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The girl who kicked the AFL

By Evelyn Tsitas - posted Thursday, 10 March 2011

How's this for a story? A young woman, subjected to abuse of power and inappropriate behaviour by well paid men held in high esteem by society, takes revenge by secretly taping a man in a "compromising situation" with her. She then uses this to maximum advantage to turn the tables.

If you are living in Sweden, this is the plot of Swedish author Steig Larsson's international best selling novels known as "The Millennium trilogy". The final in the series, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest", is now screening in Australia.

However, most Australians will think this scenario refers to a 17-year-old Melbourne teenager who gripped the public interest from the time she claimed to have had sex with St Kilda football players and released nude photos of them on the internet.


While there are some startling similarities between Larsson's vengeful heroine Lisbeth Salander and Melbourne's own "St Kilda schoolgirl", as she has been dubbed by the media, the big difference is that Salander had the unwavering support of male journalist Mikael Blomkvist.

In Australia, gender lines have been drawn in the media. Women have by and large gone into bat for the girl. Journalist Samantha Lane interviewed a range of the game's female directors about the saga, and revealed their criticism at the league over its handling of the matter. She spoke to AFL's longest-serving female director, Beverley Knight, who said she suspects a "boy's club" mentality in the AFL has protected Nixon. "Why have they come down like a ton of bricks on a 17-year-old girl? Basically it was like shooting the messenger, wasn't it?" (The Age, Mar 7)

On the other hand, radio announcer Neil Mitchell minced no words about his views on the matter. He branded the girl "unsophisticated, malicious and manipulative" and declared that she has managed to "damage so many lives and embarrass so many powerful men." He declared that she "set out to entrap and humiliate people who should have known better" (Herald Sun, Mar 8)

Yet as Rebecca Wilson points out, the teenager "may be physically mature and attractive, but she was only 16 when she alleges she had sex with at least one of the St Kilda stars at the centre of the trouble."(Herald Sun, Feb 28)

Professor Catharine Lumby demanded to know "Why did St Kilda management launch a public attack on a schoolgirl for distributing photos that their own players took of each other? Why did the club bring in the lawyers and the spin doctors to protect them from a teenager who felt alienated?"(The Sunday Age, Feb 27)

In contrast, after Ricky Nixon left the country in the midst of the scandal, Eddie McGuire wrote that Nixon "was thinking clearly to get the hell of here." (Sunday Herald Sun Feb 27)


A common theme in the media commentary is for men to be "concerned" about the teenager, while women admire her guts in blowing the whistle. Mitchell says "she's confused, and needs counseling", (Herald Sun, Mar 8) while McGuire added; "I had concerns that more media pressure and exposure would lead this girl into more trouble." Yet this is a teenager who garnered 17,500 followers on Twitter.

In "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest", the State rules that Salander is mentally unstable and should be locked away in an institution. In defending her, her lawyer tells her accuser, "she fought back with the only weapon she had available – her contempt for you."

Perhaps it is this attitude that has appealed to women. Miranda Devine calls the Australian version of this - "Welcome to the new era of sexual politics - The Girl Strikes Back - that’s taking the football world by surprise. Let that be a lesson for old lechers. " (The Daily Telegraph, Feb 23,) Devine writes; "Unlike their predecessors, the young women of Generation Y no longer have to be the passive victims of a football establishment."

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About the Author

Dr Evelyn Tsitas works at RMIT University and has an extensive background in journalism (10 years at the Herald Sun) and communications. As well as crime fiction and horror, she writes about media, popular culture, parenting and Gothic horror and the arts and society in general. She likes to take her academic research to the mass media and to provoke debate.

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