Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze has condemned the behaviour of AFL footballers during Sunday evening’s Brownlow Medal, claiming the excessive alcohol consumption set a poor example for children.
During the end-of-season ceremony at Crown Casino, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan was forced to repeatedly ask the rowdy attendees to quieten down so he could continue the count.
Some footballers were seen downing drinks when cameras panned in their direction, which Gaze believed sent the wrong message to the sport’s younger fans.
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“I understand that I’m at that demographic now where you can get a little oversensitive to stuff that’s not that significant,” he told SEN’s The Run Home on Monday.
“It’s the end of the season, I get it. Players are finished, they’ve worked their tails off for a long period of time, they need to be able to unwind and have a good time.
“I just felt a little, and this is the dad in me, a little uncomfortable with the drinking, like it was some kind of game they were playing – ‘Scull a beer when you get a vote and chuck the black glasses on’.
“What it does is it normalises behaviour that I think is not a good message for kids.
“We’re in school holidays and there’s a lot of kids watching it. Again, in the big scheme of things, I’m sure most of the people there were very well behaved, but it is still a look that is being presented by heroes (to kids).
“You hear Patrick Cripps talking about how he looked up to (Ben Cousins and Chris Judd on Brownlow night).
“To see some of those guys that young kids idolise sculling beers – they’re having a good time and I understand that … I just think if there was a way in which the players could enjoy themselves, and have a little in excess, but in front of the camera – drinking responsibly should be part of what they do.”
Carlton midfielder Patrick Cripps won the 2022 Brownlow Medal in the most nailbiting finish to a vote count in recent memory.
The Blues skipper was one of the favourites to win the AFL’s highest individual accolade, but the lead changed countless times during a thrilling ceremony in Melbourne.
Cripps recovered from early disappointments to move to the top of the leaderboard halfway through the count and was tied with Brisbane’s Lachie Neale and Melbourne’s Clayton Oliver on 16 votes after Round 10.
It was a topsy-turvy vote count that went right down to the final round, with Neale and Gold Coast’s Touk Miller tied on 27 votes with one round remaining.
But there was one final twist as Cripps received the maximum three votes to take the lead on 29 votes in the very last game of the AFL season — Carlton’s one point loss to Collingwood that crushed the Blues’ hopes of making finals.
He finished one vote ahead of Neale and two clear of Miller in the closest Brownlow count in years. Cripps is the first Carlton player to win the Brownlow since Chris Judd in 2010.
Cripps can thank Carlton’s lawyer, who managed to successfully appeal a two-game suspension in a marathon hearing, allowing him to play the last two games of the season and win the Brownlow.
The 27-year-old’s defence counsel Chris Townshend QC became a central figure in Brownlow Medal conversations on social media as fans revisited the controversial ruling that allowed Cripps to avoid suspension and remain eligible to win the league’s top individual award.
The AFL appeals board last month overturned a tribunal’s decision to issue a two-match ban for Cripps’ bump on Brisbane’s Callum Ah Chee, who was concussed in the incident.