I wonder how many armchair critics of the St Kilda teenager who have put her down could match her spectacular achievements.
Prior to meeting Sam, at the tender age of 15, she was the youngest person to be selected to compete in the Australian team at the World Mountain Running Championships in Italy as revealed here.
The multiple Victorian and Australian junior champion has a lot of fortitude and discipline, not to mention athletic ability. Perhaps that is why the St Kilda Football Club have been starting to feel a bit physically intimidated by her. After all, mountain running involves running 2 km uphill to an altitude of 2000 metres and then another 2.4 km downhill on the other side of the mountain.
I wonder how many of the AFL boys accomplish similar feats during their training sessions as elite footballers, let alone at the age of 15. She obviously stands out as an exceptional talent which puts her in the category of an AFL player. The only difference is that her chosen sport isn’t as popular.
Is that a valid reason to call her a ‘nothing‘ as a lot of sports fans have done? The fact that the AFL players are engaged in a form of sport that is more entertaining hardly seems like a sensible reason to think any less highly of her as a person.
She has been called a slut for sleeping with more than one of the players. What does that make a player who induces his “girlfriend” to sleep with several of his friends?
I’ll give you a clue. It starts with P…and rhymes with GIMP.
Prior to meeting the St Kilda Football players, this girl also had her hands full juggling steeplechase, hurdles, high jump, long and middle distance running with a busy study schedule.
Obviously this is a girl that can scale great heights when she sets her mind to it.
One can see these elements of her character shine through in the way she has stood up for herself and others when she has “something to say“, as she has describes it.
Just like the AFL Players she is a fierce competitor, something her early achievements clearly demonstrate. Maybe the players and the AFL have met their match, for she has demonstrated that she has the focus and a steely determination to make a difference. She has proven that she doesn’t like to give up easily.
She has talked openly about her personal convictions and future career aspirations, including her desire to stand up and be heard, giving a voice to other girls who have been harmed through their encounters with the AFL.
She knows what can happen when things go wrong and how it feels like to deal with an organisational culture that silences and crushes anyone who dares to exercise their rights and air their grievances. Its a culture of ‘anything goes’ in protecting the sport and its players, even if it means retaliating against young girls to conceal dirty secrets.
The AFL have tried desparately hard to stereotype this girl as just another groupie as they have branded other victims. However they havn’t been able to dispose of her as readily, and seem to have realised they are dealing with someone whose determination they have underestimated.
The AFL and St Kilda Football Club seem to be understanding that isn’t going to go away. She still has the naivete to believe that there is justice in the world and refuses to give into complacency. She wants to spread the message to other women to save them the pain of what she has been through.
She has a collection of pictures, emails, text messages and facebook transcripts which bear testimony to her tortuous experiences in trying to deal with the Police, the AFL, the media and the unrelenting cruelty of the St Kilda Football Club.
Most importantly it is ‘her story‘, the narrative of the experiences that she endured, not just with the players, but also with the Police and the media, that she wants to convey.
She wants her truth to come out, to be heard and understood, a story which would be difficult to comprehend for most of us, and which no media organisation is likely to publish. From her experiences to date, she has probably come to understand that nobody wants to hear or more likely believe what she has to say.
Like all human beings, when pushed too far, she can break. Given the ordeals she has been through and what she has had to contend with, it is surprising that her spirit isn’t totally crushed.
Many women who have experienced something of what she has been through and former veteran Police Officers know about the intimidation and interference which occurs when there have been attempts to hold football players accountable for their actions.
It is a world where investigations are de-railed, evidence mysteriously vanishes, and St Kilda Police and football players enjoy a cosy relationship which seems to leave them immunised from charges being brought against them.
It is a world where there is speculation that the AFL works hand in hand with police, the media, and corporate sponsors in sacrificing anyone to protect the integrity of the game.
It is a world where hurtful and distasteful chain emails about complainants are forwarded by past and present St Kilda players, staff at the AFL Players Association, Department of Justice, the Transport Accident Commission and Melbourne Magistrate’s Court. Law firms, Police Officers and even stockbroking firms have been onforwarding these viral emails which degrade, shame and subject her to mockery.
This is the real face of the ‘respect and responsibility program‘.
She probably wonders why the public don’t find it strange that an email smear campaign would enjoy such a wide circulation. It must feel a little like being in Vatican City where investigations are botched with a degree of incompetence which would be difficult to explain by anything other than corruption. It is a world where allegations of sexual misdeeds against footy stars are not pursued, whether they occur in Australia or overseas.
She knows how harrowing it is to have insult added to injury by an AFL-media-police apparatus intent on maligning her.
Other women and grown men who have had a taste of what she has experienced have long since given up, having realised how futile it is to expect to win a battle against the contagion that has spread through this multimillion dollar sport.
She probably knows that others just abandoned any hope for justice, particularly after having been stereotyped and marginalised, with their reputations being left in tatters.
However this is a girl who is also a competitor.
The organisational culture is starting to realise this girl is going to be a little bit more difficult to dispose of than the trail of victims which have preceded her.
She is showing herself to be a little more resistant to their tried and true tactics. They have tried in vain to depict her steely resolve to confront them head on as a sign of mental illness. However she has shown she is one step ahead of them in many ways and she isn’t giving in.
The public knows little about her. There hasn’t been much of an opportunity to learn about who she is. All we have are some small clues. One of those clues which speaks to her determination is found in a community newsletter.
It gives us some insight as to who she is and what she represents. The newsletter article reveals something of her tenacity and fortitude, her disposition, and the manner in which her life has been misrepresented.
Far from being a malicious trouble maker or misfit, in addition to her arduous training schedule and exceptional achievements, for the greater part of her life she had her hands full undertaking her VCE at a secondary college prior to her life taking a turn for the worse.
The picture of her in the Community Newsletter shows a girl who appears friendly, but demure and even a little awkward. All she evidently had time for was school and training.
Imagine a young girl whose whole life since her days in little athletics at the age of ten was consumed by training and studying? She is every parent’s dream, conscientious and focused.
She is rudely confronted by the glitz and glamour of AFL football and its Hollywood rock star cult heroes . Although not as beholden by the bewitching spell of footy fame as the besotted AFL fan, she found the players attractive. In their company she felt special.
The St Kilda footballers possibly had more of an impact on her for two reasons. Firstly, she is more like the AFL players than they probably even recognise, and respected their athletic prowess. In the article in the community newsletter, when life was normal, she speaks of the role that little athletics played in her life. She says she sees sport as a way of building character and discipline.
Secondly, given her relative lack of exposure to this alternate reality and the dating scene in general she was out of her depth, but found it exhilarating. After all, teenagers not as immersed in sport and study as she had been, tend to experiment with relationships at a much earlier age, an age when this girl, with her sights set on Milan and mountain running, was still attired in tracksuit pants and sweaty tops.
For those of us who had their first relationship encounters relatively late in their teenage years having lived relatively sheltered lives, bad experiences inevitably occur. Human beings however learn from their mistakes. It is part of the process of growing up.
There is nothing new under the sun about men stretching the truth slightly to gain access to a pretty young girl. On the other hand it is not every young girl whose early disappointments are with a star footballer.
With the benefit of hindsight it doesn’t seem extraordinary that she found herself in this situation. After all, she has loved sport since her formative years, and was probably more likely to have a relationship with a fellow sportsman rather than a muso or movie celebrity.
It is fairly simple. She was an athlete, a young teenage girl attracted to a football player. Being a young man, the footballer saw something that he wanted in her. It is hardly a strange or unfamiliar story, but what happened next must have been nothing less than nightmarish.
She found herself caught up in a tribal type of world consisting of maurauding footballers who actively seek out group sex as a form of male bonding and team camaraderie.
She went from feeling special, the girlfriend of Sam Gilbert, to being treated like a sex object whose boyfriend used her for his own gratification and that of his team mates. She found herself in unchartered territory, caught up in a world where she clearly started to feel uncomfortable. As her facebook transcripts reveal, her boyfriend was pressuring her to participate in group sex with the boys and inviting her to bring along a friend to add to the fun.
No longer did she feel like a modern day cinderella or princess. From her response to Gilbert’s requests of her in the Facebook transcripts she expressed dismay and resentment.
She was dealt another blow when, having become pregnant, she was jilted by her boyfriend who wasn’t ready to be a father of twins. He started to hyperventilate and cry. She felt hurt and used.
She went to the AFL naively expecting her grievances to be heard.
After that her life spiralled out of control as the AFL apparatus was put into action to humiliate and degrade her. A cascading series of events saw her idyllic existence transformed into a living nightmare. She was abused by a Police officer, sought justice in vain from both the St Kilda Police and AFL, and was subjected to a concerted campaign of ridicule and contempt.
Under this kind of stress, it isn’t surprising that her health suffered and possibly had an effect on the unborn twins she was carrying. She suffered a miscarriage, losing one of the twins, and in October of last year, lost the other one which was stillborn.
It is inconceivable that a pregnant woman could be subjected to such cruelty and indifference, and then treated so unsympathetically by the community and football besotted fans in the aftermath of a grief reaction.
She was completely alone without anyone to hear her side of the story. That was the design and intent of the AFL apparatus. The efforts to isolate and marginalise her worked masterfully.
The reason we have laws against statutory rape and policies to protect minors from inappropriate sex, derive from the same reason that fathers watch their daughters, skeptical of what teenage boys say to them. After all, they were also teenage boys themselves at one point. Vigilante justice is still part of our culture, but doesn’t always work when dealing with Police and footballers.
If you look carefully at the picture in the Frankston Community Newsletter, you can’t help but detect the outwardly shy, demure and almost awkward nature of this young girl.
It is a picture that is hard to reconcile with the imagery created by the mainstream media and the young girl’s erratic outbursts. Herein lies part of the contradictions which seem mysterious and strange to the casual observer.
Shyness and humility isn’t necessarily inconsistent with an inwardly competitive mindset or strength of character which many sportsmen and women possess. However we have become accustomed to males particularly in sports such as football celebrating their status in ways that are different than women and men in other sports.
This young girl may appear to be a person with contradictions or someone who is “out of control” or “troubled“. Who wouldn’t label someone who thought they could take on the AFL as crazy?
The AFL have consistently played that card in the media and their horrible approach of portraying this girl as the archetypal troubled slut may well work unless we are prepared to open our eyes and see her for what she is. After all, she has had the humility to admit that she is imperfect, unlike the footballers who fans see as immortal.
She is a young girl whose life has been re-written by inaccurate historians. Historians have an agenda to protect their own interests and particularly powerful when they are the only ones writing the story.
Much was made of her outbursts, however the sad reality is that people who have been severely and systematically abused tend to show signs of abuse.
The process of growing up is a bit messy, but is quite ‘normal’ in a normal world. Men take advantage of young womens’ naivete and vulnerability everyday and it is hardly a new phenomenon.
The vast majority of womens’ behaviour could be viewed as ‘crazy‘ at some point in their development, particularly during those difficult teenage years. After that women become a bit more discerning about how they choose their partners.
The thing that the public fail to appreciate is that there was nothing normal about the situation this girl found herself enmeshed in. It was the environment that was pathological and dysfunctional, not her.
The spin doctors are trying desparately to convince us that this girl has serious ‘issues’, which I havn’t seen any evidence of. It is well known that early childhood resiliency plays an important role in the recovery process for victims of abuse. It is probable that she will come out of this bizarre and tragic saga, carrying some bad memories.
If it could be said that she does have ‘issues‘, then it must be understood that they are of a completely different kind than the AFL media machine would have us belief.
They are issues which belong to the AFL, the St Kilda Football Club and the Victorian Police, issues which have besieged them for years.
Nothing much has changed in ‘Vatican City’. It is like the Da Vinci Code with conspiracies, and a kind of unholy trinity consisting of the Police, the AFL and the mainstream media.
What sets this girl apart from others is that she believes she can take on these issues. People with strong convictions and a competitive spirit, particularly when aimed at achieving ‘justice’ can so easily become enmeshed in conflict with powerful interests. By her own admission she was driven by a combination of a desire for revenge and noble motives to “right a wrong”
What she really needs is practical support, to be uplifted, and most importantly to be heard and understood, as she has a very important message that the public need to hear.
Very often even well intentioned people feel a need to fix a person or change the essence of who they are. However contemporary studies demonstrate that young girls and women who have been abused often do far better if left alone, allowed to develop their sense of self and heal.
As she has said herself, there is some solace from the belief that she can take something positive from this situation and help women who have been through similar experiences to her.
She has spoken of her desire to be a journalist. Perhaps the AFL should consider recruiting her as someone who could play an important role in their ‘respect and responsibility program‘, rather than hiring more lawyers and PR agents to crush her.
If the desire to bring about positive change is a sign this girl is ‘troubled’ then what hope is there for the rest of us, particularly those who self-righteously sit in judgement of her.
If treated with compassion and fairness she has the ability to effect real and meaningful change, but the public doesn’t seem to be ready to listen to what she has to say.
She has faced more legal and other threats than most of us would receive in a lifetime. Is it surprising that she turns up at a St Kilda training session carrying a few placards?
If that is the worst that can happen to a young girl who continues to be pushed beyond inconceivable limits, then it is difficult to fathom why the AFL continues to see her as such a threat.
It seems as if the AFL have finally met their match in the form of a dimunitive, understandably fragile yet incredibly courageous and remarkable 17 year old girl.
- DICKILEAKS – LAWYER SARAH GALBALLY AND PUBLIC RELATIONS TEAM SAINTED
- DICKILEAKS – DIFFERENT FOOTBALL CODES, DIFFERENT CODES OF CONDUCT?
- DICKILEAKS – AFLspace PODCAST & THE MALONE ‘SMELL TEST’
- DICKILEAKS – AFL CONDONE ILLEGAL BEHAVIOUR; THE ST KILDA DEFENCE
- AFL AMBASSADORS OF SHAME AND BLAME ACT WITH DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY