PSYCHOLOGICALLY unnerving tactical battles can be such a thrilling part of sport if pulled off well. These plays make for stories that tend to stick.
Deliberately misnaming teams, or naming line-ups out of order is a tired trick and blatantly disrespectful.
What Hepburn did last week was not technically wrong. The Burras named neither former AFL player Nick Dal Santo nor his former St Kilda teammate Jason Blake in their team last Thursday night.
Both were named on the official game day team sheets, which Central Highlands Football League president Eddy Comelli said was the rule.
Comelli told The Courier a lot of teams play “ducks and drakes” and it was not a big issue. He said it was a part of country football.
Really, it makes a mockery of naming teams in the first place and sets a stage for massive exploitation.
Could you technically name a team on Thursday night and rock up with a whole different 20-odd blokes on game day?
What does sending in a deliberately wrong team achieve besides maybe a few cheeky chuckles?
This show a lack of respect for the game, for the opposition, for the supporters and even the media who are trying to piece together the basics to relay to all parties, including the wider potentially interested community.
Hepburn wanted to serve up an element of surprise on reigning premier Springbank – great, a big part of sport should be about keeping rivals second guessing your moves.
But when it comes to sport, messing about with naming teams or starting line ups tends to cross the line between smart and rude.
Teams should be preparing to play an opposition’s best line-up in an aim high mindset, to be ready for anything.
You will generally find the best teams prepare players to be their best in the roles they are given. They might be wary of potential headline acts, even have contingencies in place, but such players will not be the focus.
In the Hepburn case, Dal Santo and Blake are also marquee recruits. Both have strong AFL credentials and are good for challenging the competition and pushing the standard.
They are the kind of names that bring more people to games – when they are named.
Imagine the uproar if Melton South ousted Brendan Fevola’s name in a Ballarat Football League blockbuster then sent him on field to play (note, BFL rules prevent this). Fevola is a character long-time Carlton fans will travel across the state to watch. Others go to heckle him.
Leaving out name players impacts gate takings, canteen sales – the things that help keep clubs alive – and plain ticks off football fans.
Clubs might profess there is no bad blood in such late surprise inclusions but it can hardly help promote good relations. It is a lot like boldly showing up to a party uninvited. Even if it is technically within the rules.
There is no need for it in the modern game, which is becoming increasingly more professional at all levels. Even country football is essentially a business.