NOT a great week, or ten years in truth, for one of the greats of our game.
Not a great look further when The Age was the first to name Ross Lyon as ‘that’ Fremantle official embroiled in hush money, sexual assault, something untoward and horrendously immoral.
And not a great look on the field at the moment either, scoring’s down, skills are even worse, the pitchforks for the game’s aesthetics are out, the naysayers continuing to say nay. Why do we even bother?
Given all that I might as well do the right thing by your week and not continue, saving you five minutes of reading something that, clearly, would otherwise be a waste.
Bugger that. We’re not the French military, rowers, or the standard of names given to new Kardashian babies, we’re about going forwards, making progress, bettering ourselves. Pushing on.
1. Bomber, Bomber, Bomber… All started going downhill toward the end of his days as Geelong coach. Socially most notably it appears is where it all went skew-if, his demeanour and ability to interact with friends and family changed, he has had two marriages fail for a multitude of reasons, some too personal or obscure to mention (‘transformed’ for those already aware) and he essentially created this second life for himself away from perhaps the stereotypical norm, or away from what we thought we saw anyway. Without a role in football or the media it was about Bitcoin investment and then many other undesirable things. But this far precedes the Essendon saga, however that certainly most exacerbated his spiral.
2. So Freo – Ross Lyon and some lewd comments to a female colleague at a club function many years ago. Despite how inappropriate or not the conduct, and there’s every chance it was given that the club felt obliged to resolve the matter against absconding their senior coach of blame, the fact it was closed off by all parties then, seemingly but years later, be lodged with WorkCover is always interesting. On one hand was it the weight of a club and league who bore down on a victim to settle, or there’s been new advice to seek more out of a situation, club, individual than what was totally addressed prior? Hush money it is not, it allegedly was, at the time, adequately raised, investigated, and resolved, by all interested parties, no authorities involved whatsoever. But, is this now a further grab for cash, or was that earlier resolution done so inappropriately that a belated WorkCover claim is legitimate?
3. State of the game. The Chiefy chief chief of the nation’s biggest news rag, who this column has long recognised his malpractice to the craft whenever he submits anything to his editor, has led with alarming commentary on behalf of the wider football public on Monday:
“Is it crisis time?”
“There are highlights, but they are too rare.”
“Am worried where the game is and where it’s going.”
No. There will always be good games and bad games. Take the last round, Friday was ok considering it’s Carlton worst-ever start to a season. The Cats-Swans game was great, the North-Port game was as ok as a 40-point game can be. Saturday night was off, two games featured two strong clubs against battlers, so what do you expect? Sunday was pretty great though, yes Essendon wasn’t up to it, but Melbourne, both Richmond and Collingwood, and then the Derby clubs were all totally fine exponents. If you sat on the couch for six hours Sunday you’d be totally satisfied.
4. Further, one issue we’ve always been presented with is the increasing number of stoppages. Too much like rugby, with the mauls and the scrimmages. However, and this is a drive-by for Robbo again because in his address for concern he actually states that there are now “fewer stoppages and ball-ups”. Wouldn’t that be progress instead of reason for alarm? Yes, contested possessions are up, scoring is tight, but if we’re stopping the game less that surely suggests we’re heading in the right direction, not the other way around?
5. And lastly, in a competitive market, look at how good the game is going. Despite North hosting an interstate team, the Giants hosting Brisbane at Spotless and Hawthorn playing in Launceston, the round of matches still surpassed 300k for attendance at an average audience of 35,315 per game. That’s stellar. The NRL, with inflated averages because their Anzac Round was this one averaged 17k, totalling 141k. More people attended the AFL on Sunday than the NRL got the entire round. Even with the expansion teams the AFL’s average has been 33k in 2016, last year 35k, so far this year it’s 38k. TV figures are pretty good, crowds are improving, membership is up again year on year – what’s the problem, other than the typical diatribe that results from the enormous passion we have for the game totally and often taking us away from pragmatic logic and rational discussion? It’s fine. Move on.
6. Essendon, not gelling yet with some new, big names, or just not that good, full stop? Probably the latter if Worsfold’s honesty is to be taken at face value. It is what it is. Not great at Tullamarine. Their draw is kind but going wasted.
7. Richmond’s draw though, one finalist in the first 8 rounds. How’s that fair? Other than Adelaide their season begins against 16th, 12th, 18th, 9th, 12th, 14th and 15th based on ‘17 ladder finishes. They are top of the tree, we trust in what we saw last year and particularly in finals, but will largely go untested for some time. The Pies fell short Sunday but the Tigers’ last two games show that if the challengers are up to it, the back end of the season will test the reigning premier.
8. The Pies, in the mix for one of the final spots, but it’s a long season and only just ticked over into May. Missing half a dozen best 22 players on the weekend yet despite how awfully lopsided the inside 50s and scoring shots where, if Tom Phillips kicks the goal on the goal line in the last term it’s a two goal game. Their draw opens up from now on in and should go no worse than 50-50, which would equate to an 11-win season at least. Should aim for 13 with an ounce of luck, which means September. Injuries will be key.
9. Underrated cog to the Pies’ ‘seemingly’ being better, finally – the back six combination. Instrumental to any successful team’s, ah, success. The continuity of a capable and competent back six is paramount, and with Collingwood that part of the ground has come together in leaps and bounds this year. Howe is elite, Dunn is doing a really reliable job, Scharenburg is fit and showing why he was such a high draft pick, Murray has been a steal of a trade, Langdon has limited his mistakes and does a role and Crisp is having his best year to date. So yes, they’ve had a ‘nice’ midfield for a while and the media will spruik it’s the smaller forward line that’s doing the damage, that backline though has been the best part of their improvement this year. No question.
10. Melbourne, show real promise one week, horrendous the next. Even worse it’s often in-game like the Hawthorn loss a couple weeks back. Essendon weren’t much chop but if the Dees could just, by some chance, get their proverbial together, the talent they possess is top eight minimum. They were compared to St Kilda years ago, look at both lists now, one is clearly a finalist. Time is now.
11. West Coast, 5-1, can’t miss finals now you’d think, credit to them for getting over the line in the first Derby at the Cray Pot. They simply, yet critically, seem to have have winners in all areas. Hurn is an absolute jet this side of the country doesn’t appreciate, Yeo was stellar on Fyfe when on ball or inside Freo’s 50, the midfield has a bit of class, Nic Nat is elite, and their forward line has many weapons. It’s a lovely mix in reality.
12. Their opponents though, 3-3, disappointing, tall forwards are their key for success, and with Matt Taberner, who was showing strong signs now out injured long-term, if McCarthy is well held they might struggle. Work to do for Freo. Still a ‘Buy’.
13. Sydney, great courageous win. That sort of football, particularly later in the year, will have Punt Road concerned. Their only two losses were uncharacteristic home defeats to the Crows and Power, everything else has been first class. Challenged, down at a full Cattery, their big names stood up without their biggest name even playing. This Swans team is still well and truly in the window.
14. The Cats, you don’t have one of Danger, Ablett or Selwood drag you over the line, they are a 50-50 proposition all year. So they’ll probably make finals because they will get 50 odd games between the three and 15 of those with all three at once, and that’ll be enough for 12 or so wins most likely. But they are very beatable, especially away from GHMBA.
15. Small clip here – Danger is one of the very best players in the league. But, he is a bit lazy and a bit sloppy when the big moment matters. A few times last year, late in games, the Cats got lucky despite some silly errors from the Brownlow medallist. Over in Adelaide in one game he kicked the ball out on the full and then soon thereafter turned it over through a very lazy, sloppy kick, both in the final term of a close one. Then on the weekend, not manning up on Josh Kennedy when the game was tight and the Swans’ skipper was the absolute go-to at stoppages, it’s a little selfish. I know. How many Brownlows do I have? Only one less to be fair.
16. Another clip, this one far more justified though. Poor Paddy McCartin has copped it all year, former no.1 draft pick, big forward, bigger talent, even this column questioned whether he can flourish at St Kilda. The queries have come thick and fast, can he make it, is he good enough, is he a wasted draft pick? He has kicked six goals in six games for a team struggling for form, and for midfield talent to provide the ideal service too. However, the no.1 pick three years earlier, playing for a far, far better team, has only four goals on the year: Jonathon Patton. In goals, marks and contested marks, McCartin has him covered so far in 2018. So given how much heat the Saint got, is it time for the Giant to pull his finger out? The way he is going the Irish will identify his potential to be turned into delicious mash in no time.
17. So this year come Hall of Fame night we promote an inductee to a Legend. The names being bandied for the honour include Ablett, Carey, Dunstall, Sheedy, or Williams. Here are some other current inductees, from South Australia of all places, who should be considered for Legend before too long too. Firstly – Fos Williams. Yes, never played in the VFL/AFL. Who cares? Six premierships as Captain-Coach of the Magpies, three more as Coach, played in his first premiership though as a player with West Adelaide. Involved in almost 80 state games for SA too. Another – Russel Ebert. 391 games with Port Adelaide, six time best and fairest, four-time Margery Medallist, he was as good in Adelaide, if not better, than Malcolm Blight playing for Woodville down the road at the same time, the most recent HOF Legend. Last Croweater to mention – Ken Farmer. Only 224 games with North Adelaide but he kicked 1417 goals. He kicked a ton 11 times, his career only cut short because he went to war in 1942. Three utter giants of the game in SA. But watch it be Sheedy.
18. Last one on footy before some random thoughts elsewhere, this coming draft, at the top but also in terms of depth, is going to be huge. Chuck in a number of quality academy and father son picks and if your recruiters are ever going to one, want to get it right, but also two, be set up to totally take advantage of a draft, this is the year. Therefore you may see clubs as early as this month pull the plug on 2018 and think kids, draft. As a result, expect the tanking debate to rear its ugly head like you’ve never seen before too long unfortunately.
19. We had the ball tampering scandal, now it seems that when we went to organise the coming summer of cricket, to which four tests against India are the centrepiece, the schedules which showed Brisbane or Perth being the first test were knocked back by India, who refused to open the series in either city. Firstly why? Too much pace and bounce, want something more akin to what they are used to, increase their chances of getting a one-nil start in the series? That’s just ludicrous. But guess what? They got their way! We are now opening the summer in Adelaide! Yes, the BCCI has as much power as Michael Christian now with suspensions in the AFL, literally all of it, but at this rate why don’t India progressively request the series starts in Denpasar next time, then Singapore the series after, before you know it the home summer series against the Indians will just end up being played in India as well, because, you know, they don’t want to open in Brisbane or Perth. Can we please find some backbone for Cricket Australia, just some, please?
20. A-League, Grand Final this week in Newcastle, good on those mining folks from the Hunter, well earned. They’ll get something close to 30k yet the TV ratings will be deplorable. Bank on that. And if the answer to the code’s problems is, going by the announcement earlier in the week, that we should spend $200m on a stadium/franchise based in Dandenong, the ‘crisis’ fears for AFL can be softened by the direction of a football code rival. Dandenong? Grand Finals in Newcastle. This is becoming increasingly niche.