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St Kilda Saints Nude Photo Controversy (part 1) : Nick Dal Santo

Posted by on Tuesday, 28 December, 2010

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. I’m posting this as a draft as I finish each section. When it is completed, as a draft and unedited, I will post it as a PDF. That is where footnotes will become visible.

Saints' Naked Fury

Figure 1. December 21, 2010, Herald Sun front page.

“Saints’ Naked Fury” screamed a December 21, 2010 headline on the front page of the Herald Sun. “Defiant teenage girl votes to publish more photos” said a smaller headline. Anthony Dowsley’s front page story contained a picture of three St Kilda footballers: Nick Riewoldt, Zac Dawson and Nick Dal Santo. (Dowsley, 2010, December 21) The front-page story sensationalized a situation that had been brewing for several months and had culminated in the release of nude pictures of the three aforementioned players on Facebook.

The story started back in May 2010, when an unnamed teenaged girl alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by two unnamed St Kilda players following a school football clinic at her school. (Robinson, & Warner, 2010, May 26) (Parker, 2010, May 26) The girl also claimed that she had become pregnant by one of these two players. (Robinson, & Warner, 2010, May 26) The AFL investigated the claim and determined that the girl did not meet the players at a school function. (Robinson, & Warner, 2010, May 26) Rather, she was introduced to the players following a March 27 game versus the Sydney Swans. (Robinson, & Warner, 2010, May 26) The St Kilda Saints alleged that the girl had misrepresented her age to the players, both in person and on Facebook. (Robinson, & Warner, 2010, May 26) After an investigation by the Victorian police, they too decided not to take any action in the case. (Robinson, & Warner, 2010, May 26) The girl later miscarried. (Munro, 2010, December 26)

The lack of the players being named an issue that some people picked up on. (Parker, 2010, May 26) It would later be a factor when the story re-emerged with a new twist. In the meantime, the May 2010 pregnancy story had largely disappeared by the end of June.

In mid-December, the teenaged girl again made news when the Herald Sun reported that she had slept with a police officer who was investigating her claims of abuse. (Dowsley, 2010, December 21) Around December 18 or December 19, the unnamed now 17 year teenaged girl posted nude pictures of those three players to her Facebook wall and Twitter stream. (Butler & Millar, 2010, December 22) The pictures were allegedly posted after the girl tried and failed to sell them to Riewoldt’s agent for $20,000 (Butler & Millar, 2010, December 22) but were also allegedly posted as payback for the Herald Sun article. (Dowsley, 2010, December 21) The girl alleged that she took the pictures when she was in a hotel room with the players. The AFL and Saints allege that she stole the pictures from the computer of a St Kilda player, Sam Gilbert. (Butler & Millar, 2010, December 22) (Dowsley, 2010, December 21) Newspapers such as the Herald Sun interviewed the girl and asked her why she published them. (Dowsley, 2010, December 21) The girl complained that she had been abused by the AFL and the Saints in their treatment of her during the earlier story. She felt powerless to take them on. By posting the pictures, she felt she could get her revenge on the organization that had tormented her. (Dowsley, 2010, December 21) By December 20, the Saints had been granted a restraining order, preventing the girl from publishing any more of the nude pictures she allegedly had in her possession. (Butler & Millar, 2010, December 22) The club promised to prevent her from profiting off any from the story, saying they would take legal action to ensure it. (Butler & Millar, 2010, December 22) By December 24, according to Twitter reports and ABC News, the girl had announced she would not post any more pictures. (ABC News, 2010, December 24) The girl went home to Queensland for the holidays, saying she had stopped posting pictures because she felt like she had victimized the players and felt guilty. (Munro, 2010, December 26) The story was largely over by December 25.

The controversy largely took place over six days: December 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25. Attention then largely disappeared. The media covered the story extensively on television, on the radio and in print. The story was the second nude photo scandal to happen in Australia in less than two months. There was a lot of social media buzz on Twitter and Facebook about the controversy, helped the fact that the story broke there and because the girl starting it had over 12,000 followers on Twitter. (Munro, 2010, December 26)

The nude photo scandal is a recurring one in Australian sport. This one is a bit unique in that it involved three players having nude photos of them released, and the league and club’s legal response in support of their players. It is also unique because of the backstory involved, and because of the revenge factor where the girl who released the pictures did so to get back, not at players, but at the club. The implications are thus possibly a bit further reaching in terms of a club’s fanbase than the just the player.

Because of the complexities of this controversy, this chapter is broken up in four sections. The first will look at the impact of the controversy on the demographics of Zac Dawson’s Twitter followers and the growth of fan pages about him on Facebook. The second section will look at how the controversy played out with Nick Rieowoldt’s fans on Facebook. The third section will look at the Nick Dal Santo on smaller social networks followers and the growth of fan pages about him on Facebook. The last section will compare St Kilda to other teams in the AFL to see if the controversy impacted the club on Alexa, Twitter, Facebook and Wikipedia. The purpose of this is to provide a comprehensive overview on how the situation impacted the four major players in the controversy: Zac Dawson, Nick Riewoldt, Nick Dal Santo and the St Kilda Saints.

Nick Dal Santo

Nick Dal Santo was drafted by St Kilda at the start of his career and has been an important component to the team since his 2004 season. (Nick Dal Santo, 2010, December 25). A December 27, 2010 search on au for “Nick Dal Santo” brought up 325,000 results. As of December 28, 2010, he had 3,660 fans on Facebook. Of the three players, he is the second most popular.

Of the players photographed, Dal Santo’s picture is probably the worst. Hinch (2010, December 24) described the picture and scene:

Then there’s the other photo of Dal Santo, presumably taken by ‘artist’ Gilbert. Apparently the Bill Henson of the footy set. The club hasn’t even attempted to explain this one.

Dal Santo is captured, with his penis exposed, playing with himself.

This section will look at the size of the fan community for Nick Dal Santo on Facebook and on a selection of other, smaller social networks and websites to see if the controversy resulted in a response amongst them. Smaller sites are important because they give an idea as to the wider world’s awareness of Australian sport events and insight into how niche communities view them. Sites referenced include 43 Things, Alexa, bebo, BlackPlanet, blogger, Care2, delicious,, ebay, Facebook and LiveJournal.

43 Things is a goal setting site. As of December 28, 2010, Alexa ranks the site as the 2,833 most popular in Australia. People use the site to goals related to athletes, including ones like “Meet Michael Jordan” and “See Lebron James play.” On December 21, 26 and 28, the author search 43 Things for the phrase “Dal Santo.” There were no search results. On December 28, in order to verify that there was nothing related to Dal Santo on 43 Things, a Google search was done using the phrase: “Dal Santo” This too resulted in zero results. Nick Dal Santo was not popular enough to rate a goal before the event; his involvement did not rate highly enough for 43 Things’s users to create one.

When the controversy first happened, Google was searched in an attempt to identify Nick Dal Santo fansites or a personal site. In addition, the AFL website and Wikipedia were both checked. No fansites were found. If they had been found, it would have been possible to try to get data from Alexa regarding fansite rank.

Bebo is a social network owned by AOL. As of December 28, 2010, Alexa ranks it as the 874th most popular in Australia and 159th most popular in New Zealand. The Australian sport community on bebo has become mostly inactive, despite a high point where groups like the Canberra Raiders dance squad had their official internet presence on it. Early on December 21, 26 and 28, Bebo was searched for Nick Dal Santo. On both dates, 2 people and 1 group were found. The group was a general group dedicated to the St Kilda Saints. The two people were both female and one listed her age as 18. The picture of Nick Dal Santo masturbating did not activate the bebo community; no one decided to add or remove him as an interest in response.

BlackPlanet is a niche social networked geared towards African Americans and other non-Asian, non-Caucasian minorities. The size of the Australian sport community on the site is small but growing, with one person having listed the NRL as an interest early in 2010 and four people having listed it as an interest by early December 2010, zero people had listed the AFL as an interest and by December four people had. BlackPlanet’s user profile search was used on December 21, 26 and 28th to search for people who listed Nick Dal Santo as an interest. On all three dates, the total results was zero. BlackPlanet’s community was not activated in such a way as to add Nick Dal Santo as an interest.

Blogger is a popular blogging service run by Google. According to Alexa on December 28, it is the ninth most popular site in Australia. Users can list their interests on their profile page and a number of Australians have done that in relation to their favorite leagues, clubs and athletes. On December 20, 21, 26 and 28, a profile search for Nick Dal Santo was conducted. On all four occasions, no one was found to have listed him as an interest. The controversy did not activate any of his fans, new or old, to list him as an interest.

Care2 is a social networked aimed at people who want to do good and help make the world a better place. It offers its members the ability to blog, to upload pictures, to create petitions, to personalize their profiles, to join groups, and to create and send e-cards. Nick Dal Santo was searched for on December 20 and December 26, 2010. On both occasions, there were zero search results across all content types. This means no one blogged about the situation, nor created a petition to express an opinion regarding Dal Santo’s actions. This suggests that the commnity either was not aware or did not care.

Delicious is a social bookmarking site. In December 2010, Yahoo announced they were looking for a buyer for the site and if they could not find one, they were planning to close it. This decision was made despite the fact that Alexa ranked the site as one of the top 250 sites world wide in December. There has been an active Australian sport community on the site since at least 2008, if not earlier. As of December 28, St Kilda’s website has been bookmarked by 35 different users. On December 23, 26 and 2, Nick Dal Santo was searched for. On all three days, the search result was 1 bookmark. This bookmark did was posted prior to October 2009, was bookmarked by one individual and did not reference the controversy. No one was interested enough to add a bookmark about the controversy. The lack of new links may partly be a result of Yahoo’s decision to possibly close the site, but is also probably a result of lack of interest as witnessed by behavior on other sites.

Digg is a social news site. Users can submit news stories that other users can vote up or down. As of December 28, 2010, Alex ranked it as the 109th most popular site in Australia. The site is important enough that the AFL have an official account, where they submit their own news stories. The dig page about the link includes how many diggs the link has, the date the link was submitted and allows people to make comments on the link. A search was done for “Nick Dal Santo” on December 28, 2010. There were 11 search results. Of these, two were submitted in the period after the controversy broke. Figure 2 shows a screencap of these two submissions.

digg dal santo

Figure 2. Screencap of Nick Dal Santo related Digg submissions.

One article was dugg three times and one article was dugg once. Most of the site looked at so far are sites where people would list Dal Santo if they were a fan of his or where they would join a group to express displeasure regarding his actions. Digg is different and caters to an audience of people looking for news. Thus, it is less surprising that people referenced him here, where they might not otherwise. Despite the submissions though, no one was interested enough in the topic on the site to comment on the two submissions. is a popular Australian auction site. As of December 28, 2010, there are over 500 items on sale or auction related to the St Kilda Saints. A search was run for Nick Dal Santo on December 23, 26 and 28. There were 49, 53 and 51 results respectively. It is hard to interpret what this means as most auctions last one week. Auctions ending on the 23 would have been listed the 16th, four days before the start of the controversy. Items ending on the 28th would have been listed on the 21, the day the controversy started. This monitoring period included a holiday, which could have complicated item pick up and sales. This could have discouraged people from listing items, despite the potential interest in Dal Santo items as a result of the controversy. In this case, no conclusion can be made regarding what the number of listings mean in terms of how it relates to the controversy.

Around 6:00 AEST on December 21, a search was done on Facebook to identify Facebook groups and pages that mentioned Nick Dal Santo. Ten groups and pages were found. From December 21 to December 28, each group had the total membership checked at 7:00 AEST using a script,, found in Appendix 13. The results for the full period are available in Appendix 13. An abbreviated version of the results for the period between December 21 to December 25 are found in Table 2. Groups and fan pages that had no change were removed.

Table 2
Nick Dal Santo Facebook Group and Fan Pages

Name Type Url 21-Dec 22-Dec 23-Dec 24-Dec 25-Dec Difference
nick dal santo Sports & Recreation gid=6067599314 245 245 245 246 246 1
Nick Dal Santo appreciation! Sports & Recreation gid=154770367752 86 86 86 85 85 -1
Nick Dal Santo Wanging Out Page Nick-Dal-Santo-Wanging-Out/175255799162886 2 3 3 4 6 4
NICK DAL SANTO WIN A FUCKIN HARD BALL GET FOR ONCE Sports & Recreation gid=202994902999 36 36 36 35 35 -1

Like Zac Dawson, the scandal did not have much of an effect on the size of Facebook groups and fan pages featuring Nick Dal Santo. The one group that saw growth was likely created in response to the situation and only gained four members, topping off at six. That membership increase is hardly notable. Thus, while the pictures of Nick Dal Santo were the most problematic, he was not punished by having the fan base for him on Facebook contract significantly.

LiveJournal is a popular blogging service with elements of social networking involved like the ability to add friends, join communities and customize a user profile. As of December 28, 2010, Alexa ranks the site as the 103rd most popular site in Australia. The site has a number of Australian sport communities, including ones for the Socceroos, Brisbane Lions, Collingwood Magpies, NRL and Tim Cahill. A profile search was done on December 20 and 28 for Nick Dal Santo. The total result was 5 on both dates. Of these five accounts, only one had updated since the controversy broke and that user did not post a public entry referencing it. Of the five people who listed him as an interest, three listed their hometown as Melbourne, one listed their hometown as Canberra and one did not list a hometown. All five listed their year of birth; the group’s mean year of birth was 1988.8, the median year of birth was 1989 and the range was 1986 to 1991. Amongst that demographic of almost 20-something fans, none were so outraged by the situation that they felt compelled to remove Dal Santo as an interest or to update their LiveJournal about him. Like other networks, there was no real activity.

The examination of smaller networks show that Nick Dal Santo does not have a large fan base. The fan base that he did have was not motivated to disassociate from the athlete as a result of the controversy. On sites that allowed picture uploading like Care 2, no one uploaded images related to Dal Santo. Of the sites with blogging components like Care 2 and LiveJournal, no one updated to reference the situation. Ebay results were too ambigious to draw a conclusion about. Digg and Facebook were the two sites that saw the largest amount of activity around the time of the controversy, and both did reference it. The level of activity was small, and in the case of digg, did not necessarily get referenced by fans or haters of the player and league. On the whole, niche communities, smaller social networks and websites did not react to Nick Dal Santo’s involvement in this latest AFL controversy.


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Dowsley, A. (2010, December 21) Saints’ naked fury. Herald Sun. 1. Melbourne.
Hinch, D. (2010, December 24). Hinch delves deeper into scandal. 3AW693 News Talk. Radio. Retrieved December 27, 2010, from
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Parker, D. (2010, May 26). Yahoo Seven, St Kilda footballers, sex with sixteen year olds, and memories of David Campbell … loon pond. Retrieved December 27, 2010, from
Robinson, M., & Warner, M. (2010, May 26). AFL investigation clears St Kilda players in sex scandal. Herald Sun. Newspaper, . Retrieved December 27, 2010, from
Stephanie McIntosh. (2010, December 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:41, December 27, 2010, from
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