Fans Players

Players’ Voice — Tom Jonas

At Simonds Stadium recently I conducted a stock standard post-match radio interview. Firstly, they introduced me as the son of North Melbourne and Central District great Peter Jonas. I’m not.

Secondly, they made note of our recent away trips and stated that going to Tasmania to play the Hawks the following week would be another tough one. I agree. It would have been. If it were true. It wasn’t. We were back at home in front of our beloved fans.

A week earlier two TV commentators were setting up for a regular pre-match interview with me, chatting away before the camera started rolling. Or at least they thought they were. However, I was still in the change rooms. The ‘Tom’ they were talking to was a somewhat confused Jack Hombsch. It was an honest mistake, but not an isolated one. These sorts of errors by the experts who cover our game are unfortunately far too common.

These inaccuracies aren’t confined to Port Adelaide, but they’re the ones I notice for obvious reasons. Nor are they confined to commentary teams, with print publications guilty of similar misinformation.

It was previously reported that Jackson Trengove played a vital pinch-hitting role in the ruck while Paddy Ryder was injured for parts of last year. Hmmm… I’m pretty sure injury wasn’t the reason he couldn’t lead our ruck. And how often do you see the best players in the paper on a Monday morning and notice the misspelling of a name? At least I don’t have to worry about that one!

I could go on but I think you get the point.

The AFL is part of the entertainment industry. What matters to the big boys at AFL house is getting bums on seats, television viewership and ultimately the bottom line. This is more than fair.

The recently completed CBA negotiations signified the playing group’s own interest in being partners in a thriving industry that fosters an equal, financially viable and most importantly, entertaining product for fans. The media forms an integral cog in the AFL machine.

It acts as a conduit between players, the clubs, the AFL and fans. The growth in media coverage is THE major reason our game is in such a strong position and players enjoy such a privileged lifestyle.

Not all of the coverage is serious and nor should it be. But a certain level of professionalism should be universal.

However, while players are rightly expected to perform in a professional manner on and off the field, the same standards don’t seem to apply to those who cover the game.

In today’s commentary circles it’s alright not to know the names of the players running around on a Saturday afternoon, provided of course you played a couple of hundred games of VFL/AFL footy and can have a bit of banter with the lads.

I love the theater and insight that these personalities bring to the telecast, as does the general public, but surely there must be some accountability.

These individuals achieved what they did because of hard work. Is half an hour of research before calling a game, sitting on a panel show or writing an article too much to ask?

It’s no coincidence that the likes of Dennis Cometti and Bruce McAvaney are among the best operators I’ve seen — just ask Bruce how much preparation he does before a Friday night call, and he’s loved for it!

Most of the errors are relatively harmless, I agree. And I get it, people make mistakes, but isn’t that what editors or producers are for?

To provide some perspective, when we make a gaffe(s) the commentary team usually pick up on it first. We might even get a mention in the worst on ground votes after the game. Then scrolling through Twitter or leafing through the paper on a Sunday you get to see what the footy experts and general public thought or didn’t think of your efforts.

Lastly, the coaching group take notice. They are our editors, charged with getting us to perform.

Many of you reading this might be thinking, ‘Stop complaining and play footy. You get paid well and live a great life because of the media coverage you get.’ I can’t argue with that, but the consumers of media deserve better, too.

Players, coaches, administrators and support staff are accountable for their words and actions, why shouldn’t the media be?