As Ty Vickery strolled to the bench a couple of spectators shouted angrily towards him: he had knocked out Dean Cox and riled the West Coast players and their fans. Cox’s elbow into Vickery’s chest, a moment before the knock-out blow, became irrelevant. Just part of the game. Vickery’s wild-swing became a headline and a reason for an apology. The swing was disingenuous: as his fist struck Cox on the point of the chin, the ball was nowhere to be seen. Ty will be taking a holiday – I’m thinking four weeks minimum. Ty’s apology will do little to placate the tribunal – and indeed it shouldn’t. Ty took Cox out of the game and could have potentially seriously injured him.
But, I’m wondering that just perhaps, the spectators’ anger was somewhat also related to the rather pedestrian nature of the game up until that point. West Coast had been subdued by the Tiges and Ty himself was playing well. Ty, so long a cause of frustration for many Tigers’ fans, had begun to show a greater assertiveness on the field. He had started to attack the ball more convincingly. I’m also thinking he is looking much stronger around the shoulders and arms. He seems to have grown into his body, so to speak. The home ground advantage had been neutralised by Richmond: for whatever reason, the Tiges like playing at Subiaco. Even some of their defeats haven’t been so ignominious. Perhaps the Eagles fans yet again sensed a disappointment.
A couple of weeks back Ty was being interviewed after he had played a solid game – perhaps kicking some three goals or so. Prior to the game, Luke Hodge had singled him out as being a potentially important and pivotal player to the Tiges success or failure that night. And, Ty showed that he was. He played well and the Tiges won. After the game, Ty laughed shyly when the interviewer mentioned that Luke Hodge – that symbol of tough stoicism – had stated his support. Ty: ‘well, I’m glad that he had faith in me’. He is aware of his status as one of Richmond’s doubted players. But, he also indicated a degree of genuine modesty that is uncommon amongst the macho bravado of footy players. I hoped that this would convey something to the fans who abuse him or shout at him during games when he doesn’t perform well or spectacularly. The game needs players who can express their sense of doubt about their talents or ability to play the game at the highest level.
I don’t know what Ty said to the spectators who abused him. The spectators did so because they knew that they could get away with it. The fans were performing to the cameras: they could have been confident that their actions would be replayed. If this was the greatest crime that they have witnessed throughout their lives, then they are lucky men. Perhaps Ty said: ‘I am wrong; I knocked out your man. I read the newspapers though. We’re all guilty. We’re all implicated in this culture of footy in which we seek by any method to win. If we can make a hard hit on a player within the rules, all the better. I deliberately hit him while pretending to be competing in a ruck contest. My fault was that it was so clumsy that it was so poorly disguised.’
And meanwhile, elsewhere, in an unending war, some thousands of civilians have been killed. And we watch a game and partake in its endless media cycle. Oh what a luxury to be angry at Ty. Oh what a luxury to see our team winning, losing, winning and losing some more. We watch and forget. Let’s just hold back on the mock indignation at the crimes of others.