I sometimes see things and think to myself, “I just don’t get it!” With the start of another Aussie Rules season, the reporting of AFL scores is currently at the top of my “I just don’t get it” list. Only in AFL is it deemed necessary to give a score that details the makeup of the score when only the total score matters. For example, if the Swans beat Collingwood tonight with a score of 14.16 (100) to 15.5 (95) we really don’t care that the Magpies kicked more goals and were more accurate than the Swans. We just care about the final score and who won. When I ask AFL tragics the logic behind the score reporting, they shuffle uncomfortably and say “it tells a story.” If you are that interested, read the match report to dissect the match but the headline act only needs the total score. What about if other sports adopted the same score reporting process? In Rugby League we would read that the Sea Eagles beat the Roosters 5.4.0 (28) to 2.2.0 (12). What about Rugby Union – it gets even more complicated. You could read that the Wallabies overcame the All Blacks (I dream) by (35) to (17) with tries, conversions, penalty goals and drop goals listed in the score. I don’t even want to talk about cricket – sports broadcasters would have to talk as fast as Fran Capo to report all the scores! At least in soccer the reporting would stay the same. It is pretty simple to break down a scoreline of 0-0.

After more than thirty years of watching AFL like a true New South Welshman (feigning disinterest while secretly marvelling at the continuous and fast play of AFL) I have never seen a logical reason to report the scores this way. AFL historians tell me the reason scores are reported in this way is simply because “we have always done it that way.”

And that leads me to my real frustration.

How many times do we see government – and by this I mean all three levels of government – undertaking certain activities because it has always been done a certain way? It is a blinkered view in a society that has become so litigious that we often feel that doing the same thing is safer than striking out and trying something new. Every time we try something new, there is a risk of failure. A risk of humiliation. A risk that people will laugh at us for being so silly and not doing it the proven way that it has been done before.

Innovation is dying a slow death in this country as we become a risk averse country copying overseas methodologies and sustaining ourselves by digging stuff out of the ground.

It is easy to be critical of ‘government’ for behaving in this way but our society in general is partly to blame. Whenever a new method is tried in any arena, there is a risk of failure. When that failure occurs, our society does not applaud the effort and congratulate the participants for ‘trying something new’. Society – with the full knowledge that comes with hindsight – is very quick to criticise and condemn any Councillor or politician who tries something that doesn’t work.

To go back to a sporting analogy, think of David Campese. 101 Test matches for Australia and player of the tournament in the Rugby World Cup in 1991 with the captain quoted as saying that Australia would not have won the World Cup without him. He held the world record for the most tries in Test matches at 64 – with many of those tries created out of nothing but Campo trying something different.

With a brilliant career behind him, when you say the name “Campo” to people, many will instantly recall one poor pass. In 1989 the Aussies had never won a series against the British Lions. In the third Test, with the series locked at one all, Australia led 12-9 late in the game. When Campo caught a failed drop-goal attempt in his own in-goal, both teams expected him to safely ground the ball for a restart downfield. Not Campo. He ran the ball and then tried the unthinkable – passed the ball on his own try line. A surprised Greg Martin failed to catch the poor pass and a Lions player fell on the ball for the winning try. If the pass came off, Australia may well have scored 100m downfield. Campo is still criticised to this day for that one pass and this is exactly the type of attitude that often keeps people doing the same old thing day after day.

There are some massive challenges ahead for all of us in Local Government. With sustainability, infrastructure backlogs and cost-shifting the buzz phrases at the moment and the Independent Review Panel recommending amalgamations or new Joint Organisations of Councils, this is not the time for Local Government to keep doing what has always been done.

Local Governments across the state will need to try something new. And sometimes – with hindsight – that ‘something new’ won’t be perfect. The alternative though is to keep doing what we have always done and we will slowly deteriorate and possibly become irrelevant. That is not a great alternative.

Tell me if you prefer watching Campo with his brilliance and his mistakes or if you prefer watching safe rugby at mayor@dubbo.nsw.gov.au

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