"You don't touch another man's wallet, you don't touch his w..."
So said Billy Brownless on The Footy Show on Thursday night when opening up about Garry Lyon's affair with his ex-wife Nicky. But what did the "w" stand for? We'll get to that in a minute. First, a recap.
Billy Brownless and Garry Lyon are former AFL stars and mates, who've worked together on The Footy Show for many years. They're no longer doing that after details emerged of an affair between Lyon and Brownless' ex-wife Nicky.
Lyon has since gone public with his diagnosis of depression. It's not clear when or if he will return to television.
On Thursday night on the first episode of the Footy Show for 2016, Brownless sat down for his first in-depth interview since the affair was made public. He came across as a decent bloke who'd been genuinely hurt as he talked the panel through the last few months or so of his life.
First came the suspicion.
"I had a hunch. I did some investigation myself, sat Nicky down and she told me."
Then came the disbelief.
"My initial feelings were I just couldn’t believe it."
Then the anger.
"Fair to say I shot off a couple of texts you wouldn’t want to repeat on this show."
"I took a deep breath and stepped back and now I'm just disappointed because a good mate wouldn’t do that. We been very good mates for a long time and that’s what hurts you the most, the lying, the behind the back stuff.
And then came the weirdness. Brownless was asked why the affair was wrong -- given the fact he and Nicky were divorced when the affair happened. He answered thus:
"By law it's not. But morally it's wrong on all aspects. We’re brought up to know our right from wrong. You don’t touch a man’s wallet, you don’t touch his w…"
At which point Brownless cut himself off. Which makes you wonder, what did the "w" stand for? The obvious answer is "woman" or "wife". If he was about to say "wife", you can understand why he cut himself off, because he and Nicky separated more than a year ago.
But either way, it was a weird thing to say. It was weird because it implies that a woman is a man's possession.
And it was weird because he had been long separated from Nicky. So even if you subscribe to the archaic view that a woman in a relationship somehow belongs to her man, Nicky Brownless clearly had no such attachment.
This has been a strange episode in Australian life. Brownless said a stranger came up to him in a coffee shop the other day and just hugged him. People clearly have sympathy for him. After his performance on The Footy Show last night, it's fair to assume he'll have even more fans. He came across as a likeable person.
But underlying the whole story has been an unstated "bro code" that you don't sleep with someone's ex. Why this code should exist is anyone's guess, but both Lyon and Brownless and millions of football fans seem to buy into it.
"We all have our ups and downs and this one, it’s fair to say, was too close to home," Brownless said early in the interview. You can only imagine the outrage if Garry Lyon had touched his wallet.