ROUND One in the books, already nine teams are flag contenders and the pitchforks emerge for the rest.
Wasted pre-seasons, scarves thrown away and discarded in disgust, the Grim Reaper seemingly looms for half a dozen coaches already.
Could be worse, could be Steve Smith…
1. Let’s touch on the cricket up front. Warner is a pit bull, a junkyard dog, and has blown his top. A high-energy Ashes summer, further fuelled by the De Kock sledge against his wife and then Rabada’s antics, made worse by his suspension being overturned, has finally lost self-control when the ball wouldn’t go reverse in the third test – straw, camel’s back basically. Irrationally he has pressured Bancroft into an idea, Smith, the quiet, younger man child who before this all happened had a reputation for coming across as sweet, well-educated and the next Bradman basically, can’t contain his vice-captain when in this mood. Warner is the instigator, the sole proprietor of all the untoward descriptions of the ‘culture’ within the team. Smith is far from the kind of character needed to curtail him (Border, Waugh, they would have no issues you’d imagine), gets caught up and tries to protect his deputy. Bancroft, at the crossroads, out of form and feeling the pinch, gets leaned on and sees a way out, reverse swing might win us the game, a win might save my spot, an alliance to the leaders might be favourable come selection – its wrong but you can see why it might have been compelling. So now what? Smith probably gets 12 months, misses the summer but comes back in time to get a run up to the Ashes, Warner gets the same ban but is never picked again, Bancroft gets a ban but is certainly not lost to the national team down the track and the Test team has a resurgence against two Asian teams this summer who are notoriously bad travellers.
2. Onto the footy, and I’m going to start with the media, which is a bit rich coming from this column but alas. We are ok with ex-players jumping the fence and getting behind the glass passing comment on their former craft, be it in print, in front of a camera or behind a mic. But the old school journo, who never played the game, has come through the caper as someone with a nose for news and able to get the mail, the good oil, why are they now being celebrated for their on-field commentary. My main beef is with the media vehicles of Damian Barrett, Triple M most notably, airing segments and splashing headlines for his critique of club’s round one results. Now Damo, break news, write wonderfully prosed columns on the game, but when it comes the Bulldogs’ performance in Canberra, you are not at all qualified, we have better options! Mind you, watch me now do exactly that for the remainder of this column…
3. The Cats on Sunday, wow, get out of jail much? Didn’t look overly impressive, or that cohesive. Yes, Ablett and Selwood will likely share five Charlie votes between them, and they have another Brownlow medallist midfielder to come back in perhaps this week, but whilst they are very good trick ponies, the Cats in 2018 will be just that, a three-trick pony.
4. Ah the Pies. Glimpses of something good and then whooshka, a horrible disposal, a brain fade mistake, zero defensive coverage, and the Hawks walked it in. Their best footy looks to be ok, showed that last year, showed it in patches on the weekend, but the ultimate downfall is that it’s never there enough, there’s no reason to suggest it will change anytime soon and given they’ll go 2-4 at best after six rounds it’s all superfluous really. A ‘proper’ circuit breaker at the Holden Centre is their only remedy.
5. Tom Mitchell gets 54, he got the ten votes from the coaches, he’ll likely be best on from the umpires too. He is still probably underrated, a tremendous get by the Hawks. But, sure, Bucks should have sent someone to him no doubt, but he is far from the new Diesel. Take Clayton Oliver the next day, he only got 28 touches to Mitchell’s 54, yet the Dee laid ten tackles whereas Mitchell laid just the two. Between the two, take age out of it, I know who this column would rather.
6. Buddy, Buddy, Buddy. Wasn’t so much the local team christening the new stadium on Sunday but the local boy. Here’s a tip, and its paying $50 which for a two-legged multi is delightful, Franklin for the Coleman into the Brownlow. He plays 22 games he is a massive show.
7. Canberra showed us that the GWS are in this year up to their necks, yes, only one game but we saw what we needed to see in the first ten minutes. But for the Dogs, oh gosh, the sky has fallen in at Footscray it seems. Please. It was first up, with a key man going down early, on the road, against this column’s premiership tip, you know what, on the Dogs, yes I will hold thanks caller. They’ll win this week.
8. Lot to like for the fans of the losing team last Thursday. Yes, ended up 36 shots to 20 in the reigning premiers but its about 2019 for the Blues. Tangible results are secondary to ‘good signs’, and to that there are plenty, Cripps, Curnow, the other kids, the way they play, etc.
9. And on young Charlie Curnow, he is a tall forward that works in the 2018 version of this game. Mason Cox is not. So whilst it’s a project, its an experiment and the American clearly has potential strengths that could ‘help’ the Pies, there will always be weaknesses in his game that are not just exploitable but a liability. The best team minimises liability, the Tigers forward line last year for example, may have been awesome with say a Josh Kennedy in the goal square, but one thing you can’t say about the forward group is that it contained liability. The Cox liabilities are going to cost moments, which can cost games, and a long bow perhaps but those lost games could lose Buckley his position, a butterfly effect if you will.
10. The Bombers got themselves a nice, big, early scalp. And here’s the good news for those who enjoy seeing their team who play this grand old game – they only one have one game outside of Melbourne before Round Nine. Between now and then they are a more than a fair chance to win the majority of those which, by the bye periods, will have them set up with a very healthy win-loss record. This column puts a lot of emphasis on how good starts are integral to deep September action, this all bodes very well for the Dons.
11. And as for Port, yep, same thing, as we said last week they’ll get off to a great start, tick the box for last week. And good form is good form, whether its something impressive or just games you are expected to win, so no matter really the opponents or performances if the Power can get off to a good start, the momentum is such a strength in itself. Good starts breed success at the pointy end, Port are definitely a ‘buy’.
12. Poor Libba, such crap news; he is very important to the Dogs setup but overall it’s such a shame for him. Here’s to a big 2019, he is a genuine star.
13. So North Melbourne are throwing money at Andrew Gaff – good luck to both parties I say.
14. The Saints still have plenty of room that they actually have to use. Convoluted way it works, there is a salary cap and salary floor, so you cannot obviously exceed the cap, but you must have a minimum salary too. Further complicating things is that you must stay within these markers over a rolling four-year period. Therefore, you can be over the cap providing the rolling four-year result is that you were under on average. That’s the same with being under the cap, its ok for one year, but you need to ensure you compensate when the four-year average is calculated. Long story short, the Saints have been saving cap space, being deliberately under the cap floor on average in the knowledge securing a big fish would get them into the sweet spot – yet without luring such a star they would need to re-do existing deals to make the finances work, which is hardly ideal (overpaying for the sake of it). Jeremy McGovern, Olli Wines, two names that are seemingly open to the enquiry. Rory Sloane is ideal but I think he stays.
15. Paddy McCartin. Where’s he going? Bruce is the number one gorilla in the forward line and reasonably so, has earned the credits somewhat. McCartin clearly has the tools, but not convinced he can flourish. No-one had less touches than him on the weekend with his team getting the four points still, yes it’s a long road for him after last year’s badly interrupted year, but he turns 22 in a few weeks, drafted four years ago, this year needs to be somewhat progressive otherwise it’s time for some decisions down at Moorabbin. Not drastic, but things to ponder.
16. If Luke Parker played for a Victorian club he would be seen as a superstar. Credit on this rare occasion to Mark Robinson who put the Swan at no. 26 in his pre-season Top 50 but damn he is a gun. Has averaged 25 touches and six tackles a game pretty much the last four years, has only recently turned 25, a Brownlow runner-up two years ago, makes tremendous decisions, and is a rare mix of extremely gritty but very skilful. Had 32 touches on the weekend with nine tackles, that sort of game in Melbourne gets huge Monday night media coverage, but a Sydney performance Sunday twilight in Perth, in Buddy’s shadow, not so much.
17. Only 44 tackles laid by Dockers on Saturday, not the effort you want to start the year. Still bullish on their chances, potential, but their home opener against Essendon this weekend is crucial. Couple selection changes, better effort, get the season back to 1-1 and go from there, otherwise, as per our ‘starts’ rule, they will be doing themselves no favours.
18. Five goals between Jack Watts and Steven Motlop in the same game with old Toddley Marshall bagging four. Port won’t have much of an issue scoring this year, but ensuring the ball doesn’t just waltz out and result in opposition scores is going to be key. It’s hardly the Richmond mosquito fleet; turning the ball over close-ish to goal and scoring is what works these days.
19. How tough were the ladies at Princes Park on Saturday? Throwing themselves around, the hits were hard, it was damn impressive in less than helpful conditions. But notably, the defenders, intercept marking, showing composure, defending and rebounding under immense pressure, there’s a number of spuds in the men’s league who could take note.
20. We started with cricket, lets end with tennis – whilst he ended up losing to Fernando Verdasco in three, Thanasi Kokkinakis defeated world no.1 Roger Federer more or less within hours of Cam Bancroft stuffing tape down his Reg Grundys. It meant that essentially no media outlet noticed, or cared, but this column does. Annoyingly it seems we’re jumping off jungle-conqueror Bernie Tomic, but for Nick Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, this column sticks fat. A clean bill of health between the best Greek-Australian offering since The Wog Boy 2: Kings of Mykonos will end up in many satisfied Aussie tennis fans this year and beyond – get on board and stay on board with these two.