WHAT an interesting afternoon Saturday at Etihad that became more and more interesting over the course of the weekend and into Monday.
It stole the limelight of another fascinating round of footy, some teams stood up, some teams did not, and the top eight now becomes a mystery.
But let’s cover the elephant in the room off the top.
1. So its all been about Marc Murphy, what Jake Carlisle said to him and the melee that ensued. But that’s such a small part of it. The first thing we should mention is that plenty of sledging occurred from both sides on Saturday, which low and behold happens every week, sledging is far from anything new would you believe.
2. Next that needs to be said is that as far as Murphy and Carlisle go, it’s understood Murphy had a go first, making a reference to the ‘white powder’ incident that became public soon after Carlisle moved to St Kilda. It was then that Carlisle, as one does, retorted with the reference of others enjoying the company of Murphy’s wife, be it a former North Melbourne captain or others, whilst Murphy and his wife were together.
3. The validity of that accusation aside, and to be honest that’s not important nor interesting, it has come up on the footy field a tonne of times. Why did Murphy snap this particular time? My guess is circumstance in seeing Carlisle later in the game, lying on the ground after being winded, he saw the opportunity to run up to him and got in his face ever so slightly. So the infamous ‘sledging’ took place significantly before the melee.
4. Is the sledge too far? Perhaps. Probably. Has Murphy copped that content before from opposition players? Absolutely. It’s a pretty poor secret about the rumour between Carey and Mrs. Murphy, and that he forgave and ended up marrying her besides.
5. The reason we have had 24-48 hours of intense discussion and opinion on this is because for whatever reason the content of the sledge became public. God forbid if every untoward and unsavoury on-field sledge became public consumption, you think Kim Kardashian broke the internet years back, her bare derriere would have nothing on that.
6. But some other quick points – Murphy had a small go at a player injured, how savoury is that? It wasn’t prolonged, granted, but gee as a St Kilda fan you would love the response, which has been overshadowed. The opposition captain stands over your injured teammate, first man in was Jarryn Geary, then three more Saints players quickly remonstrated with Murphy to fly the flag. No free was given away or a report, but as far as reactions by a team go, you’d be rapt if you were a Saints fan in that respect.
7. Now did anyone have to apologise or did anyone need to make a stand? I hear Caroline Wilson (surprise surprise) was disgusted at the lack of leadership on a sensitive, social issue. Please. Of course, the content of what’s said on the field (no longer going to isolate Carlisle’s given his is one of so many every weekend) probably isn’t satisfactory, or fair, or appropriate, or nice. Neither Murphy or Carlton wanted to take it further and that’s probably fair enough. Remember, this is only because of the melee – if Carlisle isn’t winded to give Murphy the chance to start that, no-one would ever know about that sledge. And no-one knows about many of the sledges each and every week, which, guess what Caroline, might be even worse.
8. Yes absolutely there’s a line, sledging that becomes racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., yes, unacceptable. But whilst some content is black and white, some is so grey its best left to those involved to make the call on whether its crossed a line or not. Then again, look at the unfortunate series of events following the Adam Goodes saga of two years ago. The subject of what’s offensive is so, so grey.
9. Of course Wayne Carey, and Murphy too for that matter, were going to deny the content publicly. What else is he going to say? Again, I am not 100% that indeed Carey did have a night, or two, with a girl who at the time was dating the Carlton captain, but it doesn’t matter in this circumstance. How many times in school, or in school sport for that matter, did we hear childish remarks about one another’s mothers. The validity doesn’t matter, its just anything verbal to try and put your opponent off. It’s not clever, its not something you’d want your mother to hear, but it happens. All the time.
10. The most interesting quote since, from those involved, was when on AFL 360, St Kilda coach Alan Richardson was asked whether his team over-stepped the line with their sledging on the weekend. He paused, then simply said “couple comments”. Translated, in his gut, it’s a ‘technically yes, but not really, it happens every week, but sure, the content’s not something we’re proud of after the fact, but in game, every week, it’s never an issue and it doesn’t cross the greater realms of racism, homophobia, sexism or any of those really important areas’. He said what he needed to say, to say the right thing publicly because it had wrongly become so public. But you could tell what he was most proud, his side’s response to Murphy’s actions, the flying the flag, and crucially the way they played to then take the four points.
11. On to the field – St Kilda are looking super. We’ll touch on the eight next but they are playing mighty footy and as good a start to the season as most. They have a robust, successful game plan, the kids coming through are fantastic, Jack Billings was immense and each week Jade Gresham looks better and better too. The Saints might have a lul at some point given they are still quite young, but they’ll play finals and with a bit of luck they could do maybe three quarters of what the Dogs did last year, maybe not win the Flag but create a big scare from 6th-8th on the ladder.
12. The eight is a mess. This time last week we thought it was set and looking at the teams on the periphery it still might be. But the top three teams, all on six wins, have question marks. The Crows have had a really off two games now, the Giants almost lost to the second-last Magpies and the Eagles are useless east of Horsham. Geelong, in fifth, are awful and don’t deserve to play finals, Richmond are primed for another ninth and the reigning premiers are doing just enough, but only just. Seriously, St Kilda and Port Adelaide, whilst far from deserving of flag favourites, are as good as anyone right now.
13. Percentage is always a nice gauge, and as we enter a boring, stupid, extended period of bye rounds, let’s take a look. Port are crunching it on 150%, by far the league leader. Their best football this year is good enough to make a Prelim at worst. We have the Crows and Giants in the 120% region, then Geelong at 116%, which is such a misleading outlier. West Coast is 6-2 but 113%, and then Richmond and the Bulldogs, 7th and 8th, are both at 108%. One isn’t as good as the early press, the other is idling.
14. Outside the eight, Melbourne, 4-4, in 10th, but 112% and had a win for the ages Saturday night. If there’s a market correction, and we’ve been consistent on this, the Dees should be top six at worst. They are playing great footy and whilst there are some key differences, the love for the Saints in Thought 11 can relate to the Demons as well. Melbourne fans – keep the faith won’t you?
15. Essendon is too 4-4, and with 91% it suggests they aren’t too far off. Had some nice wins this year but they’ll be too up and down given their context. Get on them for 2018 though, John Worsfold has a lot to work with, and with another year of everyone together, next year looks fantastic.
16. Lastly, Sydney, North Melbourne and Collingwood, only Brisbane is below these clubs as they make up the bottom four. All three are 2-6 and destined for awful years yet all three have a percentage over 90%. Call it bad luck, call it poor execution among so much else going right, call it just enough incompetency at the wrong moments, but these three sides have done a lot better than many other above them but deservedly or not find themselves in a hole with no easy or quick way out.
17. The China game, well, it’ll be a long slug for Port Adelaide to make it successful but there’s enough there to pursue. Just the size of the market is hard to look past. We’ll have the ratings this time next week and it’s every chance to be the highest watched game of all time, even though the vast majority of that audience would have had zero clue as to what they were viewing.
18. Dustin Martin will get a massive pay day at the end of the season, to stay or go to a new club. And its only one incident but its somewhat indicative of his worth when he hasn’t got the ball. But his effort to prepare for and then stop Lachie Neale in the winning play on Sunday was awful. Even a 20% effort would have sufficed yet Fremantle managed to pull it off. Not good.
19. Good to see tribes come together on Saturday night for James Kelly. To be chaired off by your former and current skippers, it was just such a nice moment. Well done to Joel Selwood and Geelong for doing so despite the loss.
20. And lastly, Josh Schache, he is a classic 50-50 to come home at the end of the year. He either literally hasn’t made his mind up which suggests he is weighing up the strong lure of home and playing in Melbourne. Or he has decided to leave and is just managing the knowledge of that decision. A lot of big Melbourne clubs are in to him and whilst different players, the precedent of Tom Boyd, whilst sketchy at the time, has freed up the chequebooks of many.