With the announcement that Amazon has elected to further in invest in our game via documentaries, we should be celebrating.
However, with another foray into creating AFL content, this time about the career of AFLW star, Tayla Harris, some people seem to be a little less than enthused by the subject matter.
On the heels of their 2020 docu-series, airing in March 2021, following AFL luminaries such as Nic Naitanui, Stephen Coniglio, Rory Sloane, Eddie Betts, Stuart Dew, and the Richmond Football Club’s senior leadership (Peggy O’Neal, Damien Hardwick, and Brendon Gale) throughout the 2020 AFL season, the entertainment giant’s decision to continue their expansion into Aussie Rules can only lead to good things.
Yes, I am sure there are plenty of people with ideas that they much prefer over Harris’ exploits in both footy and boxing to this point, but those lamenting the choice are failing to see the bigger picture – this can not only bring footy to a wider international audience – it can also offer die-hard supporters a new and exciting level of access to the sport we love. Amazon has the kind of budget that the AFL dreams of to produce high-quality programs. They also offer an external view of our game, at arm’s length and removed from the ties that bind our own production companies from diving headfirst into subjects.
So, with that in mind, what topics, players, or situations would you like Amazon to cover in the coming years? Let’s look at it as though these will be Amazon’s answer to ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, only with an AFL focus.
The national competitions and state leagues have a wealth of stories that would make great documentaries. If clubs and players signed on for a warts-and-all dive into subjects, what would tickle your fancy the most?
As a note, I have avoided topics that have already had documentaries made – Ben Cousins’ fall from grace, Adam Goodes’ being booed, and the Crows’ back-to-back flags. If you want those made… guess what? They already are.
WHY JEZZA LEFT THE BLUES
There are few bigger legends in Carlton history than Alex Jesaulenko, but after Premiership glory in 1979, “Jezza” walked out of Princes Park and headed Moorabbin for a two-year run with the Saints.
The documentary would cover the glory years, with a particular focus on the finals series in 1979 and the ensuing departure of the Carlton great to play at St Kilda. What happened? Who was at fault? What do the parties think about it all now and have the feelings mellowed, or festered over the years?
THE DEBUT OF THE ADELAIDE FOOTBALL CLUB
Port Adelaide’s bid for inclusion in the AFL in 1990 was snuffed out by the SANFL, and in their place, a new team was formed to take on the Vics at their own game.
In 19901 the Adelaide Crows burst onto the scene with a massive belting of the AFL powerhouse Hawthorn side, dismantling the Hawks by a mammoth 86 points at Football Park.
The documentary would feature interviews with players from that debut clash from both sides, supporters and detractors of the Crows. Interviews with several Port Adelaide representatives, leading to a future documentary about the history of The Showdown could also be included.
THE RISE AND FALL OF TONY MODRA
If you were to look back at the career of Tony Modra and the period he played for the Adelaide Crows, without thinking, you could be forgiven for adding him to the list of the Crows’ back-to-back premiership glory in 1997-98.
However, Modra was robbed of the opportunity to be part of those triumphs. The first opportunity was torn away when he landed heavily in the incredible Preliminary Final win over the Bulldogs, rupturing his ACL. However, twelve months later, he was on the sidelines again, dropped by Malcolm Blight as the Crows rampaged toward the club’s second premiership.
Modra would go on to finish his career with the Fremantle Dockers.
Interviews with Modra, Blight, teammates, and the blokes whose head he sat on throughout his career.
FLAWED GENIUS – THE GARY ABLETT SENIOR STORY
Perhaps the most physically gifted player of all-time, the mercurial Gary Ablett Senior was a complete freak on the football field. His achievements and ability to take over a game were close to the best we’ve seen. But life away from football has not reaped the same successes.
This would be a longshot, with Senior recently taking to Youtube to air his theories about the state of the world likely to cause a real stir, but his reclusive lifestyle, his beliefs and his trials and tribulations post-football, including the death of Alisha Horan would make compelling viewing.
My guess is that the Ablett family would be reluctant to engage in the doco, but there may be plenty of AFL luminaries that would offer their insights into what made the man tick.
THE BRIDESMAID – RENE KINK
Playing in five losing Grand Final sides, you could be forgiven for terming the career of Rene Kink a failure, but the man dubbed ‘The Incredible Hulk’ was one of the most gifted and polarising figures in the game in the late 70s and early 80s.
Kink struggled with his weight throughout his career, but had a huge public profile… and could really cut a head of hair, apparently! His story, the highs, lows, the amazing debut replacing Peter McKenna and the lows of having to leave Collingwood to head to the Bombers, would be amazing.
Interviews with Kink, opponents, coaches and clips of his media appearanes, including his role in The Club would make for a ripper tale.
THE INDIVIDUAL – MARK JACKSON
Mark Jackson was almost a superstar off the field. He’d tell you he was, but after moving to the United States after a tumultuous career, Jacko faded from the limelight, eventually moving back to Australia and doing the footy club circuit.
From TV roles, to boxing matches to his #3 single “I’m An Individual”, Jacko has led an interesting life and we haven’t even begun to touch on the fact he was pretty bloody handy footballer, kicking 70+ goals in a season on three occasions. I’m pretty sure he;’d put his hand up for the interview, but snippets from opponents, coaches and even some people he worked with in the entertainment industry would provide for some very interesting insights.
Hell, Mike Sheahan may even make an appearance.
BLACKLISTED – JASON AKERMANIS
Jason Akermanis is now a real estate agent. Would you buy a house from him?
He could have been one of the better presences in the AFL media, however, with a penchant for speaking before fully thinking things through, Aker was booted from the industry after doing EXACTLY what his employers hoped he would do when they hired him – provide soundbites that would draw people to their product.
He could have been a valuable asset as an assistant coach at any club in the land, but he was told he was viewed as an individual – AFL clubs wanted team players.
Interviews with former coaches, adversaries and coverage of his departures from both Brisbane and the Western Bulldogs could give insight into whether Aker was hard done by in some cases, or whether he was always his own worst enemy.
THE REWARD FOR LOSING
It was 2009 and the Melbourne Demons had plenty to play for and plenty of reasons to lose as well. Some strange selection decisions and a penchant for dropping games saw the Demons end up with the bot pick one and two after, well, being shit for two straight years.
They used those picks to draft Tom Scully and Jack Trengove.
Dustin Martin was pick three.
A series of poor decisions saw then-coach Dean Bailey and head of football, Chris Connolly suspended, whilst the Dees were fined $500K.
Obviously, Dean Bailey is no longer with us, but the players from that period are around and I reckon a smug little smile in there from Brendon Gale as he talks about Martin falling to the Tigers might be the best part of the whole doco.
THE FALL GUY
The departure of James Hird as Essendon coach split the club. There are still many Bomber fans that will protest their champion’s innocence and with Hird doing no tell-all interviews or books, this would be one hell of a ride.
With interviews from players past and current, Hird, himself, Mark Thompson as well as those at the club at the time, one documentary may not be enough to cover this – it could be an entire series. Hird’s family could be interviewed, Sheeds could chime in about his character… as much as I despised the whole saga and what it did to that club and our game, a doco on one of the people most affected would be great TV.
HE’S NOT EVEN THE BEST DRUMMER IN THE BEATLES – STEPHEN SILVAGNI AND GEOFF SOUTHBY
There are many Carlton supporters with long memories, and when Stephen Silvagni was honoured by the AFL as the “full back of the century”, many Blues fans screwed up their noses. Whilst it was great to see one of their own recognised as a great of the game, there was another they thought was just as worthy, if not more so.
Geoff Southby played from 1971 until 1984, holding down the key position in defence for the Blues. Rarely beaten, he would play on Goliaths of the forward lines. A two-time best and fairest, Southby was relegated to the back pocket in Carlton’s team of the century as well. This does not sit well with many long-time Carlton men.
With interviews from Carlton’s storied champions and teammates of both Southby and Silvagni, the doco is meant to prompt conversation about the full back position in the AFL Team of the Century and Carlton’s own Team of the Century, whilst recognising the penchant for recency-bias in naming these representative sides.
SWERVED – LANCE FRANKLIN SIGNS WITH THE SWANS
It was 2013. Hawthorn had just won the premiership and Lance Franklin was expected to leave the club, signing with the emerging Greater Western Sydney team. It was a move the AFL were happy about – the biggest name in the game heading to their important market in Australia’s biggest city.
He left with goodwill from Hawks fans – joining a minnow club to prop them up was not viewed as a threat.
And then the Swans swooped in. In a startling turn of events, Franklin and his management shunned the Giants and signed with Sydney, becoming a Swan and elevating his new team back into contention. What went on behind closed doors? Did the Giants think Buddy was signed, sealed, and delivered? Were the AFL completely bamboozled by the move? And how did the players on the relevant teams react to Franklin jumping ship?
The doco could also focus on his Hawthorn teammates going on to win two more premierships without him as the Swans fell over at the final hurdle. It is easy to then gravitate to the discussion around whether the move was a success, or whether we only assess on-field results when determining those results?
IT ALL AMOUNTS TO NOTHING
The Fremantle Football Club has not seen the ultimate success since they commenced in the AFL, but in 2020, an undefeated AFLW team looked very likely to give the club their first piece of silverware.
After smashing Gold Coast to the tune of 70 points in the first week of the finals, the season was abruptly called off due to Covid-19. At that stage, there were four teams left in the hunt.
Featuring interviews with both male and female Dockers, the doco explores the pain of being so close and losing the Grand Final with being undefeated and having the chance to contend taken away by circumstances beyond your control.
THE BIG FISH? – GARRY MCINTOSH
Norwood champion, Garry McIntosh is a household name in South Australia, playing 336 games in the SANFL for his beloved Redlegs through the 1980s and 1990s. Despite offers for his services from the VFL and then AFL, McIntosh opted to remain in the SANFL and never venture east to test himself against those in the “big league”.
Greg Williams counts McIntosh amongst his toughest ever opponents and with three Fos Williams Medals to his name, he excelled in the state versus state competition. But why did McIntosh never make the journey to the V/AFL? What could he have been had he chosen a different course, and what would it have meant to Norwood?
With interviews from the Norwood faithful, those who pursued his services and those who he played against during interstate carnivals, the doco would examine just how good Garry McIntosh was and whether he could have replicated that success anywhere but the SANFL. Finally, what would his presence have meant to the early incarnations of the Adelaide Crows had he signed with them?
So, what I want from you guys – yes, some homework – gimme your best pitch for an AFL documentary that’d find a good home as part of Amazon’s AFL coverage. What would you like to see them dive into and create a documentary about?
And screw it – while I am at it, here are a couple of oral history articles I wrote over the last couple of years. They’re about as close as you’ll get to a doco on the subjects Fair warning – they’re member articles and I am pretty proud of these.