Reigning Gold Quill Award winner Russell Jackson has spent much of 2021 researching and reporting on historical child abuse at VFL clubs in the 1970s. He started with a story on Rod Owens which included a passage on his abuse, then a more expansive look at Darrel Ray who coached the St Kilda Little League side for 11 years and used his power and influence to abuse a string of boys, aided by team manager Albert Briggs. On the weekend Jackson posted another harrowing tale of John Dennis Morice who was in a similar position for Carlton for four years, with similarly criminal results.
Once you start pulling at the threads on this kind of story, it takes a long time to unravel. Jackson is most definitely not finished, as there is much more to uncover from what was a shameful time in the VFL’s history. That league’s modern successor, the AFL, has not as yet reported on this story through its journalistic arm AFL Media, even though both St Kilda and Carlton have made statements to Jackson. Today the Fox Sports site made its first report on the matter, with Tom Morris being suitably respectful of Jackson’s scoop. It remains to be seen whether that report or ones like it will make it to the Herald-Sun or other News Corp outlets.
Catallaxy readers might recall that the AFL did not make a submission to the Royal Commission into institutional responses to childhood sexual abuse. Sports institutions got off relatively scot free, in fact, despite sports being a prime locus of young children in their most vulnerable years. I bring this up not to throw the AFL to the wolves of the culture wars, though Cats may wish to do so, but to point out that the league has not wanted to address this issue in the past, and to this date has still not addressed it, even with a simple report in AFL Media.
Only the naive would think that the paedophile curse was restricted to two VFL clubs in those days, not to mention other state leagues, or suburban and rural footy. The more reporting that Russell Jackson does, the more the silence by the AFL will seem poor in retrospect. There must be a reckoning, and that will only start by acknowledging the truth.