Raiders player David Shillington. Photo: Melissa Adams
Outspoken former AFL star Jason Akermanis says public criticism from players should be viewed by teams as a chance to improve, insisting fining players for speaking honestly to media only leads to resentment.
The Raiders fined prop David Shillington, pictured, an undisclosed amount for breaching the club's media policy on Friday for criticising the club's management of sacked stars Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson.
They were also concerned over comments the players were rallying for former assistant Andrew Dunemann over newly appointed coach Ricky Stuart.
Outspoken former AFL star Jason Akermanis. Photo: Colleen Petch
Akermanis, notorious for controversial media remarks during his career, branded stopping players from speaking their minds as ''bizarre''.
''I couldn't understand what was wrong with what he said in any way, shape or form,'' Akermanis said.
''We go through this precious stage where we lose what we're after, which is a whole lot of truth and a whole lot of entertainment.
''Players should be true to themselves and if all of a sudden they want to squash that, it's bizarre.''
He believes the Raiders would be better served speaking to Shillington about his concerns rather than public discipline.
''Forget the fine crap, that doesn't solve anything,'' he said.
''Good leaders know how to talk to each other and find some mutual ground. That's what you want, you don't want resentment.
''If there's no harmony, how are you going to become a good group?''
Akermanis butted heads regularly with former Brisbane Lions coach Leigh Matthews over his colourful media displays.
''If there was ever an issue, we'd have a coffee. I never drank it before I met Leigh but when I left I was addicted,'' Akermanis said. ''We had a great relationship and we didn't always agree, but he also could see there was some method to the madness [with promoting the game].''
Now coach at North Albury, the triple-premiership winner said he was never fined.
''I'd be going straight up to the player and ask what he's not liking, they're great conversations to have,'' he said. ''If they have that attitude they'll always be able to become better leaders, that makes more sense to me.
''I wouldn't have changed what I did for a second, and now I'm a coach I'm fascinated to hear what my players say. I like to hear from them about the league, the officials, or how I'm going as a coach.''
Akermanis said the micro-managing of players was robbing fans of honest insight into clubs. ''Clubs want to control everything,'' he said. They want to hit them with sticks and give them unrealistic rules; and for what, the odd headline?
''There's something bigger in all this and that's the law. You have the right in this country to the freedom of speech within reason, things which aren't inciting hate or religious or sexual connotations.
''I always got out of fines. I said, you can't fine people because you're breaking a High Court ruling, the biggest law in the land. If you believe it's the truth you're allowed to say it.''