Approaching the final third of the 2014 season, the Gold Coast Suns were poised to make their historic finals debut, before one tackle brought their season and their verging dynasty crashing down. Gary Ablett Jr found himself sidelined for the season with a shoulder injury, and a mere formality crumbled to a disappointing 12th place finish as the Suns won just once in their remaining seven matches. He, and they, have not looked the same since.
It’s tempting to wonder what may have been, but that is where our thoughts should end. It would be purely speculative and self-evidently unjust to rewrite history, to doctor the results and artificially insert the team into the finals despite not winning enough games, as would manipulating the draft order to reflect this distorted outcome, yet the latter is precisely what many ignoramuses within the football media are now arguing should happen to Essendon. The Suns earned their 12th place finish, given their circumstances, just as Essendon will earn their first wooden spoon in some 80 years.
The only distinction in this comparison is between injury and suspension, but since both share an outcome this distinction is without merit. Would rewriting the Suns’ record books become any more conscionable had Ablett missed the end of the season due to committing a Steven May bump or Barry Hall roundhouse? Of course not.
Some Essendon players have been suspended, and as such the team is below full strength and will finished lower on the ladder than otherwise would have been the case. This happens to several teams every year – for one reason or another, including years of deliberate manipulation by several teams – and not once has the football community suggested post-hoc manipulation of the system to ‘correct’ the outcome.
There is no debate on this issue, only a select group of ‘experts’ impetuously volunteering their prejudice and intellectual ineptitude to their audience. These people are unfit to be commentators of any sort, let alone respected and well remunerated ones, and they ought be embarrassed by conducting such infantile temper-tantrums in the public square.