A hotly contested Round One, lots of upsets and great narratives from the weekend which suggests the season ahead has great promise.
The Crows, Bombers and Power were the big winners from last weekend, whereas the Giants, Blues and Dockers didn’t show us much to get excited about.
Off-field the trade talk and free agency simmers in the background and the AFLW capped off a wonderful inaugural season with a stellar finale on the Gold Coast.
1. I know one event was free and a Grand Final, the other was paid-entry and a home and away fixture, but the fact the AFLW Grand Final Saturday afternoon attracted over 15,000 fans, a wonderful result for the women’s game, yet the Q-Clash that night, the Queensland derby, Round One to a new season, only got 12,000, is very disappointing.
2. Mark Evans will have his work cut out for him in South-East Queensland as Suns CEO. Their talent is coming through and eventually they will play finals and field a side worthy of decent crowds, but there seems to be considerable damage to the market appeal for both QLD clubs, especially on the Gold Coast. Crowds have never turned up for any sport on the tourist strip, the league will need to be patient and extremely hard-working to ever see that change.
3. Travis Cloke was booed on Friday night and that became an issue? He was booed taking a set shot but hardly for any other touch the rest of the night, so perhaps that had something to do with it? And where was the outrage when fellow 2010 Premiership player Dale Thomas received significantly more heat when Collingwood plays Carlton? Not quite sure why this became an issue at all.
4. Marcus Bontempelli has been many pundits Brownlow pick and even received some votes in Saturdays paper for his game last Friday. He is a star, a wonderful young player, and someone that Dogs’ fans can be extremely buoyant about. But here and now, in 2017, he arguably wouldn’t even be in Geelong’s best two midfielders, let alone top five players in the AFL like Mark Robinson suggests. Hold your horses a touch.
5. This Essendon side will be mighty this year, my only fear was a slow start given the circumstances of the last 18 months. The signs on Saturday night against a ‘decent’ Hawthorn suggest that they might be alright from the word go, which is good signs for those optimised Bomber fans thinking of September footy. They are a real show, promise you.
6. As for their opponent Saturday night, it’s not all doom and gloom but the Hawks sides of the last five years simply don’t drop that game at all, they find a way, have a purple patch kick three or four goals and turn the momentum – they just get up. This side now has a vulnerable underbelly and the idea of winning another 15-16 games just looks unlikely.
7. The Giants had a nervous Preliminary Final last year and it cost them. They were the better side but the Dogs played it better. That same mentality, the lack of aptitude when it really matters or allowing themselves to play below standard, that is the only thing that stops them this year. And whilst Leon Cameron and his staff are good operators, this team still might be too flimsy to take home the chocolates come year’s end despite how insane their team is.
8. On the other hand Adelaide had a wonderful start and they will be a top-four fancy for sure. To smash the Giants by ‘that’ much is indicative of how cohesive Don Pyke has them playing but also that they’ve got the mix just right. A lot of ‘no names’ in that side but it doesn’t matter to win a flag – who would know Josh Dunkley or Toby McLean if they walked past them in the street?
9. It won’t appear as such on the stat sheet but the return of Paddy Ryder to the Port side on the weekend made a huge difference. As a number one ruckman he is one of the better proponents of the craft in the game. So whilst we all see Max Gawn as the premier ruckman in the league, don’t discount Ryder as someone who could have a year to reconsider that belief – he is a star.
10. Nick Riewoldt, luckily it wasn’t curtains with that knee injury on the weekend. Even so, we shall see how his career pans out in his twilight years, but would he could go down as the greatest player to never have won a Premiership or a Brownlow. Walk up Hall of Famer for sure.
11. The Lions performance on the weekend was super encouraging for Chris Fagan and the rest of the club. Most notable, which won’t get the proper love down in Melbourne, was the games of Harris Andrews and Eric Hipwood. This column has highlighted these two already and their games on the weekend, especially when Andrews played on Suns-superstar Tom Lynch, show the impact they can have on a Brisbane resurgence.
12. How good was the AFLW? Great crowds, very encouraging TV ratings, good corporate support and all based on a season pretty hastily organised and with the stuff up of the Grand Final to boot. This will go from strength to strength and don’t underestimate the league’s potential when situated in the ‘clear air’ of February with very little other competition in the sporting calendar.
13. Carlton are in the complete rebuild phase and why they didn’t get good picks from the Crows for Bryce Gibbs I’ll never know. But the Dale Thomas conundrum is a big one – he has given them little to no value on real big coin. He is out of contract this year and whilst many are saying he will go on, remember this: none of the current coaching staff or list management were around when he joined the club, so any sort of new deal being elementary is far from a good thing.
14. Here’s an idea: why don’t once a year, when they play a game in Melbourne, don’t Sydney wear a South Melbourne strip, complete with a traditional red V, and Brisbane wear a Fitzroy strip, not just the colours as they do now but with the FFC monogram instead of the Lion. Sydney has almost 15,000 Melbourne-based members and I know Brisbane is looking to reconnect with more Fitzroy supporters, there’s a novel way to try and maintain and improve those Victorian membership bases.
15. A forgotten superstar of the game who could easily have an All-Australian year without us even noticing – Dayne Beams. He is that good that should he stay fit (the big question, no doubt) he is a walk-up to the All-Australian squad of 40. Towards the end of his time at Collingwood he was always at the level of Scott Pendlebury, and we know the heights to which the competition rates the Magpies skipper.
16. Before we look into some of the key matchups of Round Two, remember, it was just Round One. Last year Melbourne defeated the GWS in Round One and they went on to have very different years. The first game of the year is more about who is more ready than whose going to be the better side; always wait at least two to three weeks before we can settle on some proper judgements.
17. Big game for the Crows and Hawks this week at the MCG, if the Crows can get up here that’s two massive wins to start the season, validating what they are working with at West Lakes, and they after just two weeks look a candidate for the top four, perhaps even the top two.
18. For Hawthorn, this will be a stern test as Adelaide won’t be a pushover. To be 0-2 will be quite the setback and early season doubts after an off-season of change, and where so much experience left the club, will be hard to budge.
19. Tomorrow night is the Grand Final rematch, after a loss last week at home to the Power, this really means a lot more for Sydney than the Dogs. They need to get one back otherwise the season is off to a horrendous start. It won’t be all complete doom and gloom but there’ll be plenty of questions asked if they are winless after two, for a side so many pencilled into top two calculations.
20. Dustin Martin watch – we know Richmond will throw all the cash at him, and to be honest I don’t see why they can’t afford to re-sign him, money shouldn’t be too much an issue. But he will have so many other offers. St Kilda, Adelaide, at least one if not both Sydney clubs, they’re definitely throwing big coin. Talk of North and maybe Collingwood as well, and list management meetings in Perth and Queensland have raised the possibility too. He has already chosen a new club already from the numerous offers or has made up his mind to consider a new one, thus the flurry of interest.