The many moods of Mick Malthouse
AUDIO: Mick Malthouse’s fractious relationship with the media is legendary, but it can quickly change depending on who he is talking to.PT2M39S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2oftj 620 349 June 18, 2013
Mick Malthouse's fractious relationship with the media is legendary, and the Carlton coach was in a particularly feisty mood last Friday night before the Blues' big game with Hawthorn.
On SEN, host Anthony Hudson asked an obvious question about the background to the omission of Chris Yarran for his "poor body language" the week before. Malthouse answered before I asked a follow-up about the timing, and some previous examples when he was at Collingwood. Well, I attempted to.
Most of us can think of just as many, if not more former AFL players, whose alleged 'inside edge' when it comes to covering the game amounts to inarticulate clichés, misinformation, and too often an inability to even call players correctly.
"Let's not get caught up in Collingwood propaganda or anything else, particularly people from the media who have got a bias towards Collingwood," he barked (though I'm still trying to work out to whom the bias was referring).
Mick's disdain ... Carlton coach Mick Malthouse fronts the media. Photo: Pat Scala
"If you want to keep with this sort of stuff, go back and do your bloody homework, and find out what happened to Heath Shaw and Alan Didak ... they missed four or five weeks, which included finals ... don't try to change history."
I wasn't, though might have pointed out that was for a drink-driving incident, not poor body language. I was trying to ask whether he felt it was more important to set an early example at his new club. Particularly seeing as Malthouse himself had written a 2006 column in which he talked about selecting Chris Tarrant and Ben Johnson despite indiscretions worse than Yarran's.
"I'm not going to lie to you. The fact that Chris and Ben are senior players crucial to the on-field success of Collingwood has influenced my decision ... different players get treated differently," he wrote then.
The 'in' crowd ... Dermott Brereton. Photo: Getty
Some interesting contrasts I would like to have explored. What happened next, though, when co-panellist Dermott Brereton asked a question, was for Hudson and I, more galling, given that our line of questioning (not opining, mind you) wasn't about tactics, strategy or in-depth, on-field matters, but an obvious journalistic angle.
First, Mick pointed out he was doing the interview only as an obligation. "[But] for you 'Dermie', any time. I don't forget those games you played for me, that one [All-Star] game you played for me ... you took no prisoners."
Ahh ... so there it was, the former players' brethren. The heat of battle. Bodies on the line. Wouldn't know if you hadn't been there. Etc, etc.
It is a sore point for a lot of us in the AFL media who haven't played at the elite level, though coaches older than Malthouse, like Robert Walls, call that disdain occasionally visited upon us by those who have "archaic and disrespectful". At least Mick didn't discriminate on that score on Friday, managing to walk off on former Tiger Matthew Richardson at the end of a Channel 7 interview post-game, too.
Good tough game tonight, enjoyable to watch. Hope Mick takes a little chill-out time before hitting the sack, sounded like he needed to!— Rohan Connolly (@rohan_connolly) June 14, 2013
But the "haven't played" debate was on again the following morning on SEN's "Crunch Time", when former North Melbourne star David King, arguably the best analyst in the game, sided with the brethren as well.
I asked King whether he believed that the likes of Huddo or myself couldn't know as much about the game as anyone who had played at AFL level.
"No, that's where Mick's right," he said. "You're starting from a fair way back, because you haven't got an understanding of what goes into orchestrating a gameplan for the day and for the season. I'll ask you some questions, then. Would you be able to write down Mick's gameplan?"
No, I responded, though never got an answer to my similar question to him. "Would you have an understanding of what goes on in the coach's box?" Me: "I've sat in a few." King: "When was the last time you sat in one? ... This is what Mick would say to you..." Me: "2009." King: "Have you sat in a pre-match address?" Me: "Yes, three." King: "When was the last one?" Me: "2009." King: "But that's what he'd ask, and I reckon the game has changed."
No arguments here, but if that's the case, why are the opinions of the scores of former AFL players now pursuing media careers any more relevant than us who lined up at full-forward for John Gardiner High School if it's in fact us who have been closer to the club coalface in recent years than a fair percentage of them?
King, I'm happy to say, is an exception to the rule. He puts a heap of time into his work, researches stats and video for his analysis thoroughly. Brereton, too, is an excellent analyst, and Jason Dunstall and Garry Lyon have proven their worth in the same field.
But most of us can think of just as many, if not more former AFL players, whose alleged "inside edge" when it comes to covering the game amounts to inarticulate clichés, misinformation, and too often an inability to even call players correctly.
Those of us who cover the actual game full-time spend much of it watching games, training, talking to clubs, and poring over the bulk of the same statistics the clubs are looking at. So, by the way, do a sizeable portion of football fanatics who have become more than adept at spotting the shortfalls in some of the part-time "experts" work.
And they, and our, capacity to observe game styles, trends, tactics or contextualise events and incidents on and off the field certainly isn't compromised by the fact we didn't play 200-plus games for an AFL club 20 years ago. As for the journalistic component, do football supporters, the people to whom Malthouse would actually have been answering, really want their football media full of sycophancy?
Do they really just want mates looking after mates, former players trying to be comics or conducting interviews consisting of bland statements rather than actual questions about pertinent matters like the Yarran omission and Malthouse's track record on the disciplinary front? You'd like to think not.
King and others reckon the game has changed so dramatically that those who were working with AFL clubs even a few years back might not be able to keep up now.
But they, and apparently Carlton's coach, who was more than happy to mix and conduct football discussion with the non-playing types during his year in the media last year, also seem to believe that if you pulled on the boots for a game, no matter whether it was at the Junction Oval in the 1970s with 19th and 20th men and the drop kick still in use, you are somehow bestowed with higher powers, not only in terms of your powers of football analysis, but apparently your capacity to ask a simple and obvious question.
Well, I haven't played at the elite level. Neither did Mike Sheahan, his predecessor Alf Brown, nor the vast majority of today's AFL media. But, as discounted as that makes this opinion to the likes of Malthouse and other contemporary former playing types, here's a short and pithy summary of their view, and one in keeping with Friday night's tone. It's bullshit.