By The Solution
I have to admit that when Sam “Snitchell” Mitchell first came on the scene I sort of admired him. As an unathletic guy myself, I love it when relatively unathletic players come through, play well, and demonstrate that pure footballers still have a place at the elite level of AFL.
And now at the end of his career, the objective observer would have to concede he was a good player. Not a Champion, as some clowns have claimed in the last 24 hours, nor even a great player, but he was a good player. Less a poor man’s Greg Williams and more a destitute homeless man’s Greg Williams, he nevertheless could read the play, find the ball, and dispose of it relatively well, at least by hand. Given his slow and dwarf-like stature, it is an achievement.
He was also a dirty player, along with his “unsociable” Hawthorn mates. Luckily for him he generally got away with it – a benefit that all players seem to be afforded when wearing the poo and piss colour scheme. Yet for a guy who could dish it out, he wasn’t great at taking it. And he loved to play for a free kick.
Then there was “Syringe Gate” – and the less said about that, the better. Suffice to say it was a classless and insensitive act, and one that has cemented his place as one of the games great douches.
But despite that black belt level of knobery, the most shameful aspect of Sam Mitchell’s career is the moniker that he now carries: that of “Brownlow Medallist”. He does not deserve it, and most importantly, he should not have accepted it. I will never forgive him, the AFL, and for that matter Trent Cotchin, for their respective parts in this shameful affair.
Let’s start with the AFL. When the CAS decision of “guilty” was handed down – a decision that directly contradicted the AFL’s own independent and eminent judge-adjudicated decision – we all new that Essendon was fucked. The fact that this decision was engineered by CAS and was grossly unfair has been covered elsewhere, by others, so I won’t go on about it here. It was a gross injustice but the decision was final, and the 34 players had no choice but to accept the penalty and serve their time.
That penalty was specific and related to participation in footy from a set date onward – it bore no relation whatsoever to the Brownlow Medal. The Medal itself is, in my view, grossly over-rated. It is in essence a midfielders award judged by little green men who can’t correctly judge a push in the back, let alone who the best and “fairest” player might be on any given day. But nonetheless Jobe won the medal fair and square, a process that CAS does not govern, and no retrospective “stripping” of the Award needed to occur.
The only issue in relation to the Brownlow Medal was the issue of optics – an issue that seems to be the key driver for any AFL decision. So what did the AFL do? It flew a few kites, suggested a faux process regarding a submission from Jobe as to why he should retain the Medal, and basically made it untenable for Jobe to keep it. It did not need to be this way, and the AFL could have easily come out and said that Jobe’s Brownlow was irrelevant to the CAS decision. Sure, the optics may have suffered a small dint, but it would have been the right thing to do, and after a week or two of whinging from the usual suspects, we would have all moved on.
But again, when it comes to optics v right thing to do, the AFL will always go with optics. So the AFL relied on Jobe’s integrity, knowing that, given the outstanding individual that he is, he would do what they felt was required.
And fortunately for the AFL, Snitchell and Cotchin were not hampered by a silly anachronism such as “integrity”. Nope, they gleefully accepted the award, and are now, supposedly, Brownlow Medallists. If the tables were turned, my bet is Jobe would have said “no thanks”. But again, Jobe is a man of honour.
For me, it is the death knell of the Brownlow, no matter how many times Zach Merrett wins it (and he will). As for Jobe, he remains a champion in every sense of the word. Something that, for all his supposed accolades, Mitchell cannot claim. For me he remains an average player, who benefited from the coat-tails of more talented teammates, and from accepting an award that never was his. Shame on you.