Keep this to yourself

Friday, May 17
Geelong Advertiser _ Dwayne Russell

PLEASE treat this whole article as being off the record. Keep the contents to yourself, or at least tell the people you talk to, to tell the people they talk to, not to tell anyone.

In a normal football week I would be in conversations with at least 20 AFL football club personnel. Most of the talk is informal but on the record. Some is never to be repeated.

At Geelong training on Wednesday night, I ran into an assistant coach while chasing one of my son's wayward kicks, and we tossed around a new way of running down the clock. All on the record, but not interesting enough to detail.

After Geelong's loss last week, I spoke to club doctor Hugh Seward about the ethics of removing one's own surgical stitches.

He gave me two sets of advice. One officially as a doctor, and another jokingly.

Last Friday I rang Ronnie Burns to see how he was feeling about life, his adductor injury, and his form. I told him right from the start that it was an off the record call as a friend, to see if he had anyone helping him.

He told me he was not playing against Hawthorn because he was too sore, but no one was to know about it.

I had three on-air assignments on ABC radio before Geelong played Hawthorn but obviously I said nothing. Honesty is not always the best policy. Never lie.

But sometimes it is better to avoid telling the truth, even if you can make a hero of yourself by breaking a good story.

There are Geelong officials who are concerned with Ben Graham's performances this year.

They would never say so on the record because solidarity and diplomacy are their understandable tactics of choice.

As always, it is better for those within the club to let those outside, like past players, be the critics. Board members can then abuse the past players for being too critical and negative and look like good guys.

A few weeks ago, one high ranking official asked me my thoughts on Ben Graham's performances this year.

After giving him an honest, constructive assessment, he asked me why I had not written it in this column this year.

He did not ask me to abuse or bag Ben in this column. He simply asked me if I believed that a public airing of my assessment might help Ben return to his better form.

My answer was no. If I truly believed Ben would take my advice, I would talk to him personally.

Constructive public criticism might work for a week, but Ben needs a long-term solution. And Ben does not strike me as one who uses criticism as a spur.

He has not taken too kindly to K-Rock's talkback calls, and assessments by Michael Turner and Ken Hinkley, two former captains of the club.

He has refused to do interviews with Geelong Advertiser writers.

All this in a week when Bulldog captain Chris Grant was hammered by the media over his wayward kicking and his admirable response was to invite the media to training to watch and count his shots at goal. He kicked 18 goals from 22 shots.

It would be easy to criticise Ben. Last week he was beaten by Nick Stone playing in just his second game. And Stone only realised he was playing half an hour before the bounce.

Stone was an emergency, and was eating a salad roll in the grandstand, when he learned Jonathon Hay was injured in the warm-up.

Ben Graham can play much better football than he has shown this year. We all know it. But don't tell anyone I said that. It's off the record.