Jump Ball Sports
In what is fast becoming an off-season Groundhog Day, the AFL is again benefitting from the dysfunction plaguing its rivals
If you have been wondering what that noise is, it’s AFL CEO, Gillon McLachlan cackling over another episode of local sporting self-destruction.
There is always a risk that time off coupled with a passionate summertime fling or two, may have a winter sporting code’s fans looking a bit differently at it after the break.
The AFL needn’t worry.
Such has been the bleak state of the sporting nation in recent months, it’s likely many AFL fans would already be banging on the doors to get back in.
And it’s not as if this off-season didn’t have much to beat.
After all, we are not yet 12 months removed from the ball tampering fiasco in Cape Town which is still casting a pall over Australian cricket.
‘Sandpaper-gate’ arriving at a time when we were still reeling from the bombshell that was Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos’ exit on the eve of the World Cup.
And the drama wasn’t confined to summer sports.
Not to be outdone, Australian rugby union’s hitherto golden boy, Israel Folau decided it would be a bright idea to share his thoughts on gay people going to hell.
Rounding it out was the Manly salary cap saga and the fallout from Matthew Lodge’s highly controversial return in the NRL.
Any ideas that this off-season might be different were discarded together with the clothes of several Canterbury Bulldogs players at the club’s Mad Monday celebrations.
Little did we know that this was just the opening act in the NRL’s hellish summertime production.
A string of scandals - headlined by sexual assault-related allegations against players and Greg Inglis’ drink driving incident - have left the NRL in tatters as it enters the new year.
And yet, for a moment cricket looked to have bucked the trend.
Indeed, such was the buzz generated by Australia’s series-tying win against India in Perth, it appeared Australian Test cricket had finally emerged from the doldrums.
Cue Steve Smith and Cam Bancroft’s wildly ill-conceived Fox Sports ‘tell-all’ interviews and a meek series surrender to the Indians, and it was hard not to feel like we were back at square one again.
An underwhelming first test against Sri Lanka, amidst a backdrop of ongoing team selection controversy, leaving us in the unhealthy (and all too familiar) position of looking to the Ashes for five-day cricketing salvation.
Rubbing salt are suggestions that the novelty of Australian cricket’s shiny new toy, BBL may be wearing off as criticism of the game’s longer season mounts.
Even the usually care-free Australian Open turned clothes line for Australian men’s tennis’ dirty laundry.
And it hasn’t stopped there.
The Socceroos’ hugely uninspiring Asian Cup defence making a sideshow of Australian men’s football’s second biggest showpiece.
But perhaps most shocking is that Australian sport’s golden child, the Mathildas were not immune from the carnage.
Sam Kerr and co’s captivating run to this year’s World Cup suddenly derailed - at least momentarily - by the FFA’s shock decision to sack seemingly popular coach, Alen Stajcic.
Of course, this is not to suggest the AFL has had an issue-free off-season.
The dire Majak Daw episode and a couple of well documented player romantic liaisons put paid to that.
But when compared to many of its competitors’ issues, the current outcry over recreational AFL player injuries speaks to a game in rude health.
Given the AFL’s fondness for fundamental rule changes and persistence with its gimmicky AFLX, it seems the biggest threat to the AFL’s dominance may be the AFL itself.