The View From Down Here – Ricky Nixon [book and news and scandal]

 There has been some quite amazing news over the summer here in Australia concerning Australian rules football. It started at the end of last year when some teenaged girl claimed she had nude photos of a St Kilda FC star. And she did, but it turned out she stole them from the computer of another St Kilda player, a player who had promised the first player these photos had been deleted as they had been taken without permission. How she got access to them is anybody’s guess.

Wait! It gets messier! This same girl – 17 years old, I believe – then went and spruiked herself on FaceBook, on commercial radio, and on tabloid so-called current affairs programming. She told blatant untruths in these circumstances, and her story kept changing. She turned up at St Kilda training with a TV crew in tow. She made all sorts of allegations on air, but the police were left confused by her official statements (have to have some sympathy for them in all fo this, with everyone calling for everyone else’s head and nothing helping their investigation). She demanded all sorts of things, and St Kilda eventually paid for a flat for her. She has come across out of all of this (and her name, while suppressed, is well-known as she has made no attempt to hide herself, yet I shan’t name her) as a media-whore, a controversy courting, power-hungry, little turd of a person. St Kilda have come out of this looking scared, especially after a few years of footballer indiscretions.

The public have no idea what is really going on or why.

She is being portrayed as the sort of person who will say and do anything to get publicity. The way things are looking, give her three years and she’ll be our very own Lindsay Lohan (but without even a modicum of acting talent, or talent anywhere), give her seven years and she’ll be on Where Are They Now?, give her ten years and the headlines will be screaming that her drug-fuelled, self-induced death was a tragedy, one which they will neglect to mention was her own fault and at least in part their own doing as well. Too negative? Sorry. The media may well have done this kid a disservice, but it is the only image we have of her, apart from her own self-aggrandisement.

And then in comes Ricky Nixon.

Nixon is one of the most powerful of the player managers and sports managers (and lately media managers) in Australia. These are people who not only help the players with their money, but also manage their media promotions, their public appearances, media statements, police incidents, paying bills, buying houses, shopping, IP rights, everything. They are professional babysitters in this time of sports ‘stars’ having no idea of how to act in the real world. The over-paid, over-pampered, molly-coddled sports ‘stars’ are made even worse by these player-managers who help them realise they can do no wrong. Player managers are a big part of the problem we have sports ‘stars’ the world over going off the rails so publicly so often.

Nixon represents a large number of high profile AFL players, including several St Kilda players, including the one photographed naked. So his face has been everywhere throughout all of this, maybe more than the footballers themselves or even their club. And then Nixon was seen coming out of this young girl’s apartment early one morning, She claims she has photos of him in bed with her. He said what he did was, basically, stupid, but that nothing happened. His career is hanging by a thread because of this strange indiscretion.

I won’t go into anything more because the matter has not even gone before the courts; this is just what has been reported in all media outlets in Australia.

Which brings me to a small coincidence. I finished reading Ricky Nixon’s so-called autobiography the day all of this stuff involving him blew up.

It’s A Jungle Out There [2010] by Ricky Nixon and James Weston is the story of Nixon’s life and, in a wider viewpoint, the story of the rise of the player manager in Australia, the rise of the professional athlete and the rise of money’s power in sport.

First, the negative. It clearly states everywhere that this book is by Ricky Nixon. His name is on the front cover, he is given as the author inside, everything. And yet he is not the author. He is the subject. He appears in interview snippets – as well as many of his clients, family and friends – and then he wrote the last chapter. That’s it. And, it must be said, it is hard to take this book seriously as a tome about its subject with that sort of blatant misadvertising on the cover.

The book details his life and playing career – as injury-plagued as it was – reasonably well, considering he didn’t write the damn thing. People praise him and everything seems cool, then he starts doing some publicity, some promoting and, bang!, before you know it his career’s over and he’s managing players.

He is to blame for the rise of ridiculous salaries and all the crap we put up with in AFL because of those money demands. The fact that footballers no longer work for a living and then go off and do stupid things with women, with gambling, with drugs, with alcohol because they have too much money, too much time and no sense of responsibility, social or otherwise, it’s his fault.

That’s maybe unfair, but he certainly takes the credit for it. He defends the actions of players like Wayne Carey and Ben Cousins. He thinks money negotiations are more important than anything, and seems stunned by those who choose loyalty over cash. This book was weird.

Okay, now something positive. The detailing of how football became a professional sport is fascinating. How a handful of players changed the way sports people were recognised is stunning. And the way clubs treated their players – demanding loyalty whilst showing none (which still happens to this day) and treating them like cattle in a meat market – shows why these things happened in the first place. It’s a captivating look at a time when Australian rules football changed completely, when the skill level went up… and when players lost themselves to their rampant egos.

There was one thing that amazed me, though – I found that I felt very little sympathy for Nixon in reading this. Or, indeed, his high-profile player clients. I need something when reading an autobiography on which to hang my hat and think, ‘Ah, yes, I can see that.’ Being a fan of Bret Hart and the Dynamite Kid I just wanted to know about them. Adam Gilchrist was some one else I was a fan of and I really wanted to know what made him tick. Joe Cornelius was funny. David Niven and Errol Flynn has lives the rest of us can only dream about. But I had none of that in this book. It’s a good book, well-written and well-polished (though not an autobiography), but it left me cold.

Recommended only if you are interested in the business side of Australian sport. Otherwise, sorry, not worth it.

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