GEE what a cracker this season continues to be.
We had an amazing finals preview last Friday night in Adelaide with the Swans prevailing, even being delivered a belter of a game the next night by two bottom six teams showing a lot for next year.
All the while we have one of the greatest retirement classes saying their farewells, very emotional scenes last Sunday at Etihad and we’ll be sure to get more of the same in the final round, all kicking off with Friday night’s game where it’ll be tears all round on both sides.
But best of all, we’ve got a stellar finals campaign now on our doorsteps too, it’s all coming up Millhouse!
Onto the footy.
1. Got to start this week with Sydney’s win last Friday over the Crows, just a terrific performance, a terrific run since Easter really. They will likely end up with a simple-ish week one home final then it’s on the road for a couple weeks. Now should they keep this form up, and who would put them past doing just that, they could end up taking all before them and end up in the big dance. Phenomenal. They are the best team in it but by just missing the top four it opens the door for the others, the Crows and Giants, for example.
2. Such a shame about the Eddie Betts 50m penalty. The umpiring department has come out and said that it was definitely an error and given the closeness of the game you could argue it cost the home side four points. In the grand scheme of things it won’t affect ladder positions come next Sunday too much but the belief the Swans have should they end up playing the Crows again, in Adelaide, Sydney or dare we say Melbourne in a few weeks’ time is invaluable.
3. To their cross-town rivals, and the Giants are doing just enough but are so primed to go large once it ticks over into Spring. You can now get them at $5 to win the flag, they have the best side on paper, so if they can string together three wins next month that’ll do it, especially with two likely home finals in Sydney the key. Brett Deledio just a super nice addition. Getting fit too.
4. It’s at this place each week we mention them and this is no different – we continue to be unimpressed by Geelong. They were somewhat lucky they won on the weekend and lucky they can’t miss top four. The Giants will be circling for a scalp down the highway Saturday, then without Joel Selwood any time soon their finals aspirations will culminate by Week Three at the latest if they are lucky. The opposition putting time into Danger in September will be invaluable.
5. Port Adelaide, hmm… Port will play at home week one, if they can get their first finals win at home since they pumped Richmond there in 2014, they could get on a mega run. Not fancied, but formidable once in form.
6. As for their opponents last Saturday in Ballarat, what’s happened to the reigning premier, officially out of the finals race one year after saluting? Two things primarily, one, their entire backline largely differs to the one that won them the cup last September, but two, and this is the curious one, Luke Beveridge in his wisdom moved his assistant coaches around for 2017, for developmental reasons. So sure, his assistants by having new groups this year may be now more rounded coaching talents, but the disruption may have cost his side finals, not smart at all in hindsight.
7. Some rare love for the Blues this week. Got to like what they are doing. It is a slow build, sure, but there is something to like. They have a got a good mix of their own picks, plus a bunch of talented ex-GWS youngsters, if they can keep the ever-improving Levi Casboult plus secure a Jacob Hopper or Devon Smith, they’re the next Dees/Saints in 2018-19, mark my words.
8. Quick one on finals machinations, the Swans won’t get ahead of Port so if the Giants beat Geelong this week, the two Sydney sides can probably only meet in the Grand Final. Geelong beat the Giants it will be a repeat matchup in two weeks’ time, another loss and the Giants would host the Swans in Week Two.
9. The Demons, not super on Sunday at all really. A win’s a win, but they are going to be in the thick of it really soon and their performance on the weekend didn’t do much to help their cause. They need to catch fire, we like them, but whilst Brisbane are improving that wasn’t enough. Remain a ‘watch’.
10. Bear with here – how good were the Nick Riewoldt scenes last Sunday and will we get the same with Luke Hodge and Bob Murphy this Friday. How good is footy, how good is this town, where we are only one small city in a young country playing an indigenous sport only half the nation plays, yet so many big, passionate tribes that have all these different narratives. Friday is about two parts of Melbourne saying goodbye to legends, two traditional foes go toe to toe on Saturday, big Richmond game Sunday, Tigers on the March, Punt Rd end of the ‘G will be humming, Roo’s final game for those Saints fans too, it will be a good turnout; the top four Cats get a primetime game at home to secure a big finish, Essendon fans welcome back a return to the finals, maybe Jobe’s last game in Melbourne, Etihad will be buzzing. North have had their moments, especially the emotion of this time last year with their veterans, and we had Carlton fans in euphoria on Saturday overcoming a seemingly improbable task against another big Melbourne club. All in the one city. And let’s not forget the good amount of Bloods fans that will keep a buzz around Clarendon St as their boys march through September, and a shout out to the respectable representation of Roys fans at the ‘G last Sunday, probably more than there were Suns fans at Metricon or Giants fans in Sydney on the weekend. We know this is read interstate and internationally but goodness gracious what a town.
11. The Brad Scott, North Melbourne, Gold Coast story. Weird. So the Roos are half okay with Scott opting out of re-signing and taking the Suns’ gig. Don’t get why, unless it’s the most acrimonious parting ways of all time, so basically sacking him. Where there is smoke there is fire so this column must assume that at this point in time, the ex-Lion is a massive chance to be back in Queensland next year.
12. Josh Kelly, bloody hell, the Saints must get him, North need to make sure they do what they can too, he will be a top 5 player for 5-7 years, his game on the weekend was phenomenal. A likely top five finish in the Brownlow, he is an utter jet.
13. This week we present the Collingwood-Tom Lynch conundrum. It wasn’t widely reported at all but last time the Suns’ spearhead was out of contract a couple years ago, the Pies threw a million dollars a year to bring him home yet he remained loyal, signing a two year bridge deal. He will be out of contract again next year but the kicker will be that this time he is a Restricted Free Agent, meaning any suitor won’t need to trade assets to satisfy the Gold Coast. But, whilst the Pies have always maintained interest, and relative favouritism should Lynch decide he wants to move on, they really need him for 2018 and can’t afford to wait until 2019. What does this mean? Even though they could, or should, wait the extra year and get the Suns captain for free, they may bite the bullet, satisfy the Suns with a trade this year so they get something, and the Pies get Lynch a year early. Watch this space.
14. Seemingly Jake Lever is down to re-signing with the Crows or if he is to return to Melbourne it will be the Demons or Magpies. Watch him stay in Adelaide, can’t see him leaving to be frank.
15. Dusty watch, and I tell you, it still smells way too much. Here are the facts, he went into the year unsigned, rival clubs sounded out that he wasn’t re-signing anytime soon, so they got busy. Huge money was and continues to be thrown his way. It is August and Richmond are still none the wiser to what he is doing next year, it’s a long time to wait. They are allocating 1.2 mil for next year for him, “IF” if he stays, but they don’t know.
16. Calls for a draft lottery this week, and we don’t mind that idea although we don’t feel as bad about Brisbane and North this weekend like we might have in years previous. But it does makes a lot of sense, we already do the American model with draft and caps and what not so why not utilise this too, which has had value over there.
17. The Pies will be hiring a new CEO at year’s end after Gary Pert resigned, reading the writing on the wall. The short priced favourite to replace him – Simon Lethlain. Name sounds familiar? Few weeks ago, senior AFL executive resigns after affair with Sydney-based female employee goes public? Ringing a few bells now?
18. We are getting more and more accustomed to the Damien Hardwick-style reappointment for Nathan Buckley. Hardwick was gone last year if he didn’t have the extra year just the Tigers didn’t want to wear the bigger buyout. So they kept him but turned the coaching staff over, and it’s worked, Justin Leppitsch back, Blake Caracella in to fill a key strategic role. The Pies are looking to do something similar, keep Bucks, turn over his assistants, maybe get Roos into some sort of footy role, then roll the dice. Whether it’s that or Bucks going, the Pies need a big change of plans somewhere, they are becoming far too predictable with their level of performance.
19. So what happens this Friday night? Both Luke Hodge and Bob Murphy saying farewell, of course there will be guards of honour but who goes first? Does one go then everyone runs over the other side for the other, do they go neutral, it’s a bit hard to know. What we do know is that there’ll be serious choreography for the post-game nutted out during the week to get it right.
20. Last game at Domain Stadium this week, the demolishers are in within weeks. Yeah that happened quick didn’t it? Round One next year will see the new Perth Stadium host its first game of AFL, so when the West Coast walk off Sunday evening, so will close a storied chapter at the home of Western Australian football for many decades. Well done and thanks ‘Subi’, you’ve given all of us, even over here on the eastern seaboard some memorable matches.