Monday, 8 February 2021

The People vs Tom Scully - remembering the feud of a lifetime

When the Soviet Union folded, America got a bit nostalgic because there was nobody left to biff on with. They quickly discovered the joy of fighting Saddam Hussein, those of us who've served in footy's Cold War since 12 September, 2011 are now coping with a vendetta shaped hole in our heart that may never be filled.

The retirement of - and we'll give him the benefit of his real name in this post before he's never spoken of again - Tom Scully closes the door on a saga that has been both incredibly childish and absolutely glorious. I don't want another enemy, he was my best fiend and I'm bereft without him. Nobody else evokes the same feelings. Even when Jeremy Howe and Collingwood lost a heartbreaking prelim I was nowhere as high up the walls in celebration as the Dogs knobbing GWS in a thriller. Extra points for you-know-who being ripped off out of a 50 at the crucial moment.

With Tom goes my last serious interest in non-MFC topics. For a decade it's been us and whoever's been playing him, now nothing. It would be harsh to demand that somebody who'd lost interest in the game continued playing just for my benefit but I'm still having adjustment issues knowing that it's over.

What a ride it has been. Short of somebody involving themselves in serious criminal misconduct or committing the most grievous act of disrespect to our club ever invented, I don't expect to ever muster up the same level of disdain for any AFL player.

The only disappointment (other than him not investing his fortune on the Zimbabwean Stock Exchange) is that the feud was all one-way and he never dignified it by joining in. While it was an obvious Box Ticking Exercise he even thanked the Melbourne Football Club in his retirement notice, grabbing at the moral high ground once more on the way out. You could say this was a sign of professionalism and maturity, I just don't reckon he was capable of joining in. I'd have gone on The Footy Show and offered Melbourne fans tours of my mansion if they were ever in the area.

By reasonable community standards, he never did anything wrong. When you strip the emotion out of it he simply exercised a league-endorsed option to take a higher paying job. And if you can look at it from such a dispassionate, robotic viewpoint you're a better person than me. I prefer to see a player whose reluctance to commit contributed to the instability that helped blow the club. One who legged it elsewhere for big money rather than committing to being part of the solution, and who wouldn't admit he was going until suddenly appearing in a YouTube video saying how happy he was to be a Giant. A Giant tosser in my book.

In almost every one of the 10 matches he played against us since 2012, a commentator was left lamenting how terrible we were for booing him (and in a way I agree, using words helps make sure there's no ambiguity) but considering the state of total panic our club was in at the time I'd say the reaction was reasonably calm and measured. If an Argentinian soccer player did the same thing they'd set his car on fire. In fact, there may never have been a dispute in the history of football that has generated so many genuine laughs. Admittedly most came from a small faction of fans operating on the same disturbed wavelength as me but nevertheless it created comedy fucking gold.

Join us now, for an Australian Football Video style tour through the hate that stopped a nation.

The Next Big Thing
There's been a dramatic rewriting of history to pretend that picking Scully first in the 2009 National Draft was the sort of tremendous blunder that only a team like Melbourne could make. In reality, he was a consensus #1 pick from a mile out. Take it from this random internet person, who correctly predicted the entire top 10, only losing his streak when ill-fated, two-time Rising Star nominee Jordan Gysberts went next. The same article also describes Scully as our 'future leader' and predicted success for Melbourne was 'just around the corner' so you can't be right about everything.

Surprisingly, given the clamour to throw the season and make sure we got him, he didn't rate a mention from until September 30. Even then it was from a third-party. Look at that old-fashioned retweet, doesn't it make you want to spew?

I forgot that he arrived under an injury cloud. That's classic Melbourne, you go to all the effort to get the top two picks, one turns up hurt and the other's foot snaps in two a couple of years later.

As correctly predicted by every serious phantom draft, Richmond used pick 3 on Dustin Martin, who has subsequently won as many flags as our entire club since 1959. Which is fantastic for them, but let's put to bed the fiction that he would have automatically been as good for us. There were a few years where the Tigers woke up every morning expecting to find him floating down the Yarra, don't tell me that our system would have steered him in the right direction. At the time Scully was described as a Richmond fan, so if we hadn't chucked that Jordan McMahon game he might have played for them. And probably still won nothing.

I've never been one to get excited about potential draftees, and there are very few mentions of him by name in my tweets or posts from the time. The more pressing debate was whether we'd have the top pick or the top two picks. Third-party options included the Olympic Stand being torched by fans if we put up a fight and finished 15th. What they didn't know, though most suspected, is that there was a concerted effort behind the scenes to make sure Option A came through.

You can argue the technicalities of the Tankquiry, and I certainly have, but any jury in the land would have convicted us based solely on Name A Game evidence, much less the AFL investigation. Luckily for us, the people doing the investigating were keen to sweep it under the rug long enough to let us have unchallenged access to what seemed like the ultimate draft jackpot. Hawthorn did the same thing once and got Franklin/Roughhead. Some people have all the luck. 

At first I was reluctant to get involved in the real filthy stuff, promoting a theory that we should strive to finish above Freo, but with the handbrake firmly applied to ensure we won less than five games and still banked the priority pick. This way we'd have got returned some self-respect by not finish last but would still have had the top pick. 

If you believe everything you read, panic set in mid-season when we won two in a row and jumped ahead of the Dockers on percentage. Owl Eyes Harvey and the Freo hierarchy could have taken a leaf out of our book, firmly jammed the cue in the rack for the last seven weeks and finished last, but obviously decided it wasn't worth it for pick 2.

Had both clubs set course for self-destruction it would have made our match against them in Round 20 interesting. I picture the equivalent of that soccer game where the team deliberately scored an own goal. We never found out how bad it could get, local pride inspired Freo to win a derby and the ball of corruption was back in our hands. The plan worked so well that there was even room for a morale-boosting 10 goal walloping of the Dockers before the end of the year.

Once I'd learned to stop worrying and accept the tank, excitement about the arrival of the top two rated juniors in the country began to build. Things were looking up, we hadn't yet Melbourned either Watts or Morton, and had another two picks in the top 20. What, as we like to say around here, could possibly go wrong?

The frenzy peaked with a function held by the club on draft night, encouraging members to gather and celebrate our windfall. Al Capone himself would have applauded such a shameless celebration of the proceeds of crime.

There's a theory that GWS had already planned the Scully heist before he was drafted. Maybe that was their idea but as much as I want to think badly of the man himself you can't tell me he was in on it that far out. Perhaps the most shambolic rumour of the time was that he and Ben Cunnington were both going to join, but to take the heat off it the parents of the opposite kid signed the agreement on their behalf. I still have no idea how that would have worked. Maybe Phil crossed Cunnington's name out and wrote his own?

At the time everyone wanted to think the best for the future. Once the relationship had gone tits up the gloves were off for any sort of zany theory. The type of people who are now into QAnon and Pete Evans found hidden meaning in him not putting the jumper on during the parade of top 10 draft picks. Even I thought this was a bit far-fetched, surely if you really were involved in a conspiracy you'd do everything possible to give the appearance of normality, not broadcast coded messages.

After the excessive publicity given to Jack Watts being handed Norm Smith's old number, we did it again with Scully, making a big deal out of him wearing Ron Barassi's old #31. Paul Wheatley must have been sitting at home wondering why he didn't get a ceremony during any part of his decade in it.

Fans of Tom's 'Resting Dead Face' will appreciate the level of excitement he brought to being handed these once sacred digits. At this time what odds would you have got on Joel Macdonald making more money than the rest of them combined?


Even after the embarrassment of late 2009, there were still some lunatics who wanted to throw the next season and get another priority pick. As if the AFL would have been able to turn a blind eye to those sorts of shenanigans twice. After three seasons of watching complete dross, those of us who hadn't suffered a traumatic brain injury were looking forward to improvement. As excited as I was for the Round 1 debut of SCULLGOVE era, it didn't take long for normal service to resume:
Despite that early setback, early returns for both Scully and the club itself were positive. Unlike when fans and journalists alike united in demanding excellence or death from Jack Watts after four games, our latest #1 pick was being given every opportunity to develop. Imagine we knew that neither of them would end their career with us? There would have been self-harm.

The first sign that we might have stumbled/rorted our way into something special came on that wonderful night where top of the league Brisbane were pulverised. His first goal for us was by the far the most memorable of his Melbourne career. In fact it's the only memorable one. There were five others and I'm buggered if I know what they looked like, but they weren't as good as this: 

If that made people sit up and take notice, people were throwing babies in the air over his 39 wet-weather possessions against the Bulldogs two weeks later. Sure we lost, and many of the touches were clangers, but in his seventh game the sheer volume of accumulation, balancing contested and uncontested possession all over the ground was worth sliding off your seat over. 

Turns out I had high aspirations for him both on and off the field. One of these people ended up corruptly acquiring millions of dollars. The other is Tom Scully.

The five votes he got that night were the first of 15 in his rookie season, landing him the prestigious Hilton Award for Best First Year Player. This was later revoked, robbing him of one of the few individual honours of his career.

Across 21 games and second place in the Rising Star, his career was bubbling away nicely. At the time nobody thought it was suss that a first year player hadn't extended his initial contract. Only people who realised what sort of concessions GWS had up their sleeve were getting hot under the collar about him going. "Surely not" I thought. Surely so as it seems.

Another BOG in the second last game of the year was a last-ditch reminder that bigger and better things were on the agenda in 2011. And indeed they were. Bigger wins, bigger losses, and for one player, in particular, the biggest payday of his life.

The Year of Living Suspiciously (featuring Technicolour Gawn)
Some say that the infamous trip to China helped convince Tom that we were not the club for him. With a level of alcohol consumption reportedly matching a Captain Gronewagen style 80s footy trip, Liam Jurrah discovered the joys of sinking expensive booze in nightclubs, and Scully apparently decided to chuff off home early after Max Gawn stumbled in from a night of bulk piss and spewed on his duvet.

We know from Max alluding to it a couple of years ago that there was definitely a vom, but no DNA records are available to show how whether any of it landed on him. Given that he'd reportedly never touched a drop of drink I can understand the terror of a 208cm giant raining alcohol-laden spew on you with only a flimsy hotel blanket for defence. As unpleasant as that was, he might have overcome the trauma if we'd also been able to pay him a million bucks a year. He also missed the chance to win the Kaspersky Cup, which must have been a real personal blow.

Our off-field turmoil would be the talk of the town by the season's end, but was bubbling away behind the scenes for now. As far as plebs like me knew things were looking up. After flirting awkwardly with the finals late in 2010 before inevitably stuffing it up, confidence was high. Even the youth policy that saw Junior McDonald unceremoniously turfed and Cameron Bruce allowed to go without a fight was only being viewed with a "wait and see..." style level of suspicion.

With the enemy within not yet revealed, my main AFL villain remained Chris J**d, who'd talked up his great childhood love of the Dees in 2007 before spurning us for a lucrative joint bid from Carlton and Visy. Soon enough his supervillain status was minimised to the point where I even acknowledged his full name for a few years, until the joyless reaction to us making the 2018 finals saw him stripped of his middle letters again.

It didn't take long into the new year for temperatures to rise.

I couldn't agree with myself more. In reality, he didn't even play until Round 11 due to a knee complaint, offering people who desperately wanted to believe we weren't being played the "just let him concentrate on rehab" excuse. Rehabbing the hand he signs contracts with apparently.

See also, the suggestion that he was welcome to leave as long as he was honest about it. And this goes to the heart of it, I'm not saying I'd have considered him a good bloke under any circumstances but just come clean. At the barest minimum don't pull the wool over the eyes of a dying man. More on that later.

He was making all the right noises, but we didn't want noises, we wanted a name on paper or full and frank admissions of treachery.

Complicating this already shambolic process was the rule that allowed the Giants (and the Suns before them) to approach players within 12 months of their contracts expiring. Technically they weren't allowed to sign them until the end of the season but we all know what was up. Gold Coast used the same rule to have a ping at several of our players, including Frawley, Watts, Morton and Petterd. All turned them down and must have woken screaming in the night about it when we were being thrashed 12 months later. 

While he was out injured, there was little thought given to the Scully contract. We were too busy riding an emotional rollercoaster at a million miles an hour. Dismembered by West Coast one week, thumping the Crows the next, going down to a series of limp defeats and still finding ourselves inside the eight after Round 14. In Scully's first game back from injury we beat Essendon, an under-the-pump Bails punched the roof of the dugout in joy and things were looking decidedly positive again. Not for the first or last time the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be the light from an oncoming train.

Even though he'd passed my arbitrary deadline to re-sign, I still thought Scully's return raised the tone of the club, which shows some level of faith in him staying. Deep down I knew it was never going to happen. Tryign to match the offer of an organisation working with an unlimited budget was risky but I still wanted to keep him, just to stick two fingers up at everyone who'd assumed he would leave at the first opportunity.

A couple of weeks later, with out season very much still alive, the mood had clearly darkened.

To show there were no hard feelings, the next day I had him in the votes as we walloped Freo by 89 points. TA few weeks later he disappeared with an injury halfway through our win over Port, and by the time he'd come back for the last three games we'd suffered 186, the coach had been sacked and the club was in freefall. Would have been a fantastic time for an alleged future leader to call a press conference and say "I'm staying to fix this place". Instead there was dead silence and we knew he was gone. All that was lacking was him admitting it.

The reluctance to commit (to us anyway) came despite a grassroots campaign where fans pledged a treasure trove of novelty items to convince him to stay. I don't think trying to appeal to him with comedy helped, nor did talk about dinner with SEN's Gladiators of Sport (you had to be there...). One fan even offered to perform explicit acts on him in exchange for his signature, which was going well beyond the call of duty.

Once the deadline for accepting the trove expired the turn was on, leading to a #scullyexcuses hashtag trending in Australia. Must have been a slow Twitter day. Any excuse to take the focus off our club imploding like a disused casino. Players and administrators were feuding, board members were leaking like a sieve to the media, and the second-worst performance in the history of VFL/AFL football had somehow saved the CEO who the players were upset with in the first place. Supposedly, the Schwab sacking had been offered to Scully as part of the club's own treasure trove. I have a hard time believing that but the way we were going back then anything was possible. 

I wonder what Tom was doing while his teammates were being ripped apart on that fateful day at Kardinia Park. Was probably so busy packing for the move that he didn't find out the bumper margin until later that night. "Oh that's a shame" he might have said, before sticky taping another box. Never before have I wanted a more boring person to write an in-depth autobiography. In fact, I'll write it with him. Makes sense, who knows more about the background of this issue than me? Maybe we'll come out of it as best mates? Maybe not.

By now it was so obvious he was going that the denials became almost comical. If he'd just admitted it the nuclear heat would have passed much faster. Phil Davis was polite enough to own up in early August, and while Crows fans initially treated him like Pol Pot things quickly blew over.

It's probably better that he didn't pull the pin on the same day as Davis, walking out three days post-186 would have been ordinary timing. Any time before, or between a week later and the end of the season would have been fine though. At least we'd have avoided being strung along for the last few weeks when it was clear he was going (see also the departures of Frawley and Howe). But because he wouldn't say he was going and we couldn't bring ourselves to make a stand they picked him for four of the last five rounds, before he was quietly withdrawn for the last game in case he buggered up our compo by doing both knees on an experimental Adelaide Oval deck.

Suffice to say nobody was really surprised when he announced. Even Sheeds - still bitter that we didn't hire him in 2007 - was giving free hints to journos in the lead-up.
And he was. Any lingering issues with the knee were solved by putting a big bag of money at the end of the Hume Highway and watching him take off like Cliff Young.

This makes the events of Sunday September 11 even more ridiculous. Instead of saying "Yes, I am leaving, goodbye", he went on the Sunday Footy Show, claimed he hadn't made a decision and was just flying up to Sydney to check out their facilities. The good news is that he wasn't alone, Phil joined him to "meet the club". One way or another I hope they had a fire extinguisher ready in case somebody's pants caught on fire.

The tour of the contract signing room was so successful that he made the decision to take GWS' offer right there and then. The secretive nature of his departure is what really triggered the ill-feelings. 

Then there was the rumour that he'd straight up told a dying Jim Stynes that he was staying before dicking us. Jim's side of the story was told in a posthumously released autobiography. Considering his general outlook on life and all the work he did with young people I don't see him making up shit to bury a bloke from beyond the grave, leading me to believe this is a true account of what happened. 

Stynes wrote of meeting Scully in February 2011 and saying, "All I ask is that you be honest with us. If you make a decision to leave, then you make that decision, but I need to know so that the club can make some plans. Don't make us look like fools".

The alleged response was "GWS hasn't approached me, or my manger. There hasn't been contact with them in any shape or form. I love the club and want to play out my career with Melbourne."

At least one of those statements was cobblers. 2011 offered plenty of reasons to be upset about the direction of the Melbourne Football Club but it's a long way down from claiming to a man's face that you 'love the club' and starring on the GWS YouTube channel. According to Stynes, the big money offer for Scully's dad to work as a recruiter with the Giants was made three months before that conversation. Scully Jr. later claimed he had absolutely no idea that his dad had been offered the job. Draw your own conclusions. 

Neutral fans, I know this all seems ridiculous when you weren't involved, but do you see how treating the fans of a club on its knees like they were stupid may have caused some aggravation? Of course it was all very irrational and child-like, and there are much more important things to be upset at in the world, but if you can't see why people got upset you're not trying very hard. Just like there are plenty of Melbourne fans who wanted no part of the anti-Scully sentiment and wished him well, a lot of your fans would set fire to a car if the same thing happened. Of course, most people got over it, I'm still angry even though he's retired.

The sort of people who think everyone should be friends say things like "what would you have done if you were offered a million dollars a year at that age?" I may very well have taken it, but I'd expect people to think of me as a dead-set mercenary for the rest of my days. Perhaps winning a Brownlow and a flag might have quelled that feeling a bit. Oh well, at least he's got the money eh?

It's not like he would gone poor staying with us. Like 16 other clubs we had to work within the constraints of the salary cap, but were hardly offering him KFC wages. He'd still have done extraordinarily well for himself (if he'd sidestepped the inevitable Melbourning), especially if we funnelled him extra cash for a J**d style third party racket. Either way, I doubt he'd have ended up scabbing for change in a blanket if he'd stayed. Maybe the difference in pay was worth never being truly respected. Maybe he looks at what happened to poor old, loyal Jack Trengove - who tellingly re-signed to much fanfare in mid-2011 - and is thankful that took the money and ran.

"What about [insert name here]?", they've said about Jeff White (retrospectively), Mitch Clark (laughably) and Jake Lever since. "Why was it alright for you to sign them?" Unfortunately for these people, White is the only even remotely similar case, with the added attraction of us having rorted the salary cap to pay for him. Even he put in three years before running away. We even handed the Dockers the second pick of the draft in exchange. Which, to prove you just can't help some people, they proceeded to swap for Chris Bond.

More importantly, who told the fans of the aggrieved clubs in these transactions that they couldn't crack the sads? I wish they had, nothing is more exciting in sports than good old fashioned bad feelings. It's not our fault that they were too soft to make a scene. Freo fans should be especially disappointed at their performance, they even got the dream scenario of him debuting for us on their ground. The only signs being held aloft that day said 'Messages On Hold'. Weak.

Once he'd made his apparently spontaneous decision to go, Tom was nice enough to ring around and let the key figures at Melbourne know. This was like calling your partner to say you're leaving while you're in the replacement's bed. Suffice to say the guy who made the Someone Like You video knew it was coming, having the whole thing produced (key line - "Oh Tom, why did you sell out?" Did our 30 goals losses leave you with some doubt?"), edited and ready to go on the day of the announcement. He knew, we knew, everybody knew. I still reckon that even that otherwise non-story about him touring the facilities was only posted because the idea was so laughable they wanted to make sure it was on the public record.

The Herald Sun cited 'sources' who said he got cold feet just before the switch but was unable to renege because he's already signed a contract. Which was about as believable as the celebrity gossip in Women's Weekly. The feet were very warm and now that his career's over I defy him to claim otherwise.

Two first round draft picks as compensation softened the blow, but it's ludicrous to suggest that's a reason not to be upset with the person who left. He didn't care if we got pick #1 or pick #123. It's not like dropped into AFL House on the way to the airport and hammered out the best deal for us. He did not give a fat rat's clacker about what happened to us after that point.

The whole thing was a scam anyway, the Giants immediately got pick #2 back in exchange for the rights to Jesse Hogan, who had never been their player in the first place. To say the AFL bent over to try and make GWS an instant success is one of the great understatements. 

When Hogan was kicking goals and Scully was running around in (relatively) successful GWS sides, it looked like both sides had come out well. Oddly enough, less than 10 years later Hogan is now on his last legs as an AFL player with... GWS and we're left hoping Steven May - swapped for Hogan - pays off this trading pyramid scheme by delivering a flag. History since 1964 suggests that's unlikely. 

Less than a week after Scully left we announced Mark Neeld. Which is another story entirely. I think they would have gotten on well together. That combination might have done wonderful things and ended their career showered in riches. We'll never know. By the time both were gone the only shower that counted was the stream of piss that had been poured over loyal supporters.

Carnival of Hate
Considering how rotten we were for the next couple of years, the Scully saga provided a much-needed distraction. From this point my teams were Melbourne and whoever played against him. It would be easy to say I was young and foolish, but I still felt like this all the way through to the end of 2020. Yes, I am an extremely petty individual, thank you for noticing. Meanwhile he's probably got a $6 million house so I'm sure he's not feeling too bad about his choices.

Suffice to say, once the cloak and dagger deal had been concluded the door was open for things to get a bit nasty.

... and that wasn't even near the sourest, most mean-spirited tweet I sent about him in the following 12 months. I'm not proud of them, but they happened. It's a wonder that he didn't double down and on his big payday and sue me as well. There was also much excitement over a shot of his sister where she was the colour of a terracotta pot and one with he and Blease posed on a beach like a bootleg Miami Vice.

Unless you were one of the sage people who cocked a quizzical eyebrow at Neeld's appointment, there was no indication of how bad 2012 was going to be. Yes, we had quite recently lost a game by 31 goals, sacked the coach, been knifed by our best young prospect, the President was fighting a losing battle with cancer, and had just appointed the youngest captains in the history of the league but other than that everything was fine. Hard to believe it got even worse the next year.

Somewhat sucked in by the fantasy of Neeld turning the place around, I wasn't ready to completely write the year off yet (that came in Round 2). Not until we'd played GWS anyway. I had many frustrations that needed to be publicly vented. 

Given that the AFL create the fixture and own the Giants I'm surprised they didn't protect themselves from wild scenes by scheduling us to play them interstate. They probably thought it was fine to put it on at the MCG because our poncy, cravat wearing fans wouldn't tear the place apart. We didn't, generally opting for comedy instead of hateful abuse. Well, maybe a little bit of hateful abuse. But not much.

The timing of the first match couldn't have been better. By Round 13 they were still likely to be struggling, while we'd be a comfortably mid-table side building towards bigger and better things. Or so I thought. The alternative plan was to win one game from the first 12 and often play as if drunk. By the time the Giants arrived they were only behind us on percentage, had the shit hottest young forward in the competition in Jeremy Cameron, and only just lost to a finals-contending Richmond to two goals. A fortnight later they'd come back to the MCG and lose to Hawthorn by 162 points, but for now, I reserved the right to be VERY afraid of us humiliating ourselves.

In case you've got 2 hours and 22 minutes spare, here's the entire game. At least watch the pre-match package, featuring Scully saying he thinks people will "get over it". Unlikely mate.


It's no spoiler to say we won, and after an early scare won comfortably. I still get misty-eyed thinking how many goals Mitch Clark would have kicked this day if his foot hadn't been injured after the first four. 

The real action was in the stands. Banners included '#1 Prick', and the pointed 'YOU LIED TO JIM'. Old mate was famously pictured jiggling themed money bags, and people were kicked out for pinning money to themselves. Somehow despite three signs reportedly being removed from the MCG, I got away with holding one side of this:
I'd never met the other guy, he just needed somebody to help hold it up and I was happy to oblige. Attempts to cover my identity and avoid potential defamation action was negated by instantly admitting to being under the mask. The next day Channel 9 asked for an interview, I was not hungry for publicity but should have asked if I could do it with the mask on and my voice digitally altered.

It was an excellent banner, saying everything you needed to know in four letters, two numbers and a symbol. Certainly far more successful than the other one, which mocked Phil for his love of Fish Fingers. It didn't have the same lovely font as the anti-Peter Moore banner that he threatened to sue over in 1983 but you can't win them all. I still have both of them, though the only other public airing JUDA$31 has ever had was for the work going away party of a Melbourne fan.

Some of the stuff that went on that day went a bit close to the mark but on the whole it was a triumph for comedy over agro. Mind you, this was the year the Collingwood cheersquad held up 'SPAZ FOR FAZ' and GWS had an ideologically unsound group of Krishna Kockheads following them around the country so you could pretty much do anything you wanted. 

The carnival atmosphere was helped by there only being about 14 GWS fans there, including one planted kid holding a sign saying 'I HEART TOM SCULLY'. I hope moneybags Tom sent him a couple of hundred bucks to say thanks. To prove that we were not entirely terrible people, there was a universally positive reaction to the returning James McDonald, proving we did have some class after all.

We played them again two months later, where despite it being a GWS home game (in Canberra), every touch Scully got was treated with contempt by vocal fans. It was enough to warm your heart. As was beating them again, albeit this time in unconvincing fashion, against a side featuring Israel Folau as the most comically out of his depth senior AFL player ever at the bargain price of $1.5 million. As much as I disliked Scully at least they got some of their money's worth from recruiting him. Meanwhile, he must have looked at Jack Watts sitting on the bench in a green vest waiting for Tom Couch to be subbed off and thought "that could have been me." Or you could have helped drive the culture that would have got the best out of Watts. Either or.

Feelings never ran as deep as again as they did on the first day. They didn't need to. A handful of committed people booed him and I yelled rude things whenever he turned up, but there was no need for further public demonstrations. By 2013 I was probably the only person tracking our meetings with him, taking great glee in beating him again via the bonkers 12 goal last quarter game while everything else was crumbling around us. Our man did us a rare favour when he gave away a downfield 50 in that final term that led to not only a goal but me cramming all of the top seven words you can't say on TV into a delighted five second spray.

Later in the season the Giants finally got us, winning their first and only game of the season. Infuriatingly (but good for the feud), Scully was amongst the best on the ground. I reacted with the fear that he'd mock us by becoming a three-time Brownlow Medallist. Just fell three short. Got seven votes one year though, which was one more than Scott Chisholm in 1999.

From 2014-2017 we were never better than the Giants, regularly losing to them. He still didn't get the chance to beat us on the MCG, missing the game where we kicked 3.16 and lost by 10 goals, but it was clear to me that he was going to win a flag at some point and we weren't. If either side was going to fulfil the saying "the best revenge is living well", it was likely not going to be us.

There was a near-disaster in the opening round of 2016 when he nearly kicked a miracle goal to snatch the game with seconds to play. This coming after he got the first of the match, a none-more-Melbourne way to start the season. Our record of never letting him sully our home turf was about all we had going for us. They finished fourth in 2016  - hilariously losing that Prelim to the Bulldogs - and 2017, while we were splashing around in the middle of the league.

He beat us again in our last meeting before he left GWS, in front of a glory-hunting Canberra crowd swelled to nearly double what it had been for the first meeting there. No sane people really cared anymore but I still cursed the screen every time they showed him, it had become a habit. Even when we weren't playing there would be deep, dark, mutterings under the breath and demands to kick it on the full whenever he got a touch.

By the time we - temporarily - got good in 2018 he was on the sidelines after seriously injuring his ankle in the opening game of the year. After all this you probably wouldn't believe me if I said 'you wouldn't wish injury on anyone...' but I had matured somewhat by that point. However, once he was out of the way I developed a genuine interest in GWS. There was even audible disgust when they were narrowly tipped out of the finals by Collingwood. If we weren't going to win the flag (and we weren't), the idea of him missing out while his teammates got one appealed.

They had a shot the next year (and didn't that go well?), but he was well gone by then, with his salary dumped from their cap via a cheap-as-chips trade to Hawthorn, where the story would continue in 2019.

Toilet colours and beyond
Even though they'd just made the finals, the Hawks looked to be rapidly unfurling from their mid-2010s glory days. Still, weren't you a touch scared that they'd apply miracle cures to his ankle and burst back into premiership contention immediately? I was packing it. It would have been footy's version of Fatal Attraction to think the ankle injury finished Tom off only for him to roar back to life and win a flag.

They did only just miss the finals, ultimately not helped by losing to us, but it was their last gasp. You could be reasonably confident now that he wasn't going to win a flag, and that by peaking at 'good ordinary' status as a player that there would be no late-career revival Brownlow(s). Which is about all you can cling to when your team is no good.

Fittingly, for somebody whose career had been defined by the reaction of fans, our last meeting came in front of an estimated 750 people. I still heard somebody in the crowd boo him, maintaining the rage until the very last moment. 

Now he's chucked it in and I don't know what to do with myself. Unlike the real Cold War there were no winners. Literally none, he never won anything team or individual after leaving, and neither did we. If anything you'd have to give him the advantage simply for making a shitload of money and playing in two more finals on his own than our entire club in the same period.

And so, in closing the book on nearly a decade of animosity against somebody who'd never heard of me (or he'd surely have sued for defamation), let it be said that while I despise him as a football personality I wish him well as a human.

All together now...

There's a hole in my heart as deep as a well...



3 comments:

  1. What new hobby will you take up now?

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    Replies
    1. Back to patiently waiting for Melbourne to be good.

      Delete
  2. This is glorious! And I totally booed him at Manuka.

    You'll need to reissue The Brick just to ensure this screed is immortalised properly.

    ReplyDelete