by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
The colorful and sometimes controversial career of Jason Akermanis came to an abrupt end last week with the club telling him he was fired. He took part in a training session before being summoned to meet with club officials who asked him to retire. He refused and then the they told him he was out. At a hastily arranged press conference, club president David Smorgon read a prepared statement in which he acknowledged Akermanis' contribution to the club and the benefits the Bulldogs had reaped due to his media presence. However this had been offset by breaches committed by Akermanis.
Smorgon's statement read in part, "This is a unanimous decision made ... in the best interests of the Western Bulldogs. Jason has been a tremendous player ... but recent events have made the relationship ... untenable ... over the past eighteen months Jason has been involved in a number of incidents in which matters confidential ... have been the subject of inappropriate disclosure ... Jason has admitted these breaches and sought to remedy his behavior. But the breaches have continued ...This Club is involved in a serious campaign to go as far as it can in September and it is fundamental ... that players, coaches and key staff have complete confidence that what is said within the inner sanctum ... stays there". He further stated that the club had done everything they could to work with Akermanis to resolve the issues through counseling and warnings and that they had given him plenty of opportunities to alter his behavior. According to the club, Akermanis had promised to do so but did not. As a sign of respect for his talents as a player and his contributions to the the Bulldogs, Smorgon said Akermanis' contract would be paid out in full.
The club would not elaborate on what information was leaked. It wasn't only these breaches of confidentiality but also a belief by the playing group that Akermanis was more interested in his lucrative media career. Akermanis has a morning spot on a local radio station, is a regular panelist on the The Footy Show and writes a regular column for the Herald Sun. While the club stated that it was not one single incident which led to Akermanis' departure, there were incidents within all three of these media commitments in recent times which became the final straw. Several months ago, Akermanis came under fire for a controversial column in the Sun in which he said that gay players should remain in the closet as many clubs and teammates would be unable to accept a player with an alternative lifestyle. When confronted by the club about the column, he said part of the article had been modified by someone else. He later admitted that this was untrue and the club suspended him, with the suspension to be served after he recovered from a hamstring injury. He has been playing in the VFL since Round 10. He recently vented his frustration at being out of senior action on his radio spot. According to one SEN Radio chat show, Akermanis confided details of a club meeting to Footy Show co-host Sam Newman in a private conversation. Newman inadvertently let this information slip on air the week leading up to Round 16. Newman later apologized profusely for the blunder but the damage had been done.
According to one SEN program and a Herald Sun article on July 21, Akermanis has written a book which was due to be published last November. The release of the book was delayed when Akermanis decided to play on this year and is now due to be released this coming November. An afternoon SEN program conducted an interview with a writer who has known Akermanis since his Brisbane days (he joined the Bulldogs at the end of 2006) and has been helping him with the book. According to the reports, there are derogatory comments about Robert Murphy (with whom Akermanis stayed for a while after arriving in Melbourne), Dan Giansiracusa, and Ben Hudson. He also is reported to have taken a potshot at former champion Scott West, who it seems was behind the push to stop Akermanis from doing his famous post-victory handstands. It is these revelations which eroded the players' trust in Akermanis.
As for Aker, he said he was "gutted" at the time and felt the club did want his help, which is all he wanted to do. He also said he felt as if a little bit of who he was had been ripped away as all he ever wanted to be was a footy player. He did say he was ready to move on. Now that he is no longer a league player and not subject to club or league restrictions, he is free to say whatever is on his mind through his various media commitments.
This could be a big concern to the club with the imminent release of the as yet untitled book. However, Smorgon was emphatic in stating that the club would "... be prepared for whatever Jason ... serves up."
Anyone interested in seeing several great Aker goals should google Jason Akermanis and look for his outrageous goals in a game against Geelong (when he was still at Brisbane). They were typical Aker goals, kicked on the run and from almost the exact same position from deep in a forward pocket and about two minutes apart. Commentators Dennis Cometti and Dermot Brereton were totally amazed. Also watch for the ground security guy in the background for his reaction as well as that of then player and now coach Michael Voss, who was having a spell on the bench.
Drafted: 2004 as a zone selection to Brisbane
Games: 248 with Brisbane, 77 with the Bulldogs
Goals: 307 goals with Brisbane, 114 with the Bulldogs
Honors: Brownlow Medal 2001; Brisbane Lions best and fairest 1999 (equal), 2005; All-Australian 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004; International Rules Series 1999, 2000; Western Bulldogs leading goalkicker 2009; Brisbane Lions premiership sides 2001, 2002, 2003; Jim Stynes Medal 1999 (for best on ground in International Rules)
Source: theage.com.au, heraldsun.com.au, afl.com.au, sen.com.au, AFL Record, Encylopedia of League Footballers, author notes
Article last changed on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - 7:19 AM EDT