ALRIGHT. So we’ve all played two games now, the Suns and Roos have played at least one outside of a swimming pool, we can start to make some long-lasting judgement.
The Bulldogs are staring down a full rebuild, Gold Coast have turned it around and can now match the personnel prowess of the Giants and going by Monday’s centre square performance Geelong must surely end up premiers?
April Premiers, righto. When the Melbourne supporters start to pack the ski gear into the back of the Land Rover, then let’s chat.
1. The Western Bulldogs. How much is that supposed post-flag offseason playing a role the best part of 18 months later? Sure, it was a 7th placed finish with an over and beyond September in their glory year, but again its two weeks, last week was colours lowered but we are not off their bus completely, save your wooden spoon bets.
2. This column continues to be buoyed by Fremantle. Much better on the weekend, their talented kids look fantastic, Blakely had 30, Ryan had 22 in defence, Brayshaw is showing a bit, Cerra kicked two goals, those two had nine tackles between them, Fyfe, Neale look good and Walters and Wilson are proper x-factors.
3. Also worth noting that we were originally wrong about the number of Perth games for the Dockers, it’s not just the standard eleven home games plus an away game to West Coast, its thirteen all up – the Gold Coast host Freo at Optus this week. Thirteen games in Perth, this is more than set up for the Dockers to rebound nicely in 2018.
4. Port look very industrious. Matched the Swans for grunt in their home opener and that’s two years in a row they’ve got that scalp. Back home this week for a soft kill with Brisbane, this is all shaping up very well at Alberton.
5. Clarko, moving people around, finding the right role, failing fast, motivation, development, all that – genius. This Hawthorn side still holds several guns in their arsenal, a number of premiership players to that matter, but the way he coaches that side extracts maximum performance out of the available resources, more than any other club going around clearly.
6. How about Geelong? Should have won although the umpires, Burgoyne’s soft tissue and goal posts helped their cause too. But, Ablett 35 touches, Dangerfield 31, Selwood 29, teams are going to have to shut down one. Daniel Howe was on Selwood but didn’t do enough. Ablett looks far too rejuvenated that it’s going to cause opponents issues if they don’t curtail the engine room. If they can, the Cats don’t possess too much else.
7. If you didn’t know the backstory of the infamous starting three mids for Geelong, watched the game on Monday unencumbered, you would be excused for thinking Ablett is their best player. All the rage on Dangerfield vs. Martin, but if Ablett is fit enough (seemingly so) and has found a new lease on life being back home (clearly looks that way), maybe its back to 2015 and it’s a Ablett vs. Fyfe conversation again?
8. Tom Mitchell – 40 touches, two goals, four tackles. Supposedly on six Charlie votes, getting a tonne of exposure. Clayton Oliver though, 35 touches, eight tackles up in Brisbane. One is 25 next month, one is 21 in July. Still a no brainer for me.
9. Jaryd Roughead, big shout out to him. Cancer, overcome, and that speaks for itself on its own merits of course, but five shots on goal Monday, looked really good particularly late in the game, last year played 22 games coming back to footy and really picked up as the season came to an end kicking five in the final round. He has three seasons of over 70 goals in his career, only Buddy has done that as well, so he is a genuine star of the game who could really influence a Hawks side aiming to make finals and then do damage from there.
10. Good Friday – North and Footscray worked well last year, nothing against St Kilda (aside from their performance of course though, we’ll cover that next) but last year felt like the making of something, great game, crowd over 40k, should have got another run. This threat of ‘well performed sides’ from now on is off the mark, I would go back to North and Footscray and give it three years. It should definitely stay with North, so in that case its commit to one regular opponent not rotate their opponents through.
11. So, the Saints. Did ok Round One then followed up with a stinker. Why? Membrey obviously had cricket finals so now that’s all wrapped up he can put the boots on. He averages four marks inside 50 a game, which is fantastic, but for such little impact. Nathan Brown is a good stopper, a premiership player, but is no longer a modern, effective defender and can be exploited. Jake Carlisle, has he gelled as a Saint yet? Not sure. He has had his disruptions but still looks a shadow, and then there’s Paddy McCartin. Bless him, still only young, but he looks years off. Chuck in a midfield that yes, has Jack Steven, but Seb Ross and David Armitage don’t hurt enough and it falls away big time. They were popping rubber bands at Josh Kelly for a reason.
12. Bryce Gibbs is just such a nice piece for this Crows side. 35 touches first up, 28 touches and a goal against Richmond, he is an All-Australian player if he stays fit. Amazing addition.
13. On All-Australian, going the early crow, or Magpie, but with some level of objectivity. Two games in Max Gawn would be the AA ruckman easily, no question, but Brodie Grundy, still only 23, in his 84th game had 20 touches, 45 hitouts, eight clearances, three tackles and kicked two straight. Their best player, most important player, perhaps both. He will be a strong AA contender all year.
14. The Pies were a little stiff on the weekend, two on the bench, no-one over six foot in the forward line, a little luck and it’s a big scalp, 1-1 into the Carlton game, it’s a whole new story. But the Pies, whilst without luck, at times the last couple seasons need to do better at making their own luck. As an example, Hawthorn definitely makes their own luck it seems, making moves, minimising errors, and they’re maybe on the bounce back, perhaps overlapping Collingwood in the process? Jeremy Howe forward during games more often, things like that are required, can’t resign to same old same old, tried hard though..
15. Gerard Whateley interviews Nathan Buckley weekly on his radio program. Gerard was coy enough to raise Tom Lynch kicking eight on the weekend, and a normally very assured, calculated and not easily ambushed Buckley didn’t do a great job of avoiding any ‘reading between the lines’ from his responses. Short, sarcastic answers, deliberately avoiding the obvious reality, obvious narrative. Conceded that “I don’t think there’s many clubs that would say that they can’t do with a marking tall forward. He is a very aerobic, hard running tall forward as well – they don’t grow on trees. I reckon he be well sought after.” It suggests the Pies think he is gettable, coming home, and they remain in the running which would not extend to too many clubs, or indeed have him.
16. Buddy watch, 12 goals already, I expect another decent bag in the Sydney Derby this weekend, talk of a ton this year is premature, but the Coleman-Brownlow double, don’t tell me you missed out when I lobbed it on all of you back in March. Utter. Value.
17. Credit to those down at Arden Street. The Kangas have bottomed out, got a tonne of cash, and yes, apparently asking Andrew Gaff how much he misses living in Melbourne, but Ben Brown up front, a lot of decent depth through the midfield, not a lot of star power, but it’s even, Robbie Tarrant is horrendously underrated, good kids, if you’re a Roos fan, stick fat, they’ll be ok.
18. A few non-footy to finish, let’s wrap the cricket up. Firstly, David Warner, couple concluding takeaways. He has ball-tampered at least throughout the South Africa series, that’s how Bancroft got caught. AB De Villiers got suspicious of Warner in the first few tests, texted his old captain now commentator Graeme Smith to watch Warner with the ball. Cluey to this Warner then courageously flipped his conduct onto Bancroft in Cape Town when the cameras would be following the ball from Paine to the bowler and low and behold, here we are.
19. Hiring Roxy Jacenko, a Sydney-based magazine PR pest, having wife Candice do a tell-all with News Limited, the delayed and then train wreck press conference, he will now be lost to Australian cricket and despite all the good he has a cricketer and person has done, he has made his bed he will now lie in it. Smith and Bancroft made progress to redemption upon arriving home, Warner has gone the other way sadly.
20. The Test Team from here? Head to England and play County Cricket. Yes the next nine months looks good, tests against minnows or against Asian countries at home, ripe conditions to succeed. But with an Ashes over there in 15 months, if I’m Burns, Renshaw, or anyone on the fringe, Kurtis Patterson, Jake Doran, get over to England, smash out a big county season with a mass of runs, and you’ll do well to be back there next year on an Ashes tour.