It would have taken a cold heart not to be swept up a little in the emotion of the Bulldogs drought breaking Premiership triumph on Saturday. It was a many layered tale. Starved of success for so long, the club’s supporters were able to revel in a glory against the odds as their young team climbed from seventh to claim the flag. In a day of heart-warming tales Luke Beveridge calling injured Bob Murphy to the Premiership dais and surrendering his premiership medal to his injured captain was arguably the most moving.
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Just like his players had done for the three hours previous, Beveridge backed his instincts and made a team-first and perfect decision. The Bulldogs coach knows it takes a village, not just 22, to win a flag. Murphy’s fingerprints, despite not playing, were all over the win and he deserved a tangible piece of the Premiership spoils.
It didn’t take long, but with the dawn of the new week, many shared their differing opinions on the coach’s gesture. Sport Australia Hall of Fame announced they will award Beveridge their Spirit of Sport Award at their Gala Dinner next week. Bulldog’s President Peter Gordon advised that the Bulldogs would petition the AFL to strike a replacement medal for their coach, while others suggested that Murphy should return the medal to Beveridge.
There are a few different lines of thought in play here, firstly I believe Sport Australia, like Beveridge, have summed up the mood perfectly. The Premiership coach’s action is the embodiment of the ‘spirit of sport’ and recognition of it in this way is perfectly fitting.
The Bulldogs are within their rights to request a replacement medal. However, I feel fulfilling the request would cheapen Beveridge and Murphy’s initial moment. It is a compelling gift because the medal is hard won and cannot be replaced. A substitute would at once not replicate the original and devalue it all the same.
As for calls of him returning the medal, which he has since done, this is linked to the idea that somehow only the 22 on Grand Final Day and the coach ‘win’ the Premiership. Many players left out of the fray on Grand Final day speak of feeling distant and not really a part of the Premiership, despite their team-mates efforts to include them. A photo from Grand Final Day seems to illustrate this in relation to Murphy despite the Bulldogs grand efforts. As the players congregate in front of him with the Cup, the injured skipper cuts a forlorn figure behind them as he makes his way off the field.
This is a peculiarly Australian idea. For example, former Socceroo Mark Schwarzer has not stepped onto the paddock for a single minute of English Premier League action in the last two seasons. Yet, as one of the heroes of Australia’s 2005 Penalty shootout with Uruguay, he has a champions medal each from both Chelsea and Leicester City to show for his efforts.
Like the Premier League, many other sporting competitions are a little more open when deciding who is worthy of the spoils of success. For example:
Relay medals are awarded to heat competitors and Final competitors alike.
English Premier League
The Champion winning team are allocated 30 medals to distribute as they see fit, as long as the player has played a minimum of 10 league games. Additional medals may be presented at the discretion of the Premier League, hence Schwarzer’s medals.
NBA Championship Ring
There are no strict criteria for who receives an NBA Championship ring. Each team decides at their own discretion the recipients. In most circumstances, players, coaches, members of the team’s executive office and owners all receive finger decoration when the team wins the championship.
Super Bowl Ring
Again there are no criteria as to who receives a Super Bowl ring. The NFL issues 150 rings to the winning team that they can distribute as they see fit. They can also, at their own cost, commission as many extra rings as they wish to present.
World Series Ring
If you think 150 rings is a little excessive, the 2006 Cardinals commissioned 400 World Series Rings. The Cards appear positively frugal however, when compared to the 2004 Red Socks who had the jewelers create over 500! Clearly not that discriminatory, players that leave clubs during championship winning seasons usually receive a ring in the mail. This meant that Arthur Rhodes, Bengie Molina and Lonnie Smith, who all played in the championship series against teams they had played with that season, all played in the World Series assured of receiving a ring.
AFL Premiership Medal (Special Circumstances)
In 2010 after the Grand Final Draw, the AFL made a slight change to their usual belief that only members of the Premiership deciding match be awarded a medal. It was decided that any member of the Premiership team, that played in the draw but not necessarily the Replay, would receive a medal too. The ruling meant that Leon Davis received a Premiership Medal along with the 22 Magpies who won the Grand Final Replay. Like with the Olympics relay swimmers, he did not receive it on the day but at a later date.
While I am not advocating for 400 Premiership Medals being struck, I do believe that a discussion needs to be had as to whether more than just the 22 should receive one. For example, why should Tony Modra, injured in a Preliminary Final in 1997, not be considered a Premiership Player while Kevin Billing, who watched the entire Grand Final in 1966 from the interchange bench, is considered one. If the Bulldogs recognise Bob Murphy as a vital component in their 2016 Premiership, why shouldn’t we?