer the Magpies move to September, the more frustrated their fans will become at the Cloke standoff.
Football people sometimes like to laugh at the Cloke family, more in an affectionate rather than a cruel way, but the Clokes occasionally resemble an AFL version of a WildWest gang. Old man David is the one riding around the country trying to do deals and holding grudges. Right now causing trouble.
Youngest son Travis is the most talented cowboy of his brood but he doesn't want to go anywhere and doesn't seem particularly keen to cause trouble. Right now he might be holding out for a massive pay rise and a five-year deal, but nobody believes he will leave the Magpies.
The scenario has some similarities to that of the Cash family and that fatherson team that rode roughshod over the Australian tennis fraternity during long periods in the 1980s. There were differences, of course, but like Pat Cash with a tennis racquet, no one laughs when Travis Cloke is taking marks in Collingwood's forward 50.
But people should stop chuckling, because the longer this undignified episode drags on, the less likely it is to finish up a laughing matter. Shootouts can get messy and tend to claim innocent victims. This one could claim rookie coach Buckley's very credible bid for a premiership in his first season.