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TITUS O’REILY A Sporting Chance

Titus O'Reily

Titus O’Reily is a satirical sportswriter and bestselling author who has built a cult following thanks, in part, to his unique and humourous take on the AFL. Now with the season drawing to a close, Titus is undertake a national tour to offer up his second annual review of the AFL season, entitled The Bye Round Tour. Ahead of his all ages show at the Octagon Theatre on August 28, MICHAEL HOLLICK caught up with Titus to find out what he has been up to, who he thinks will take home the 2018 premiership and what Dusty Martin will do after he hangs up hust boots.

Hi Titus! First up, what can audiences expect from you on your upcoming tour?

The show is mostly a look back at the season but I will also cover a range of topics that are relevant to the AFL, from the fun of AFLX to the AFLW to Bomber Thompson’s bikie infestation. There’s also the fear of living in Melbourne under a Richmond supremacy, I have had a few people say to me that Richmond fans have become insufferable but I truly think that they have always been insufferable. There’s actually been a lot, it’s been a funny year for football, so really looking forward to coming over. It was good last year, and I have even more material, so am looking forward to performing.

With your review of the season, you must be a good place to pick a winner. What are you thinking finals might look like?

I’ve watched every team play live and I’ve watched Richmond quite a lot, and they’re scarily good, which is terrible news for the rest of us. Particularly on the MCG. There is a sense of who could actually knock them off? I actually think West Coast, if they can get their injuries under control, could match up quite well. And I do worry, it keeps me awake at night, that Hawthorn could actually have some success again this year.

The unfair thing about Hawthorn is, whether people like it or not,  they actually have an insanely good coach who knows what he’s doing, and that’s something quite rare in AFL (laughs).  They are at a point now where they are coming good, they have a very good system, they know how to play the MCG and the young players know what to do. You don’t last under him if you don’t play the team role.

Speaking of Hawthorn, what do you think keeps teams like them consistently successful?

People look at the high draft picks, but I think it’s more important to look at what you do with those picks once you get them and how you develop them as players. I think that Clarko develops young players better than anyone else, and so you can have (clubs like the Hawks) who get low draft picks and still get more out of their players (than higher draft picks). It’s incredibly annoying, I do worry. When you consider that Carlton, and Freo, were re-building at the same time, it’s amazing. 

Do you have a take on Fremantle’s current operations?

I don’t know what the mood is over there, but Ross Lyon’s re-build doesn’t seem to be re-building.  Are the Freo fans getting annoyed over there?

Ah, I think they’ve always been annoyed. I think they’re in a bit of a danger, in terms of how the club has developed, that it sort of feels right that they don’t do that well. Being a Melbourne supporter, do you have any advice for Dockers fans?

Well the thing that kills you, and I know Freo fans know this, is hope. So I don’t think they’re really in huge trouble at the moment as I don’t think there’s a lot of hope there at the moment (laughs). So they’re probably resigned to it. There’s just some clubs where that seems to be their role in life. And I think Richmond fans are showing that success is not for everyone.

Aside from the upcoming tour, you also have a new book coming out. What can you tell us about the book?

It’s out in November and it’s called A Sporting Chance. It’s about why and how we always forgive our sporting champions no matter what in Australia. There were no shortages of terrible behavior. Some of it is amazing that you forget it happened and it gets swept away and never mentioned again.

Speaking of forgiving our sporting legends, what do you make of the recent Andrew Gaff incident?

There are several different issues at play with the whole Gaff thing. Hall is an interesting case, as not only did he knock out Staker, he also had, before that, a litany of violent acts on the footy field, including breaking another player’s jaw that required three days of surgery, he kneed Stephen Febey in the head, and had to be restrained by team mates. He had a whole range of incidents leading up to the Staker incident, and even up to the current day, when he sits down on those footy shows with Staker and talks about how much the punch has affected him which I always find kind of amusing, it’s like “you think it’s bad for you Staker? It’s been bad for me too”, and I think hang on, you’re meant to be upset if you deck someone, that’s how it works.

So, you’ve got that case which is sort of one thing. And then you have Gaff, who for all intents and purposes, does not seem like a thug in the traditional sense and this isn’t a culmination of a vartiety of things, and where he has been caught out is our knowledge now of punching people, whether it is on the footy field or on the street, even the slightest hit can kill someone. So really that’s where the danger comes in, and that’s why it is a much more serious thing. If the Hall-Staker incident had happened now, he would have got ten times as long as he got.

Do you think people’s attitude toward violence in football, or violence in general, has changed?

I think people are much less tolerant of violent acts on the footy field than they used to be. We have had a couple of incidents in recent years, like Tomas Bugg last year, you don’t expect someone like Gaff, it’s the pure violence of it and the amount of impact on Brayshaw, it was such a terrible injury, that has really propelled it to be more than maybe what it could of been. There is a bunch of stuff going there,  but I think in some ways it would have been much worse if Gaff did have a record of violence in the past.

You’re a Melbourne supporter, right? That can’t be a good experience. How do you reconcile supporting a team like Melbourne with day to day life? 

It ruins your life completely. Well, the thing about sport is that if you’re a mad sports fan people who are not sports fans look at us and say I can’t believe you take this so seriously. But true sports fans take it seriously while also knowing it’s also incredibly ridiculous that we do take it seriously, so there are those two things always running in our minds, where else in life would I care if a bunch of 20 year old blokes had a good weekend or not, and then let that affect my whole week. It’s only in sport, which is actually a bizarre position to hold in life. Like you don’t just pick a random bunch of young blokes and celebrate if they had a good night out at a nightclub, and then go, that makes me happy all week, so it’s very odd.

The other main thing is, I think you have to be indoctrinated from being a very young kid. Other why else would you care his much? It’s like people who are late converts to religion in life, it makes less sense, why would you do with it your fully formed mind?

Looking to the future, what do you see Dusty Martin doing once he retires from the football field?

He has already surprised, when he re-signed with Richmond last year, Brendon Gale tweeted out, or there was a headline, that said “Dusty Martin: A Tiger For Life” and I had always expected to see the words Dusty Martin and for life in the one sentence, but in a very different context. He’s going to have made a lot of money, and he’s going to have at least one Brownlow and one premiership, and I can really see him just disappearing off the face of the Earth ala Allen Jakovich or someone like that. That’s not to say it would not be enjoyable. He always looks like, when he’s presented with a microphone, the reaction most people would have if you put a snake in front of them, so that would be fun to see.

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