EARLY Saturday evening, the bars of the MCG were packed and engaged, Hawks and Pies supporters had come together as one.
It had nothing to do with the forthcoming game, which ended up being very interesting in itself, but the plight of “no, not again” as the Giants erode the insurmountable deficit and the Tigers lost yet another close one.
Were the Giants lucky? If so, does that then make the Tigers unlucky? Or is it once bitten, twice shy, three times a trend.
1. A bit of idiot watch up front kick things off. Half time at the MCG on Saturday night, the young Grade 5 and 6 kids having the time of their life in the AusKick. Halfway through, out comes a Hawks trainer, and starts to line out cones in and around where the kids were playing, essentially the half-forward line of the game. At least two dozen cones were put down for when the Hawks came out to warm up for the second half. Luckily no kid tripped or fell on one, but how sensible is that? In the end the Hawks were so late in coming back on to the ground they didn’t have to use half the three million cones placed out. Completely stupid. I hope that bloke ended up having a dodgy curry, or stubbed his toe, later on. Or better still, tripped on a cone on the way to the toilet post-said curry. What a potato.
2. Tom Mitchell had 50. I don’t know if you can have a bad 50, and the criticism of those who downplayed his impact on the game was strong by many. But let’s call a spade a spade, sure he dished out some impressive handballs, but his 50 meant little. Sure, he lacked mates, some support up against an up and about Collingwood engine room would have helped too. But if you hadn’t looked at the stat sheet you’d think he racked up mid 30s at best. His ‘influence’ was nowhere near the lofty heights of what having 50 feels like.
3. Onto Richmond though. On one hand, they’ve lost three super close ones, all games they probably could or should have won and then they’d be 8-1, that one loss a thumping to the Crows in Adelaide. It suggests they are a mighty side just choking at the final hurdle? I disagree. This is not that good a team. The Dees have let me down of late but should never have lost that Richmond game Anzac Day eve, and whilst they could have won all their close losses, they were incapable of putting any of their opponents away – the sign of a poor team. They are a 12-10 team at best in 2017, so we shall see how the rest of the season pans out.
4. And as for the critics, sure it’s somewhat funny that it happened ‘again’, but when Damien Hardwick says he is proud of his boys in the presser after, who gives some media types the validation to criticise that? The press conference is less about honesty and real feelings and more about addressing the public, sending a message. What else did you expect Hardwick to do? Laugh? Cry? Rock back and forth in his chair shaking his head?
5. Geelong had a nice win on Friday, but once again, it was a Patrick Dangerfield and/or Joel Selwood show that did it. The Dogs have some issues we will touch on, but sheesh, if you shut down one if not both, you will defeat the Cats, nine times out of ten. To not put the work into those two then is just sloppy.
6. That was a game the Bulldogs had to win. Put some work into Dangerfield and/or Selwood. Find a way to take out at least one of their influences. Then the game is on your terms and that’s half the battle these days. But they didn’t. And they’ve been patchy; had that Richmond game gone against them they’d be under .500%. We revert to our faith in them as the reigning premier, but how much does that faith get tested if the tide doesn’t turn soon?
7. Off-field it isn’t super either. We can perhaps go into names and specifics in the coming week or two, but two once super-close teammates are not on talking terms at the moment, and one of those involved is keen to ‘entertain’ the offers coming his way for 2018. Combined with a few who haven’t hit 2017 as professionally as they may have twelve months earlier, Luke Beveridge has his work cut out at the moment. I think they’ll be right, but a premiership defence looks tricker than first planned.
8. Since when was Jake Lloyd an elite midfielder? Well apparently he is becoming one, averaging over 30 touches a game and having an impact in most games. Crafty, quick, not bad by foot either, he is another reason why maybe, just maybe, the Swans in this weird season could make an ambitious run for 7th or 8th.
9. St Kilda has to work out what their forward line looks like. Tim Membrey provides a tasty mid-sized option and Nick Riewoldt is a Hall of Fame forward who can play up on a wing. But Josh Bruce, the backman turned key forward, has been up and down with his form, and Paddy McCartin, the No.1 pick, doesn’t look like demanding a senior spot every week just yet. They all can’t play together, something needs to give there, especially with Riewoldt’s form and ambitions for maybe one more year.
10. Dayne Beams continues to play brilliantly in a poor side in a hidden market. Another stellar performance on the weekend with yet again no teammates going with him, and no-one watching the Lions these days, he might be one of the most unassuming All-Australians ever. If he can keep fit the rest of the year he is a lock for the 22 at year’s end.
11. If I’m the West Coast or Fremantle I’d be offering money at Daniel Rich to lure him out of Brisbane. He is not playing that well, relying on handball receives but doing little else. He won’t be dropped because the Lions are going that badly, but we all know he has oodles of talent. Tempt him with an offer to come home, his trade price won’t be all that substantial, but a motivated, refreshed Rich in an Eagles or Dockers lineup would be such a nice addition.
12. Three ruckmen look set to battle for the All-Australian team, with the unfortunate injury to the otherwise incumbent Max Gawn. Brisbane’s Stefan Martin has produced an elite year so far, sadly other than his captain the rest of his teammates are potatoes, Adelaide’s Sam Jacobs has played marvellously in doing his bit for the league-leaders, and then Collingwood’s Brodie Grundy,has increased his hit out count to elite whilst maintaining midfielder numbers for disposals and tackles. I personally can’t split Martin or Grundy to this point.
13. What happens when West Coast get on a plane? It’s just awful. Credit the Bombers for starting to show why 2018 will be fruitful for them, but the Melbourne record is just appalling. A grand piano pushed down stairs travels better than West Coast flying to Victoria, it’s beyond dire.
14. Josh Schache is gone. Just a matter of where. Richmond looks best suited, they have some money, they have the Justin Leppitsch linked as pointed out, so that looks solid. Collingwood is the dark horse. Sure, the Chris Mayne experiment has not worked, but the Pies lined up the Gold Coast’s Tom Lynch with a big offer but the key forward chose loyalty over the money back home. The Magpies are in the market for Schache or Sam Reid, it might end up being the latter but don’t discount them trumping the Tigers, and North Melbourne too for that matter.
15. As for North Melbourne, they are throwing cash around like St Kilda, and Dustin Martin is in their sights. The real issue for Richmond with their star on-baller is the amount of quality offers for Martin to consider. Realistically he has already chosen, or half-chosen, because the hunt for him started a year ago. But between the big money, and term, offered by North, Adelaide, GWS, Sydney, amongst a couple likely others, the chances of him staying are slim.
16. The Kangaroos have an interesting strategy. They are really keen to throw the money around, but for talent under a certain age. Josh Kelly is a prime candidate and their offer to him is well known. Martin is the same, and crucially they have the cap space to accommodate both should they be so lucky. I believe they are also in on a few others as well, Steven Motlop and Zak Jones being two potentially.
17. But St Kilda will be the big winners I feel, they are throwing cash around, maybe not Dustin Martin but are all in on Nat Fyfe and will assess their options as contact talks with others might not go as fruitful. They’ll land someone, and it’s the right time, for those like me who are bullish on their rise will see a big acquisition as timely. And crucially, they have their own first round pick at their disposal plus a likely top three selection too in Hawthorn’s pick to use in trade talks.
18. Onto some of the big games this week, we have Geelong taking on Port Adelaide down in Sleepy Hollow tonight. The method is simple for Port – put time into the hosts’ big two and the job is half done. However, last year showed that coming back from the bye teams were a bit off, a bit rusty, so we shall see if the opportunity presented for the prospering Power so far this season isn’t somewhat offset by bye-lag, especially post-China-bye-lag.
19. We’ve got a huge game on Saturday between the Dogs and the Saints. The Dogs are not anywhere near their lofty best. The Saints, on the rise no question, but lowered their colours to a rampaging Sydney last week. A big rebound is in order and to take the scalp of the minor premier has them back on track in a big way. For the Dogs, they can’t afford to lose this one, it’s a team they just need to beat.
20. And we have Dreamtime at the ‘G on Saturday night. And so much at stake. For Richmond, they surely have to win one, and be in front of a team in the fourth where they can put it away or at least hold on with authority. But the Bombers are up and about, there’s a lot to like about what’s brewing at Tullamarine, so the opportunity for the Tigers to make amends for the close losses will be secondary, they’ve got a tough assignment as is.