"The Boot"

Thin-skinned Scarlett no match for old-school 'pests'

Posted by The Shadow on April 04, 2012 (0 Comments)

While watching a replay of Matthew Scarlett take a half-hearted swing at Hayden Ballantyne's chin and subsequently fall to the ground as though an anvil had swung through Patterson's Stadium and blasted him into the grandstand, I realised how sanitised football had become. I flicked the channel, only to see it again moments later and thought of all the nut bags and loons who've played the game with such unhinged bravado in years gone by.  

Fact is if such slapstick comedy was presented by the broadcasters in black and white you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd stumbled upon a Chaplin brothers sketch.  The lugubrious nature with which Ballantyne stumbled, moaned and winced and the chin-out school bully routine from Scarlett did little to reinforce the common mantra that AFL has never been tougher.  

In modern terms, players like Ballantyne and St Kilda's Stephen Milne are considered 'pests' but somewhere Tony Liberatore is rolling his eyes. Deep down, I'm sure he's insulted. Mark Jackson, who to this day remains the perfect blend of kooky-humoured eccentricity coupled with a bad temper and exhibitionist flair was a standout nutter.  Scarlett would never have punched Jackson and Ballantyne wouldn't have needed to buckle his legs had a Jackson punch landed.

Certainly thuggery never has and never will have a place on the football field. However, the quirky and colourful footballers of yesteryear now seem lost to the archives. The game is too rigid, there are too many coaches and the professional era has well and truly dawned. Players like Kyle Reimers, Jordan Lewis and Mitch Robinson clearly look they wish they were part of another era but they're trapped like Marty McFly in the future. Their aggression is tempered and they're quick to adhere to 'non-negotiables', 'structures' and the like.

From a fans' perspective the trade-off is reasonable but every time I see something like Matthew Scarlett punch Ballantyne it's hard not to yearn for a different time. A time when 'pests' had more venom and players in general had much thicker skin.

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