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  • Writer's pictureJohn Townsend

Rising star fiasco a self-inflicted injury football did not need

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when the WA Football Commission football department realised they had stuffed up the identity of the WAFLW rising star.

For those who missed it, the WAFC last week announced that South Fremantle player Renee Morgan was the winner of the Cath Boyce Rising Star award.

Then in scenes reminiscent of another South player erroneously accepting an award meant for someone else – the grand final fiasco in 2005 when Clint Jones accepted the Simpson Medal won by his team-mate Toby McGrath – Morgan was stripped of her award because Peel’s Evie Cowcher was the rightful winner.

It has not been confirmed, but it would make considerable sense had the alarm been raised by an annoyed Peel wondering why their clear winner had been overlooked.

The rising star rules are simple and objective yet it beggars belief that no one at footy headquarters raised the alarm before the actual presentation ceremony.

The WAFLW rules say that an eligible first-year player will win the rising star by the simple method of polling most votes in the league fairest and best count – the Dhara Kerr Medal.

It should have taken about 15 seconds to confirm that Cowcher was a first-year player, had not been suspended this season and polled 12 votes to come fifth in the Dhara Kerr.

Given that the four highest vote-getters were seasoned players, it would have been immediately obvious to astute observers at the presentation that the wrong decision had been made.

How could it have happened?

There are any number of highly-credentialed former club football managers and chief executives within the WAFC football department and while only one person may have made the incorrect call initially, it was surely approved up the line by a host of senior managers.

Where they actually interested or aware of what is happening within the WAFLW or was this just a cynical box-ticking exercise that paid lip service to women’s football?

The WAFC said in a release last week that it took full responsibility for what it described as an “oversight” but the irony of the situation could hardly have been lost on a South Fremantle club whose season was undermined by their eight premiership point penalty for a salary cap breach.

“The WAFC has a focussed strategy across football of displaying contemporary governance standards,” chairman Wayne Martin said when the South Fremantle penalty was handed down in March.

Where were those standards last week?

Now this column is not saying that heads should roll at the commission for what was an embarrassing but hardly game-changing blunder.

Given the precedent set several years ago when the WAFC took no action over an official accidently sending clubs a spreadsheet of all player payments for that season – which revealed numerous players being paid significantly less than what they privately said they were getting - it would have been overly harsh to take away an individual’s livelihood over the blue.

Yet South might point to another irony.

While they copped a substantial fine and the shattering points penalty, they might be pondering why elements at the commission have been campaigning to have a senior Bulldog sacked over the salary cap breach.

South copped their whack because they made an error, even though they – and many other football people including this column – believed the penalty far outweighed the crime.

The boot is now on the other foot.

The WAFC can’t lose points, and a fine is not relevant, so any penalty will come in the form of the embarrassment suffered by the culprits in this matter.

At a time that the two AFL clubs are struggling, and the WAFL is at a crossroads, having WA’s ultimate football body inflicted injuries on itself has done no good for football and its supporters.

IMAGE: Rookie Me


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