On the Take shines a light on footy's first major scandal, when one of the VFL's earliest superstars - Carlton's Alex Bongo Lang, a three-time Premiership hero - and his rookie teammate Doug Fraser experienced a sudden and unexpected fall from grace after the League found them guilty of taking a bribe to 'play dead' in a semi-final in September 1910. In thrilling detail, On the Take presents 1910 as perhaps the single most turbulent season in VFL/AFL history, contextualising it within the League's development during the formative phase between its establishment in 1897 and the outbreak of the First World War.
On the Take explains how and why a champion like Lang could find himself embroiled in a bribery scandal, with the League's official stance against match payments leaving footballers vulnerable to such shady dealings. Lang's era was plagued by match-fixing allegations, the open secret of illegal player payments in defiance of VFL rules, and widespread criticism questioning the game's integrity. Growing tension between the ideals of amateurism and professionalism reached a turning point in the immediate aftermath of the bribery scandal when the League finally legalised player payments - a decision that reverberated across generations into the modern era.