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The Cult: Jason Akermanis

Jason Akermanis was sacked by his teammates at not one, but two AFL clubs. That he was a superstar player might say even more about the man's character

Illustration by Michael Dockery

Cult Grade: Not-so-loveable Larrikin

Spiky bleached blonde hair? Check. Goatee in natural red hair colour? Check. Then it must have been the turn of the millennium. And Jason Akermanis is the personification of the post Y2K era.

Sure, he'd been around since 1994 and footy fans were slightly aware of who the little red headed rover from Brisbane was, but it wasn't until 2001 that he really hit the heights of the caricature to be known as 'Aker'.


The hair and the beard were one thing, but it was 2001 when Akermanis really started to amaze with his footballing ability. Kicking equally well on both feet, amazing goals from nowhere, blistering pace and the confidence in himself to pull off the improbable led to a Brownlow Medal in that year. That the Brisbane Lions won the AFL Premiership in 2001 capped off a career year for Akermanis.

But if 2001 was his coming of age as a footballer, it also was the beginning of the end in many ways. From that point, everybody wanted a piece of Aker. And Aker was happy to oblige. Radio shows, TV appearances, columns in the daily press – Jason Akermanis was everywhere, and this was reflected in his on field performance.

The Lions continued to be a dominating force, winning the 2002 and 2003 AFL Premierships, but Akermanis became more and more of a highlights reel. Off-field Aker was creeping onto the field and the impossible left-foot snaps for goal from the boundary line became what he was known for. The player was lucky – he had superstar teammates the likes of Voss, Lappin, Black and Brown to fall back on, but even they would grow tired of his antics.

It was around this time that the lasting legacy of Akermanis' playing career began to appear – the handstand. It became a tradition that after every win, Aker would perform a free handstand pushup and kiss the turf in front of the Brisbane supporter group. At first it was endearing, then it became formulaic and boring, and finally, it was a distraction that his teammates asked him to quit. Unfortunately, by that time, Aker was too far under the spell of the cult of Aker and couldn't hear them. And the glorious Lions dynasty ended in tears when Aker was unceremoniously sacked.


He would be sacked a second time by the Bulldogs, and despite all his efforts to return to the AFL fold, would have his cards marked. Lesson learned. Twice. Never again.

Let me just repeat that if you didn't pick it up or forgot when it happened at the time. Jason Akermanis was such a shit bloke that he was asked to leave two different clubs by his teammates before the season was out.

Point of Entry: Low

When there's nothing left to know about a footballer, nothing left for them to say that we haven't heard before, and yet they're still shouting it out hoping to be heard by somebody, anybody, their cult status has to be pretty low, no?

Ever since that watershed year of 2001, we've been given almost carte blanche access into his life and world. We learned that he was learning sign language because his parents in law are deaf. He shared an Austereo radio program in Brisbane with teammate Craig McCrae (The Aker and Macca show) and had a column in the Courier Mail and Herald Sun. Akermanis' first co-written autobiography was in 2004. By 2011, it was time for another.

And yet, once his fall from grace was complete, Aker didn't stop talking, creating headlines and giving quotes. There was the belief that any gay men in the AFL should stay in the closet. And the one about recently deceased former Melbourne player and president, Jim Stynes, being a nasty man.

Aker moved to Albury on the border of NSW and Victoria to continue his playing and coaching career in the strong, but still very local, Ovens and Murray Football League. He continued to talk – even picking himself up a four match league suspension for cyber bullying of umpires.


Oh, and if we'd heard it all from Aker the football identity, he branched into politics in 2014, securing the only interview with maverick Victorian Liberal turned Independent member for Frankston, Geoff Shaw.

The Moment:

Brisbane Lions v Geelong, Round 19, 2005

Akermanis' prodigious skill and ability to do the improbable on the field is never more in play than this goal in the wet against Geelong at the Gabba in Brisbane.

Hemmed in on the boundary line, on his non-preferred right boot, under pressure from an opponent, Aker kicks a drop punt – not a banana but a clean drop punt – right through the middle.

And then, there is the celebration. It is over the top, selfish and mocking – of both the crowd and his opposition.

And that is the good and bad of Jason Akermanis, summed up in 27 seconds.

Final words on Jason Akermanis:

"Bottom line: This is second club in four years that has turfed him mid-season. You only do that if you think 'We've got to get him out of the place'."

Akermanis' former coach and mentor at the Brisbane Lions and coach of all three premierships, Leigh Matthews, after Akermanis was shown the door at the Western Bulldogs. The words of a man who had put up with enough of Aker's shit to last a lifetime.