St Kilda Saints Nude Photo Controversy (part 4a) : St Kilda Saints

This entry was posted by on Saturday, 1 January, 2011 at

Part 1: Nick Dal Santo, Part 2: Zac Dawson, Part 3: Nick Riewoldt

In writing up the St Kilda Nude Photo Controversy, it became obvious that the best way to approach this was to look at it from multiple perspective: Each athlete and the team. This paper thus has an introduction, four sections and a conclusion. The St Kilda section is very long and has thus been broken up into several parts. I’m posting this as a draft as I finish various section. When it is eventually completed and fully edited, it will become a chapter in my dissertation. A copy of the complete, current draft of the paper can be found at StKildaChapter.pdf and the data for this paper beyond what is found in the paper and appendix can be found at StKildaData.xls. The paper includes footnotes that are not found in the html version and edits made to other sections since the html versions were first posted.

St Kilda Saints

St Kilda has been at the heart of this controversy. Its players have been splashed in print in publications like the Melbourne’s Herald Sun with photographs of players in their St Kilda jumpers. The girl at the heart of the scandal has been branded as the “St Kilda Girl.” (Herald Sun Editorial Staff, 2010, December 29) When the scandal involving the girl broke in June, St Kilda was implicated in ways its player were not with the press referring to the situation involving two unnamed St Kilda players. (Sheahan, 2010, May 27) (Newstalk ZB, 2010, May 27) (Riley, 2010, May 30) These links between alleged victim, players, club and league continued on as the story broke again with the release of pictures in late December. (Dowsley, 2010, December 21) (Phelan, 2010, December 20) (AAP, 2010, December 21)

Dating back to May, there were two narratives, two perspectives being put forth both by the media and fans. There was the perspective of the players, St Kilda Saints and the AFL, and there was the perspective of the teenaged girl. Back them, columnists like Riley (2010, May 30) of the Herald Sun took the side of the teenaged girl. This battle of two perspectives, of who did what, whom was guilty and who was to blame extended into December, when the pictures were released. People again took sides. Singh, (2010, December 28) a journalism student at the University of Sydney, had her editorial in support of the teenaged girl posted on The Age’s website. The Herald Sun editorial staff took the side of the players and club, citing the invasion of privacy as part of their rationale, saying that “The best outcome may be for the girl to apologise for what she has done and accept counselling.” (Herald Sun Editorial Staff, 2010, December 29)

As the story wound down in the media, it was continuing to gain traction with a number of social media activists claiming that St Kilda had victimized the girl, that the league and club were engaging in misogyny in their attempts to keep their all important female and family friendly audience (PQ, 2010, December 28) (Hinch, 2010, December 29) and perception of superiority over rugby league because of their moral superiority. (Tedeschi, 2010, December 23) There were allegations that AFL and St Kilda or their supporters were “astroturfing,” trying to derail legitimate conversations about the scandal in order to silence critics of the league, team and players. (Foale, 2010, December 31) There were claims that the AFL and St Kilda were behaving like bullies, who sought to destroy the reputation of a 17 year old girl in order to protect their own reputations. (Kim, 2010, December 28) Derryn Hinch posted several blog entries critical of the AFL and St Kilda’s actions. Links to these posts were shared on social networking sites like Twitter. People following the controversy could and did keep up with new blog posts and the discussion by following the #dickilieaks hashtag. The message shared in some of the blog posts was one that clearly painted St Kilda in an unfavorable light:

The comparison to Vatican cover-ups of sex abuse seems more and more apt. As with the Catholic Church, the institution of AFL football has lost its moral bearings over Dickileaks in the scramble to protect its reputation from outside attack. And, like the Vatican, the Saints (and the AFL and its flunkies in the media) become complicit in the crimes they seek to cover up. (PQ, 2010, December 28)

After having held a press conference on December 21 and responded to media requests, St Kilda and its spokespeople became mostly silent on the topic by December 24, 2010. They did not subsequently mention the controversy on their Twitter account again and, as of December 31, there was only one reference to the controversy on their home page. After December 24, the official method for handling continued discussion appeared to be silence and ignoring it.

It is against this backdrop that the impact of controversy on St Kilda needs to be examined as the Internet played a key role in the distribution of pictures, publicity regarding that dissemination, why the mainstream Australian sport media picked up the story, and the refusal of the story to die despite the club’s silence. This section will explore the impact that the St Kilda nude photo controversy has had on the club’s fanbase and try to determine if the story will have an impact beyond the team to the league. This will be done by looking at behavior by fans and non-fans as it pertains to St Kilda and the AFL in the period prior to the release of the photos, in the period between December 20 and December 25 when the story had the most media play, and the period between December 26, 2010 and January 1, 2011 when the story largely continued unreported on social media sites like Twitter and on blogs like Derryn Hinch’s website. Alexa website rankings and demographics will be looked at. Facebook demographics and fan page growth will also be explored. Wikipedia article views will be looked at to determine if readers connected players to the league and the team. Twitter will be looked at from the perspective of keyword and hashtag usage, changes in location patterns in response to the controversy, how the team and league’s Twitter followers differed from the girl at the heart of the controversy, and growth patterns for the official accounts compared to other teams in the league. Smaller social networks and websites will be looked at to see if the controversy caused any movement or new activity on them for the AFL or the Saints. These networks include bebo, BlackPlanet, delicious, digg, ebay, LiveJournal and YouTube. Google New’s chart tracking mentions of the story will be looked at to provide additional context for media interest. IceRocket, a site that tracks blogs, will also be looked at in order to compare interest in teams across the blogosphere. When all these things are looked at as part of one picture, it should become clear as to how the club and the league were impacted by this latest scandal.

Google News.
Google provides many charts and ways to visualize information on the content found in its archives and how users try to access that content.  One such visual tool that Google provides shows how many news story were posted around a specific event and the total number of stories posted by date.   For this controversy, Google News grouped articles around two stories. The first grouping is around Riewoldt and the nude photos with the chart available in Figure 4.  The second grouping involves the teenaged girl and the chart is in Figure 5.

Figure 4. Google News total story count for Riewoldt pictures.

Figure 5. Google News total story count for teenaged girl.

These Google News charts confirm that the story started around December 19, when the girl announced her intended actions on Facebook and Twitter, picked up a huge amount steam in the media very late on December 20, early on December 21, peaking again later on December 21 after Riewoldt gave his press conference. The picture story was done in the media by December 23. The first peak on the teenaged girl aspect of the story peaked when the media and the AFL launched an attack on the girl’s credibility and peaked again late on December 23, early on December 24 when the media began to question attacks on the girl. The teenaged girl story then ended largely ended by early on December 25. This data supports the author’s observations and assumptions in this paper regarding media coverage of the story.


IceRocket is a blog search engine. One of the search tools IceRocket provides is a way to visualize the total number of blog posts by day for the past 30 days that mention user inputted keywords. Like the Google News charts, IceRocket’s charts provide another way of viewing how the scandal played out. IceRocket’s search results pull from a different content type, blogs, that do not include as much media coverage. Instead, it could be said that IceRocket represents a wider perspective based on Australian and international bloggers. “St Kilda”, “Australian Football League”, Nick Riewoldt, Zac Dawson and Nick Dal Santo were searched for and the resulting graph can be found in Figure 6.

Figure 6. IceRocket trends chart.

Like Google News, the story appeared to peak in the period between December 20 and December 24, 2010. The number of mentions at the height of the controversy was not much greater than a peak around December 9. The difference is that the peak lasted longer during the period of the controversy. The other difference is that discussion of players peaked during the later period, while the peak did not around December 9. There appears to have been a second smaller peak related to the controversy around December 26, which coincides with Twitter data referenced later in the St Kilda section. Blog posting volume related to St Kilda immediately dropped on the 27th of December before increasing again. After the 26th of December, discussion of the three players continued at a rate elevated from the pre-controversy period. Against the backdrop of the Google News data, this suggests that interest in the St Kilda nude photo controversy continued even after media interest dropped off.


Twitter played a central role in this the St Kilda nude photo controversy, with a large part of the public discussion taking place on the network. It is through Twitter that some journalists like Derryn Hinch have been promoting their continued coverage, coverage that their own media outlets won’t publish, of the St Kilda story. It is also the platform that the teenaged girl at the heart of the controversy interacts with journalists and others on, helping to further her own narrative involvement. There are many ways to look at Twitter. One way is to look at who is tweeting about the controversy using the popular controversy related #dickileaks hashtag and what those users have tweeted about sport wise prior to this. Another way is to look at the volume of tweets being posted about the controversy using the #dickileaks hashtag. A third way to look at the controversy is to use a venn diagram to see what sort of associations people are making when they tweet about parties involved in the controversy. A fourth way to look at the controversy is to look at the differences between followers of the AFL, St Kilda and the teenaged girl at the heart of the controversy. A last way to examine the impact of the controversy on Twitter is to compare the growth patterns of St Kilda against other teams in the league and to examine the growth of followers for the AFL against other Australian sport leagues.

TwapperKeeper is an application that allows users to archive tweets across the whole of Twitter based on keyword and hashtags. One a user a notebook for keywords and hashtags, Twapper Keeper plugs into Twitter’s API and attempts to pull the last 1,500 tweets from search. (FAQ, 2010, October 27) The archives are than accessible to several applications that allow for tweets to easily be analyzed. Prior to December 29, 2010, the author had created 121 archives for tags and keywords related to Australian sport. On that date, notebooks were created for #dickilieaks and #dikileaks. On December 30, notebooks were created for Nick Dal Santo, Nick Riewoldt, #skfc, #stkilda and @stkildafc. On December 31, notebooks were created for #dalsanto and #riewoldt.

One application that TwapperKeeper powers is Summarizr. Summarizr tracks the total number of tweets for a hashtag or keyword, total number of people who Tweeted it, total hashtags found in those Tweets, top ten people who Tweeted that hashtag, top ten @ replies including that hashtag, top ten conversations between people involving that hashtag, and top ten urls mentioned in Tweets including that hashtag.

The people who tweeted, were recipients of @ replies and engaged in conversations is one of the most important pieces of information that Summarizr provides. #dickileaks was the hashtag adopted by critics of the controversy early during the stage involving the photos being released. The top ten people across various categories can give an idea as the relative interest the participants had in the AFL prior to and during this controversy based on the other archives there were included in. The top ten tweeters of this tag as of the morning of January 1, 2011 were AuxiliaryEgo (90), AnthonyQLD (45), Blackmask_13 (44), JanetJane89 (40), MsMirf (37), tradrmum (37), Ian__P (31), fishcoteque (29), NakedSaints (27), and yamiexup (26). The top ten recipients were HumanHeadline (292), CatherineDeveny (123), Its_K_Isabella (121), mikestuchbery (72), MichaelByrnes (59), LeslieCannold (56), aussiejustice (53), MsMirf (45), AuxiliaryEgo (40) and AnthonyQLD (34). The top ten people conversations with pairs of Twitter users using this tag were (12) Blackmask_13 <--> MsMirf (9), (5) MsMirf <--> tradrmum (10), (13) AnthonyQLD <--> Its_K_Isabella (1), (5) mollyfud <--> tradrmum (3), (3) AnthonyQLD <--> MsMirf (5), (3) cyclingscotty <--> tradrmum (5), (5) MsMirf <--> rob_jj (2), (3) Blackmask_13 <--> mollyfud (4), (2) mollyfud <--> SharpContrast (4), and (4) aussiebluejade <--> pauldwilkie (1). With the exception of @Ian__P, @mikestuchbery and @MichaelByrnes , the rest of the Twitter users on that list only appeared in the #afl notebook or did not appear in any other sort related notebooks found on TwapperKeeper. The lack of the most active users of the #dickileaks tag using other Australian sport related tags suggests that the outrage came from outside the AFL and St Kilda’s existing fanbase. This can be perceived as a positive for the AFL and St Kilda in that they did not offend their existing fanbase. It can also be perceived as a negative for the AFL and St Kilda as it likely will make it more difficult for the both to grow their fanbases.

Another tool that can be used to analyze Twitter hashtag usage is What the Hashtag?!. Like Sumarizr, it provides statistics regarding hashtag usage. One statistic it provides is the total count of tweets using a #hashtag for each day of the last seven. The total uses for #dickileaks for the period between December 25 and December 31 on What the Hashtag?! were available on the site. A graph of this data can be found in Figure 6.

Figure 7. What the Hashtag?! screenshot for #dickileaks

This chart shows that interest in the scandal, using this hashtag, peaked on December 28, a few days after the media had gone silent on the story. December 31′s hashtag usage total was only 6 less than the total for December 26. Based on this hashtag alone, this suggests that Twitter interest in the controversy peaked later than media and blogger interest as expressed in the Google News and IceRocket graphs.

Another tool available to do an analysis of the content of Tweets involving the controversy is TwitterVenn. TwitterVenn creates Venn diagrams based on keywords that a user selects. The service uses Twitter’s search API to find Tweets that mention the two or three teams the user selected, determines if the terms were used together or independently, counts the total Tweets and then creates the Venn. (Clark, 2010) TwitterVenn’s usage of Twitter’s search API suggests that it can only pull the 1,500 most recent Tweets for each of the keywords searched for. Figure 8 shows the total references to St Kilda, AFL and dickileaks as they pertain to each other.

This Venn suggests that more people Tweeting about the controversy associated the scandal with the AFL than they associated it with St Kilda. If this is true, it suggests that the scandal may have longer-term consequences for the AFL in terms of reaching new audiences than St Kilda has. The good news for the AFL though is that there is a lot of discussion involving the league and comparatively little of it involves the scandal or the St Kilda Saints; most people tweeting about the topic aren’t doing so involving an AFL damaging hashtag.

While content analysis provides some insight into how people think about a topic, more useful data may involve who follows a topic, what people are happy to have others know who they follow, who people identify with in terms of who they follow. One way of processing that information is to compare the people on Twitter that follow the major parties involved in this controversy: the teenaged girl, the St Kilda Saints and the AFL. Follower data for all three was gathered using, a script found in Appendix 5. The teenaged girl data was gathered on December 28, 2010. The AFL and St Kilda Saints data was gathered on December 26. Once this done, the total followers by city was calculated, along with the mean, median and mode for total followers, friends, list appearances and status updates for all followers of those three accounts. This data is available in Table 7.

Table 7
Teenaged Girl, St Kilda, AFLStatistics for Twitter Followers

Account Math followers statuses friends listed
Girl Mean 787.4375198 658.2617052 230.4234419 13.57497627
. Median 12 20 49 0
. Mode 0 0 1 0
St Kilda Mean 1962.345564 1033.21431 1910.210307 44.42561708
. Median 27 42 92 0
. Mode 1 0 1 0
AFL Mean 170.0228211 608.3220623 246.3457203 5.990681844
. Median 19 30 74 0
. Mode 0 0 1 0

This data suggests that each party involved in the controversy has its own unique audience. Followers for the teenaged girl do not appear on many lists, they follow fewer people than the AFL and Saints and are followed by more people than the AFL. Her followers are less active than Saints fans but more active than AFL fans. Based on this data, if all three parties were to post a message on Twitter, the girl and the AFL would have a better chance of their message being received than the Saints. The girl’s audiences updates and likely reads her. That is probably worth knowing and may explain why the Saints and AFL attempted to discredit her: Her audience can easily listen to her.

Another way of looking at follower data is to compare what cities each account’s followers come from. This data is picked up when is run. The program looks at the user inputted location and compares that to a list of human and machine generated conversions to city, state and country. Once this was done, the total followers by city for each account were tabulated. Table 8 shows the top ten follower cities by account.

Table 8
Total Followers for girl, St Kilda, AFL by City

Location girl Location stkildafc Location AFL
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 2299 Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1270 Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 3335
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 696 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 138 Perth, Western Australia, Australia 590
Perth, Western Australia, Australia 321 Perth, Western Australia, Australia 100 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 537
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia 318 Adelaide, South Australia, Australia 90 Adelaide, South Australia, Australia 509
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 249 Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 73 Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 365
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia 99 Geelong, Victoria, Australia 45 Geelong, Victoria, Australia 143
Geelong, Victoria, Australia 68 Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia 37 Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia 141
Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia 67 Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia 28 Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia 130
London, England, United Kingdom 42 Hobart, Tasmania, Australia 21 London, England, United Kingdom 79
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia 31 London, England, United Kingdom 20 Hobart, Tasmania, Australia 68

The girl has a larger audience in Melbourne than the Saints. She has many more followers than the AFL and Saints have in Sydney. Aside from that city, she does not have more followers than the AFL in any of their respective top ten. The girl has more followers than St Kilda has in every city on the list of top ten cities. That the girl’s popularity by city tracks well with the AFL and Saints; it is not a good sign for either organization. The matching rank of popularity by city confirms national interest in the story. Interest in the controversy was not contained to a small geographic area around where the girl was from or Melbourne where the media appeared to give the story the most attention; interest paralleled the AFL’s market on Twitter.

Twitter follower location data can also be looked at from the perspective of Australian state. The script that gathers locations can fill in country and state information if the location field is blank or is determined to be unknown. It does this by using the time zone field. Twitter’s time zones for Australia are state, not time zone specific. This means that there are fewer unknowns on that level. The totals can be visualized in Figure 9.

Figure 9 . Twitter Followers for Girl, St Kilda and AFL by Australian State.

With the exception of New South Wales, the follower totals by state mirror that of the top ten total followers by city. New South Wales differs because there are more followers in New South Wales for the girl than there is for the AFL: 1080 to 952. The difference is 128. The AFL has an expansion team planned for the Sydney area that will join the league in 2012. Negative associations for the AFL in the New South Wales are especially problematic for them if they hope the team will be successful. If locals associate the league with the actions of St Kilda’s organizational response and the player’s alleged treatment toward the girl, this could have far-reaching and negative consequences.

Overall, Twitter suggests that the results are not ideal when it comes to how users reacted to the controversy. The most popular people discussing the controversy using the #dickileaks tag did not appear to be fans of the league, not having participated in other on Twitter conversations featuring Australian sport related hashtags. While the team and the league may have started to ignore the controversy by the 24th of December, Twitter users continued to discuss it with peak usage for the #dickileaks hashtag happening on December 28, 2010. More people were using the #dickileaks hashtag in connection with the AFL than they were using it in connection with the Saints, signaling that participants connected the players to league wide attitudes rather connecting it to institutional problems inside a single club. The follower statistics for the girl, St Kilda and the AFL suggest that of the three, the girl has more ready access to the audience that follows her because they update frequently and follow fewer people than St Kilda; this means they are more likely to see her on message tweets than St Kilda followers are. The girl has more followers in every city of the top ten cities she is popular in than St Kilda. This reinforces the idea that St Kilda’s ability to share its message to current and future fan base is difficult because the girl has greater reach in those cities. When looking at follower data by state, there appear to be institutional problems for the AFL as the girl has more followers than in New South Wales than the AFL does. If New South Wales’s potential fans make the connection between football players and sex, this may make it harder for the AFL to market the GWS Giants because of negative associations. The ability for the AFL and St Kilda to reach a new market on Twitter as a result of this controversy was likely severely damaged.


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