I read with disappointment Fox NRL and SEN radio commentator Andrew Voss’s comments on the proposed public holiday in the event that the Matildas win the World Cup.
“There are people out there who do not follow sport,” he said. “Not everyone is invested in the Matildas.”
Voss went on to describe the idea of a public holiday as “BS” and “ridiculous”.
And never to be outdone, Barnaby Joyce, fresh from cheering on an old replay of the Matilda’s and posting his enthusiasm on Facebook, weighed in against the idea also.
“Why didn’t we have a day off after the Diamonds won the netball World Cup?” he asked. “When we go well in the Olympics, we’re going to have a day after that?”
To deal with Barnaby first… the Diamonds are always one of the favourites in the netball and we always go well in the Olympics – especially the swimming. Success is expected in these sports, and in fact, there’s a major inquiry when we don’t succeed. It is not possible to compare success in the netball or the Olympics with success at a World Cup. To attempt to do so is specious, or at least misinformed.
In contrast, the World Cup (Men’s) is the biggest sporting event on the planet. In terms of entrant countries, TV audience, revenue generated etc it dwarfs the Olympics, although this is not widely known in Australia as football is not Number 1 as it is in most countries. The Women’s version is rapidly catching up and is easily the biggest sports event to be held in Australia since the Sydney Olympics.
It is really hard for a country like Australia to do well in these tournaments.
The WWC has been a massive success. Grounds have been frequently sold out – even in games not featuring Australia. TV ratings have been enormous. The penalty shootout against France was the most watched sporting event in Australia since Cathy Freeman’s epic race in 2000.
Would Vossy have suggested that not everyone was invested in Cathy Freeman’s race? It would have been the end of his media career if he had done.
Clearly there was a clickbait / shock jock element to his comments but I daresay he was also dog whistling to the NRL / AFL powers-that-be who have always feared the Sleeping Giant of Australian sport.
There have been any number of false dawns for that titanic sleepyhead, but the success of the WWC will alarm the NRL and AFL. Especially if we win it.
Football is already bigger in participation terms than the other three codes combined and women and girls make up a big chunk of that. It will not be lost on the other codes that girls eventually become mothers and play a significant role in the sports chosen by their children – girls and boys.
The Matildas, with their efforts so far, have already inspired a generation of young girls (and boys) to play football but victory in the World Cup could extend that inspiration for years.
This is the AFL’s and NRL’s greatest nightmare. More kids choosing football over other codes means a deeper pool of athletes making their way ultimately into the professional ranks. This is the great secret war of Australian sport – the battle for the best athletes. Cricket, netball, basketball and one or two other sports are also in this fight.
The better the athletes, the better the sporting product, the better the revenue deals, the better the future. These are important matters and always on the agenda where national sporting bodies meet in their tall glass towers – how is junior participation looking?
How much government funding are we getting?
Some will accuse me of wearing a tinfoil hat, but you have to wonder about who the real intended audience are for such inflammatory comments. Vossy, in particular, is a rusted on leaguey with a huge vested interest in its ongoing success. Who is he really trying to impress?
At a time when the rest of Australia is cheering on the greatest Australian sporting feat since the America’s Cup in 1983 (it just about already is that IMHO) Vossy and Barnaby are carping from the sidelines. Bob Hawke would roll in his grave.
Frankly, I don’t care whether we get a public holiday or not, but I do care that the Matildas’ magnificent achievement be given its rightful due, and I care very deeply about the future of Australian football – which desperately needs government funding at least the equal of the other codes.
Finally, I am reminded of an Australian novel - Voss – by Patrick White, about a man lost in the desert of his own mind.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. His first sci-fi novel (Asparagus Grass) was published by Hague Publishing in July 2023. The ebook can be purchased here and the paperback can be ordered here or at your local store.