THE footy is finally here, a chance to readdress the balance of news and stories from off-field to those on the actual turf itself.
We’ve had a week of lies, of finger-pointing and so much analysis of what’s to come that in just one weekend of footy it will all likely be worth nothing.
Let’s get stuck into it.
1. The West Coast drugs story lingered on this week with huge wraparound coverage by the Herald Sun. Sadly, whilst it was seen as big “news”, there was no new information. We already knew that Chad Fletcher essentially died in Vegas, we knew that there was a drug culture been swept under the carpet and yep, we know that Ben Cousins and Daniel Kerr particularly, for different reasons, made some poor decisions along the way.
2. The idea that their premiership is tainted is one thing, but do we punish the club by questioning the validity of their flag or that we now put an asterisk on it? Not so sure. We know of a select few who definitely took drugs, but how many of the team did, and how often, for what purpose other than socially and to what extent did it or did it not affect their on-field performance? There are too many question marks to with substance say that the Swans should feel aggrieved that they lost that Grand Final and could be, in some way, righteously the premier instead.
3. What a fiascoat the Gabba this week. But the AFL was so harsh and unfair, plus all the football media that towed in behind. The real facts are these – the Adele concert caused significant damage to an AFL venue that has doesn’t use drop in cricket pitches. The way the natural cricket square reacted to the concert was far different to what normal outfield grass would and as a result the curator had to take immediate action to get the ground back in shape. To say they did so with an eye only to the Ashes is totally wrong.
4. Jordan De Goey has had a bad week. The story that he finally fessed up after surgery in a moment of self-reflection and guilt has hair on it too. The club was suspicious all along and the fact seasoned staff like Geoff Walsh didn’t push harder earlier does surprise, but word came through very early on about an incident on Saturday night so it’s far more likely De Goey was pushed to fess once accounts of what really happened filtered through.
5. Ex-Hawthorn skipper Luke Hodge isn’t playing Saturday night for having too much of a bender hosting his brother’s 21st and not doing the right thing the following day by ‘club standards’. Yet he was done for drink-driving two seasons ago and played the following week. In what world does that reflect well on Hawthorn’s integrity?
6. The Hawks also came out and said this week that they could have retained Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis, the reigning best and fairest winner and runner-up mind you, and sill fit in recruits Jaeger O’Meara and Tom Mitchell under the cap. No chance. The truth is they planned to maybe lose one of Mitchell or Lewis, stuffed it up badly and were forced to lose both. The other plan was to attract one of O’Meara and Mitchell, but in stuffing up with their two veterans they effectively traded a whole year’s worth of draft picks to get both players in a somewhat panic reaction to their own doing.
7. Can’t substantiate it but St Kilda are apparently looking for a big fish to complement their rebuild who all and sundry would say has gone really well so far. Nat Fyfe was seen as their Plan A but that looks like Fremantle may keep him, if he is to move Carlton has the biggest dollars. But the Saints have definitely got the cheque book out for that top four, even premiership contending push.
8. Dustin Martin has plenty of suitors and if he decides to look for a fresh opportunity he will have many attractive offers. The best ones appear to be Adelaide, one of the Sydney clubs and possibly now St Kilda too.
9. The Gold Coast have had a bad go of late, especially as they will always be compared to the GWS in their progress, and with the Giants recent ascent up the ladder it compounds how bad we think the Suns are going. However, with a clean bill of health and new facilities all is not lost.
It’s worth noting that it’s only eighteen months ago that the Suns were in the top four at the halfway mark looking like Christmas, having just smashed the Bulldogs at home, before injuries set in derailing their next year and half really. If they can stay healthy they have a list not too dissimilar to the Giants and whilst they aren’t at their level just yet, they are a lot better than where they finished last year.
10. Collingwood and Nathan Buckley will be chasing the pack again to start the year. No De Goey for seven weeks, no Wells for at least a fortnight but probably a month, Jamie Elliott isn’t cherry ripe just yet and arguably their best trainer in the summer Levi Greenwood is out for a while too. Last thing Buckley needs injuries with the tough draw to start and he’s got just that.
11. The Bulldogs had the September from Heaven, but weren’t world beaters in the home and away season. Injuries to key players did not help, granted, but heading into August their finals spot wasn’t even assured yet. They held on to win against Collingwood by less than a kick and snatched victory from Sydney in the dying seconds from a Jason Johannisen set shot. Either of those close wins go against them and it’s a very different story.
12. Adelaide are big tips to go well this year and were stiff not to probably finish top four or make the Prelim weekend last year. But how good is their defence? Daniel Talia is a jet and Brodie Smith is a premier half-back, but the rest are reliant on their team cohesion to do well, anything less and they are very vulnerable.
13. Every chance Essendon has a top-eight worthy season, with their draw and the calibre of stars that are returning. The big hurdle will be how quickly they start – chances are they start slowly in getting back into the rhythm of things and end up falling short by the end of August.
14. Carlton’s rebuild isn’t as bad as Matthew Lloyd suggests. Jacob Weitering is an elite backman to build around, Caleb Marchbank and Lachie Plowman are very good, young defenders and Sam Docherty could be an All-Australian this year. They have two great key-forward prospects in Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay and have got Patrick Cripps and draftee Sam Petrovski-Seton as serious talents in the middle as well. There’s actually a lot to like, they too have a great coach, they just need more time.
Few short sharp ones to finish
15. Brisbane have two guns in Eric Hipwood and Harris Andrews, both who will occupy part of their spine for 10 years; Lions fans can see the light.
16. Geelong was given one of the most favourable draws in 2016 despite a 2015 top-six finish, a luxury they haven’t got this year, so a market correction would be no surprise.
17. Daniel Rioli will quickly become as important to Richmond as Alex Rance, seriously that family’s genes are insane.
18. Ross Lyon coaching a fit and refreshed Fremantle, who had an extra four weeks’ offseason, this ‘renovation’ should not take as long as your typical rebuild, especially if Cam McCarthy has a good return year.
19. Anyone thinking of putting money on a West Coast midfielder for the Brownlow, be warned. You may see three or four have All-Australian years but they’ll all take votes off each other.
20. What’s happened to James Brayshaw? Dumped from the Channel Nine cricket commentary team, couldn’t come to terms on a new contract with the network in remaining host of The Footy Show and dumped from calling footy on Friday nights for Triple M, leaving him with just the Saturday afternoon game. Something is most definitely amiss.