Why we shouldn’t stand for Beveridge’s attack on a journalist

A Western Bulldogs AFL player screams out as he celebrates kicking a goal against Fremantle.

Luke Beveridge’s extraordinary personal attack on a journalist was unprofessional and has demonstrated a severe misunderstanding of the role of the media.

Moreover, his attack on Fox Footy’s Tom Morris after the Bulldogs’ loss to Melbourne in the first match of the AFL season opener opens up Beveridge to accusations of hypocrisy.

Beveridge accused Morris of gutter journalism and a conflict of interest for reporting that Bulldogs player Lachie Hunter would be omitted from last night’s team.

Hunter was named as the medical emergency before the match, but later took his place in the team as a late replacement for Jason Johannisen, who was sore in the warm-up.

A Western Bulldogs AFL player screams out as he celebrates kicking a goal against Fremantle.
Lachie Hunter was originally set to miss the match, but was a late call up after Jason Johannisen injured himself in the warm up.(AAP: Albert Perez)

In other words, Morris’s reporting was accurate — Hunter only took his place in the final team at the last minute, and only after Johannisen was injured while warming up.

When Morris asked Beveridge to clarify what had happened, the Bulldogs coach went on the attack.

“You’ve got the nerve to ask me a question, and even be here,” Beveridge said.

“Is that the gutter journalist you want to be?”

Morris attempted to respond but Beveridge went on.

“Somehow you’ve found out about it again, so we need to get to the bottom of this — obviously we need to put our hand up and say there’s some leakage going on, but you’re preying on it,” he said.

“It’s a team you barrack for, your conflict of interest here is considerable. Your gutter journalism at the moment is killing us behind the scenes.”

A man in a blue and red polo with a handle bar moustacheA man in a blue and red polo with a handle bar moustache
Luke Beveridge during the game on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs were comfortably beaten by the Demons again.(Getty Images: Dylan Burns)

There is nothing in Beveridge’s accusation that suggests Morris stepped outside the boundaries of normal, ethical journalism. Morris found some interesting information, and he reported it.

He did the same before last year’s Grand Final, reporting that Bulldogs defender Ryan Gardner would be dropped.


Beveridge himself acknowledged that the source came from within the Western Bulldogs, and yet he blamed Morris for the leak.

It’s a textbook example of shooting the messenger.

As for Morris supporting an AFL side, the accusation is simply irrelevant. Plenty of sport reporters have club allegiances that don’t prevent them from doing their jobs.

Indeed, Morris reported before last year’s Preliminary Final that Melbourne defender Joel Smith would miss the match due to a hamstring injury.

But Beveridge wasn’t finished. He went on to accuse Morris of affecting the mental wellbeing of Bulldogs’ players and staff.

“Your gutter journalism at the moment is killing us and behind the scenes,” he said.

“The health and wellbeing of people in the game is caught up in all of this stuff.”

There are two points here.

By Beveridge’s own admission, all they were doing was planning for a football game. Breaking the news that a footballer is or isn’t playing is the sort of bread-and-butter fodder that feeds football journalism, particularly on dedicated platforms like Fox Footy.

It’s hardly Watergate.

And it’s even questionable as to whether the selection information relating to one very good but ultimately fringe player is going to be named will change the outcome of the match if it falls into the opposition’s hands.

Tom Morris stood his ground when he was asked to leave the press conference.(Twitter)

Secondly, his accusation that Morris’s reporting could affect the health and wellbeing of people in his club leaves Beveridge in danger of being labelled a hypocrite.

What was Beveridge doing by ripping shreds off a reporter in a public forum, publicly humiliating him in front of his colleagues on live TV surrounded by his colleagues?

For his part, when he had the chance, Morris did say he was proud of his work and had the backing of his employer.

“Wow, do they?” a sarcastic Beveridge responded, before telling Morris he wasn’t welcome at the press conference.

When Morris accurately pointed out that the AFL ran the press conference, Beveridge launched one final sling before walking out.

“You’re an embarrassment to what you do, mate. You’re an embarrassment.”

Beveridge can expect a please explain and undoubtedly some sort of sanction from the AFL.

To publicly lash a reporter doing his job is stepping outside the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

There’s no question many coaches dislike attending post-match media conferences, particularly after a loss, but it comes with the job.

Beveridge was clearly emotional — sources have told the ABC Sport that he could be heard from outside the coaches box during the game.

Author: Ivan Robinson