Strewth! What’s the world of team sports coming to? Horseplay has been sent to the knacker’s yard.

Australian Football League team Melbourne Demons gave star players Jayden Hunt and Christian Petracca a stern telling off, after the former playfully grabbed the latter’s be-shorted bum during a game against Essendon last September.

It seems that Petracca was not at all offended. Quite the opposite. When Hunt removed his hand, Petracca immediately caught it and placed it back on his butt. More… matily.

Pumped Petracca

Despite the consensuality – or maybe because of it – Melbourne Football Club management didn’t like it one little bit. They pronounced it ‘inappropriate’ and put out a statement that the players had agreed it was ‘not a good look for the club’ and had promised that it ‘won’t happen again’.

I don’t think this goes far enough. Melbourne Demons should have given those naughty boys a spanking. Televised, of course.

Actually, I don’t see what the point of AFL is if players can’t matily grab one another’s arses. This is the latest of a slew of ‘scandals’ around the shocking tendency of extremely fit young men in an extremely physical, very ‘bonded’ sport such as Aussie rules football to get physical with one another. Every time they happen everyone pretends to be totally appalled that such horseplay goes on in team sports.

The very thing that has helped to turn sports stars into sporno stars, the ubiquity of HD lenses on and off the sports field, along with the proliferation of social media (and blogs like this) to share, analyse and shame a momentary gesture, has also subjected their interactions on the field to total surveillance. Hunt and Petracca obviously thought their joshing around would be hidden in the group huddle. But as is always the case these days, a telephoto lens was in just the wrong position to tell tales.

Meanwhile the corporatisation of sport as a form of show business and ‘role modelling’, not to mention the dominance of ‘toxic masculinity’ discourse, means rough behaviour by rough boys has to be shamed as ‘inappropriate’ and penitent promises never to do it again must be extracted.

Hence the entire statement Melbourne Demons management had their captain put out is almost Pythonesque in its fulsome and pompous repudiation of the brief bum-touching:

“As AFL players, we are role models and have a responsibility to showcase the right behaviours to the wider AFL community,” captain Max Gawn said.

“On this occasion, we have clearly fallen short, and we own that this is not acceptable.

“Christian and Jayden know that this was an inappropriate act, which is not in line with our expectations, or that of the competition.

“As a playing group, we understand and respect the example we need to be setting, and will continue to reinforce this going forward.”

‘We are role models’… ‘we have a responsibility to showcase the right behaviours’… ‘we have clearly fallen short’… ‘inappropriate act’… etc. etc. The roll-call of cant that the modern team sports player – and multi millionaire – is contractually obliged to mouth nowadays.

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Bootnecks are very swole but also very short

And while I’m moaning about the modern world, I should mention I only recently discovered that the very popular Royal Marine ‘Go Commando’ calendar, which featured hench bootnecks with their tops off, displaying their oiled guns, was banned a few years back by the Ministry of Defence, despite raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity. It was deemed to be ‘sexualising’. Apparently, this is a bad thing.

So Go Commando is now No Commando.

At least the MoD didn’t demand the bootnecks make a grovelling public apology. You can imagine how it would have gone:

‘We have a responsibility to showcase the right behaviours… we have clearly fallen short… this was inappropriate…. but it was also really fuckin’ hot.’