Ever the victim

By October 15, 2022Australian Politics, Society

Andrew Thorburn was appointed CEO of AFL Essendon Football Club and his tenure lasted about 24 hours before he was forced out by the board. Thorburn was appointed to the task force to find a new coach for the team and a new CEO for the club. This task force appointed Thorburn as the new Essendon CEO1.

While this was extraordinary enough, when CEO of the National Australia Bank (NAB) he branded the push for a Royal Commission into the finance industry as unnecessary and potentially damaging1. This was as wrong as any statement could be. The Royal Commission was indeed damaging to the finance industry and that damage demonstrated that it was necessary because of their unconscionable behaviour.

The NAB’s Thorburn and chairman Ken Henry quit their positions after they were subject to scathing assessments in the report from the Banking Royal Commissioner Kenneth Hayne. Hayne said that after having heard from both men he was “not as confident as I would wish to be that the lessons of the past have been learned”. He added, that he “ thought it telling that Mr Thorburn treated all issues of fees for no service as nothing more than carelessness combined with system deficiencies … Overall, my fear – that there may be a wide gap between the public face NAB seeks to show and what it does in practice – remains”2.

While he was CEO of NAB, in 2014, Thorburn joined City on a Hill evangelical megachurch and was appointed chairman of the board and a ‘warden’ of the church1. This church calls abortion an “atrocity” equivalent to murder3. It also states that “euthanesia [sic] is wrong”, and it rejects voluntary assisted dying because “in Jesus we have eternal life, a life without suffering and pain and death”4. Really? Tell that to someone with terminal cancer. It also states “any sex outside of marriage is sexual immorality5, and that the “faithful are subject to persecution”6

Given that Essendon is supposedly an ‘inclusive’ club, the beliefs of Thorburn’s church are at odds with that, and Thorburn was given the choice of keeping his position at the church or at Essendon. He chose the church. Of course, Thorburn then chose to make it about his religion, in saying “It became clear to me that my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many,” and that “People should be able to hold different views on complex personal and moral matters, and be able to live and work together, even with those differences, and always with respect”7.

Of course, all sorts of other religious nutters (Sheridan, Comensoli) and right wing nut jobs from the Murdoch media (Kenny, Bolt) have come out of the woodwork to try to paint Thorburn’s resignation as intolerance of his religion. This, of course, is not the case. Thorburn was given the option and chose his church. If he had chosen Essendon, then he would likely still be its CEO.

One of the statements (see above) by Thorburn’s church is that the ‘faithful are subject to persecution’. This assertion only makes me laugh. Thorburn was the CEO of a huge company while he was a warden of his church, and probably earned more money in his tenure at NAB than I have earned in my whole working life. That is hardly persecution. It is not persecution that the religious fear, but irrelevance and ridicule which, for them, is fast approaching as religion rapidly declines in Australia8.

I suspect the attempt by the religious to play the victim is, in their minds, more attractive now that the Morrison government and its religious discrimination legislation are no more. This legislation was only ever about entrenching religious privilege and would have allowed the religious to discriminate against people of other faiths, homosexuals, unmarried couples and sundry others, and to allow them to continue with their hate speech9, 10.

Now that this legislation will not be there to allow their bigotries to be entrenched in our society, the religious are fearful that they will be looked upon as just another club with a dwindling membership of old and young fogies who long to be able to hate people with impunity, while they constantly rail against the modern world and its progressive acceptance of all sorts of people.


  1. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/andrew-thorburn-matthew-guy-and-the-politics-of-prosperity-and-hate,16839#.Yz39ZVtMUds.facebook
  2. https://theconversation.com/nabs-andrew-thorburn-and-ken-henry-quit-after-royal-commission-lashing-111363
  3. https://resources.cityonahill.com.au/resources/tough-questions/what-should-christians-think-about-abortion
  4. https://resources.cityonahill.com.au/resources/left-right/euthanasia
  5. https://resources.cityonahill.com.au/topics/marriage
  6. https://resources.cityonahill.com.au/resources/this-is-revival
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2022/oct/08/essendon-v-church-how-andrew-thorburn-fell-from-afl-grace
  8. https://blotreport.com/2022/06/28/and-so-it-continues/
  9. https://blotreport.com/2019/09/16/entrenching-religious-privilege/
  10. https://blotreport.com/2019/07/09/freedom-to-discriminate/


  • Jim says:

    I am not sure what is going on at Essendon, but it is annoying me considerably as a lifelong Essendon supporter and current member—I am old enough to remember Dick Reynolds last game in the 1951 grand final, not to mention seeing Alan Hird, the grandfather of James Hird, captain-coach the Essendon seconds. I suspect that one of the main problems is some fairly large egos that occur around football clubs and people forget why they are really there.
    Personally I have no interest in Andrew Thorburn’s religious beliefs and I do not think they are relevant. However, the club does not seem to have known about them which indicates a total lack of homework. What would worry me more about Andrew Thorburn is his previous employment as the NAB CEO and his comments about the then proposed Royal Commission into the banking industry. These comments indicate that he was out of touch with the real world and that he should never have been appointed to the position of CEO of Essendon.

    • admin says:

      Yep, clearly there is something idiotic going on there. Thorburn was in the committee to select a CEO and they selected him; very dodgy. The board didn’t know he was a religious bigot until the Hun pointed it out to them; hopeless. Then they give him a choice and he pisses off the club in favour of the church; laughable. I get the impression that some of these blokes who run football clubs have had too many heavy tackles in their younger days.

  • Mark Dougall says:

    “in Jesus we have eternal life, a life without suffering and pain and death”

    Like many people I have seen a number of people I care about die in suffering and pain. I saw my very Catholic father die in such a way. Clutching a cross. Scared of what was to come but desperately clinging to his faith even as his mind and body gave way. Eternal life. Yeah right. These people make me sick. They should never be in positions of power and responsibility because they value fantasy over reality.

    • admin says:

      Maybe I am a bit weird, but dying doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t bother me because I won’t be here. I know that if I kick the bucket, all those I love will be OK. As I said to someone earlier today; it is the only life you get, so make the most of it.

  • Russell says:

    I might be a dumbo, but I cannot grasp why Essendon even asked a guy who was from a church that espouses radically conservative views on sexuality and morality, to become its CEO. That is, given that many in the sport of football these days live in sin (have de facto relationships), or are gay guys, or live lives without any reference to a strict/restrictive moral code such as Thorburn’s must be (at least theoretically). And it is common knowledge that some sports dudes are (or can become) quite IMMORAL by even permissive standards. I mean by that, the number of rugby and AFL guys over the years who have received severe penalties or even prison sentences for the rape of woman while the particular man was in a drunken aggressive state in a hotel or similar. Essendon need not have wasted their time considering Thorburn’s application to be CEO, in my personal view. And they should have thought a lot harder before making their decision.

    • admin says:

      It certainly is extraordinary how supposed adults could cock things up so badly. So many halfwits seem to run things these days; it boggles the mind.

    • clive pegler says:

      ah…. i see what you did there Russell [insert pic of horse peering under the bonnet of a non functioning auto] 😀 . i think you (and the rest of us) expect the likes of Thorburn, (and his ilk *), to actually live their lives, at least sympathetically, in accordance with their ‘professed’ moral code which, alas, just ain’t the case. *eg Moriscum, Roberts, that (*insert chosen pejorative here*), who’s inlaws were on the Ruby Princess (please may the inquiry step barefoot into that pile of excrement), and little Timmy (there ain’t enough existing pejoratives to attach to that one) etc etc etc etc.

  • Jon says:

    In this case I’m inclined to point the finger at the club and its president, not the man they chose as CEO. Anyone who follows AFL closely will know how badly new president David Barham and his board mishandled the coaching issue only weeks earlier. Their one win was pure luck – the now under-a-cloud Alistair Clarkson declined their invitation to take the role, a role existing coach Ben Rutten didn’t even know (formally) was being offered around. Given the coach replacement fiasco, the fact they also didn’t do simple due diligence on Thornburn’s “values” (Barham was on the selection panel) should come as no surprise.

    Essendon has been on life support since they took the decision to systematically drug – sorry “supplement” – players a decade ago. Shortly afterwards they also embraced a wonderful club battle cry of “Whatever It Takes” – the very same year that their drugging was exposed iirc. Astoundingly, even after the drugging became public Essendon indicated that the slogan would stay, despite the obvious implications. That fantasy was soon shown to be untenable and the slogan consigned the annals of history. Coaches, administrators, doctors and other club staff were all either involved in the supplements scandal to a significant or lesser extent, or caught up in a mess not of their own making. A sad and sorry mess which cost players in particular enormously.

    After the supplements cleanout Essendon has meandered along in search of that “winning culture”. Barham and co obviously knew about Thorburn’s (and Henry’s) financial “laziness” at NAB but they somehow forgot to ask their prospective CEO whether there was anything else in his kit bag which might not fit with the inclusiveness and tolerance policies at the AFL and the club. Here are just a couple of things Barham said in regard to Thorburn: “He’s a strong leader who will drive standards and establish a winning culture”, and “‘To my knowledge no other AFL club has ever secured the services of an ASX-listed Top 10 to run its club”. Apparently Barham didn’t think the culture Thorburn drove at the NAB was of any concern. Understandable if you think winning is everything I guess.

    The Essendon FC must have learned something from the drugs saga but if Thorburn’s appointment is anything to go by, apparently that success isn’t just about winning wasn’t part of the learning. That the Essendon hierarchy under Barham would even consider ex-coach and past great James Hird after his part in the supplements scandal pretty much sums up the “winning” culture they still seem to be chasing.

    As far as Thorburn’s decision to resign is concerned Barrie Cassidy summed up the issue beautifully:
    “People are not being “banned from going to church.” A football club has determined that somebody who believes gays should go to hell and that abortion is akin to the holocaust is not the best person to guide the club’s culture.”

    • clive pegler says:

      a somewhat pertinent nuance Jon, apparently Thorburn was part of the selection panel that selected, surprise surprise, one Thorburn as CEO. Not so much of a surprise i guess as Thorburn had already amply demonstrated that the concept of a conflict of interest is apparently something that only exists somewhere out beyond the Oort cloud. I see a promising future as a lib apparatchik.

    • clive pegler says:

      on the topic of the Essy supplements shenanigans ….. the chemist Danks & ‘The Weapon’ came as a package with ‘Bomber’ Thompson. And from whence did Bomber and his motley crew come? Answer, The Cattery … one of those things that go ‘𝘮𝘮𝘮𝘮𝘮𝘮𝘮𝘮𝘮’ in the night. I suspect little Jimmy, and Essy were just a tad naive rather that being naughty. 🙂

      • Jon says:

        As a Geelong supporter I take (a little) umbrage at your tenuous link Clive. This might help clear the air: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/aug/11/geelong-claim-afl-cleared-afl-club-over-dank-links-geelong

        Geelong, and probably every AFL club, undoubtedly has some skeletons in its cupboard which wouldn’t pass muster when measured against contemporary standards. That said, over the last decade or so under Chris Scott, Brian Cook, Colin Carter and crew the Cats have made huge strides in culture and off field performance. And as a pointer to Essendon officials, with that off field work has come consistent on-field success (not just in flags).

  • Mark Dougall says:

    Just in reference to Russell’s comment what some may be missing here is that Essendon, like all the other AFL clubs, have professional women’s teams. A number of players in these teams are part of the LGBTIQA+ community. Several of these players expressed their horror at this appointment immediately that they heard of it. It was like appointing Pauline Hansen to be CEO of a club that had Asian or Indigenous players. Mind bogglingly stupid.

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