Dangerfield is having to react and respond publicly, often with limited information. Many players probably take the AFLPA for granted, but it wasn’t so long ago that it didn’t have anywhere near the influence it does now. For much of the 1990s, it didn’t have all the players and clubs onboard. It took a bloke by the name of Andrew Demetriou to change that when he was appointed chief executive of the AFLPA in 1998. It was then that the foundations of the current structure were put in place.
As a champion of our game, Dangerfield has dealt with scrutiny for much of his career, but I’m sure any criticism of what he does on the field is much easier to handle than scrutiny of what he does off it. He would hear it. And as confident a person as you are on the outside, it can hurt. Without knowing him closely I’m sure he’s been stung at different times.
Clearly many people in society have been struggling, whether on reduced pay or out of work altogether. Dangerfield would know that. He’s dealing with it first-hand at Geelong, who like all clubs have had to stand down a large percentage of their workforce.
But as president of the AFLPA, Dangerfield did exactly what he should have when the players were
negotiating how big a pay cut they would take and how long that cut would last. He fought for those he represented. With every passing day the players, with Dangerfield as their figurehead, were labelled more and more greedy, but ‘greedy’ is an easy term to throw around to grab a headline.
What was he meant to do? Roll over? If I were playing right now, I would back his handling of this entire situation, absolutely. As a PR exercise, negotiating that deal was never going to be easy for the players. But handling the public perception is not his role. It’s hardly AFLPA boss Paul Marsh’s role either. They fought to get the best deal done for the players, and, in reality, it only took a matter of days.
The pay situation is just one example. Every time I’ve heard Dangerfield speak, whether it be on list sizes, quarantine hubs or any number of issues, I’ve found myself nodding in agreement. He wants to get the game going. He knows what’s at stake. Simply expressing his level of discomfort at the idea of ‘hubs’ when the wider society remains in lockdown shouldn’t mean his loyalty is questioned.
It’s particularly tough to hear much of the criticism directed at him when it comes from past players.
Like me, many are paid to have an opinion. Sometimes that involves putting someone or someone’s
performance under the microscope. But why do so many past players seemingly forget where they came from? Is there a level of jealousy directed at someone like Patty, because he is one of the best in our game? It’s difficult to know.
If anything, footy’s current plight has highlighted how the players don’t get looked after financially as they should. Their percentage of the game’s revenue is much lower than many other world sports.
It’s likely they’ll take another hit when the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated as the AFL slowly recovers.
Dangerfield may well be in the firing line again when that happens, and if he is, I say good luck to him. Keep your chin up, Patty. Not everyone might agree with what you do, but I also know there are plenty of players out there who can’t thank you enough.
Two-time AFL premiership captain and columnist for The Age.