Recently the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, threatened to shirtfront the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. A shirtfront is a term used in Australian Rules Football, a game that originated in the southern states of the country and not Abbott’s hometown of Sydney, where the main winter sport remains rugby. Shirtfronting is actually not legitimate in Australian football, despite the beliefs of some followers of the game, nor it seems Tony Abbott, who clearly has little grasp of the niceties of the game, at all. An umpire could report you if the shirtfront was crude enough. A shirtfront is a brazen charge at another player, usually with the intention of knocking him down or even injuring him so he has to be taken from the ground. When done behind play it is completely outside the law. In Melbourne parlance, any player known as a shirtfronter is, by definition, probably a dirty player and someone to avoid on, and possibly even off, the field. It's about playing the man, not the ball, which is why Abbott's use of the term is so disgraceful. To threaten someone with a shirtfront is to amplify the fact that you don't care about the rules and will do whatever you like to hurt the opposition. No footballer would brag about shirtfronting because it is poor form and proof you don't know how to use your playing skills. Sometimes it's the resort of a coward or bully. That said, there are certain famous shirtfronting rough diamonds who were also greats of the game, including ‘Captain Blood’ Jack Dyer, ‘Mr Football’ Ted Whitten, and that model of deportment Leigh Matthews. None of those men ever won a Brownlow medal.
It needs also to be understood that most shirtfronts are, almost by definition, unpremeditated. They usually occur in the fast tempo of play when a player loses it and decides in a split second that it will be tactically more advantageous to knock this player over by brute force than go for the ball or manage a legitimate bump, which is a lot to think in a split second. This is why the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, a Melburnian and not someone from the rugby capital of Sydney, calls Abbott's threat of a shirtfront on the President of Russia a 'brain snap'. A shirtfront is always the result of a brain snap. Abbott, by using the threat, reveals that he doesn't even really know what a shirtfront is, but obviously its macho connotations appeal to him for some reason. A footballer in Melbourne who seriously threatened someone with a shirtfront would be treated as a laughing stock because it goes outside the rules of the game; the player would be cautioned, if he wasn't banned. This is why Abbott is a laughing stock in Melbourne. Politically speaking, he has made a fool of himself because he doesn't even know the meaning of the word 'shirtfront'. It also reveals that he is someone who speaks first and is advised later, rather than the other way around.