AND we thought we had nothing to offer on the Royal Wedding.
As far as we can tell it was a joyous occasion to celebrate one single family’s reign over not just the UK but anyone still under the monarchical Commonwealth heavily improved by the inclusion of a batty Bishop from Chicago who added real flavour to the pomp and circumstance.
Otherwise, in the real world, one club from Tullamarine tagged themselves out of the Royal Rumble and one from Royal Parade tagged themselves in…
And yes, I know, wresting fans, you don’t tag yourself out of a Royal Rumble, but it meant we could use the word royal another couple of times, given the week’s events, oh never mind, onto the week in footy:
1. Let us start with the Bombers. Saw it mid-week from John Worsfold in his demeanour and it carried on into the game on the weekend. There appears to be the emergence of a real edginess to the team. It’s almost as if they’ve flicked a switch, finally moving on from this ‘recovery’ mode, a forced developmental phase, feeling the effects of those year-long suspensions. It felt like last week and then in their win over Geelong they became a serious side that no longer had any excuse or hangover from that period where expectations were lowered – now it’s about being taken seriously with no lingering effects of that time. Game faces. Desire, want, effort. Their coach is no longer helping a club out of travesty and is now demanding ruthless excellence. Let’s see where they go now.
2. Also, their form line shows great promise. In that whilst they have lowered their colours in their loss to Carlton, on Anzac Day, etc., they have shown to be capable of competing with the better sides. Only West Coast, Port Adelaide and Essendon have three wins against teams currently in the top eight. That’s something to build from. Their six losses to date will hurt their chances but on paper this is a list good enough to make finals and win one, their task will be to try and get there from this far back.
3. A small exercise to gauge form and credibility from nine rounds in, given some teams have had easier draws, or some teams have cashed in accruing wins against the bottom clubs: if we attribute 18 points for every team who has beaten West Coast right down to 1 point for defeating Carlton, and tally it all up, it makes for interesting reading. Even though Melbourne has won twice as many games as Essendon, because the Bombers have defeated the Crows, Power and Cats, they would be higher on this form ladder; the Dees yes have defeated the Roos but aside from that their other wins are against the current bottom five. Sydney would leapfrog Richmond because they defeated the Eagles in Perth, the Tigers got spanked at their attempt. Everyone else is largely where they sit on the real ladder give or take a few spots, so for those clubs their ladder position is somewhat validated. But interesting that Melbourne and Essendon essentially swap, despite how we ‘think’ they are going.
4. Last one on the Bombers, sorry Cats fans (positive couple on you next), Devon Smith continues to lead the way. Last week we spoke about his pressure and if his teammates could follow in behind. Another ten tackles on the weekend, moves into no.1 in the league now, but this time he had plenty of support and that showed in the result. He would be All-Australian squad for sure right now.
5. Onto their opponents on Saturday, couple positive and then a negative. Firstly Tim Kelly, out of the Rising Star calculations because of age but he is the best first-year player by far. The 23 year-old, a second round pick last year (Geelong took Lachie Fogarty ahead of him) after coming second in the Sandover, looks like a 100-game veteran from the get go. One of the Cats’ most important onballers already, averaging 22 touches, five inside 50s, four tackles and four clearances a game, he is a bonafide AFL jet. Great recruiting.
6. Just want to touch on a sliding doors moment out of the continual fallout in the life of Bomber Thompson. We all know the Essendon drugs scandal has left such a lasting impact, for life, for so many involved, but without the intervention of someone like Brian Cook, this scandal could have so easily played out down at Geelong instead. Thompson got Stephen Dank into the Cats’ football program back when he was senior coach but stronger heads within their tent, whilst sticking with Bomber which ultimately proved a masterstroke, gave Dank the boot for grounds probably very clear in hindsight. When Bomber moved on and joined the very inexperienced Hird at Essendon, a club who didn’t have the ‘strength’ of leadership like Geelong with Cook, Frank Costa, etc., Bomber played the ‘Dank card’ again, no-one intervened, and the most tormented chapter of one of the league’s great clubs ensued. Given the state of affairs with Geelong at the time, had Dank stayed at Kardinia Park it could have almost undone that club, so if it was Brian Cook who intervened, bloody hell, that’s massive.
7. Pointed out on one of the Monday night football programs that this marvel that is having Dangerfield and Selwood joined by Ablett in the centre square is far from being the effective weapon the rest of the comp thought it would. They have started 14 centre bounces so far this year for only three successful clearances. That’s bizarre. Mind you, they have only started so few together because with the likes of Kelly, Mitch Duncan and others, the luxury of Dangerfield or Ablett down forward is a weapon in itself.
8. China. Why are we taking some of our national culture over and trying to make that work in their backyard? How narcissistic of us! I mean it’s not like, shoe on the other foot, we let them, say, I dunno, bring their cuisine here and put a gazillion takeaway outlets on every corner, selling whatever it is they make, rice or meat or something, in something as preposterous as rectangle, clear, containers…. So that analogy doesn’t work, but nor does footy in China. Kochie. Bin it please. Nobody is bothered. But I am now definitely having beef and black bean for lunch, how delicious?
9. Carlton had their pants pulled down on Sunday by a Dees team that, yes, as we said, hasn’t beaten tonnes, but to their credit have been as impressive as a top-eight fancy can be in dispatching those lower clubs. But for the Blues, it is not all doom and gloom. This is still a young group who yes, will cop it this week, but we were piling into Essendon only seven days earlier so it can so quickly change. Plus, missing their two best players on the weekend, Charlie Curnow and Sam Docherty, the latter out for the rest of the season of course, they possess a very rusty captain, and are playing a lot of youth which is always a rollercoaster ride in itself – the kids were good for the Dees on Sunday but not so much were the Blues’ kids the same time.
10.Now St Kilda. Let’s be honest, Collingwood did not at all play well. The Pies don’t for whatever reason play Etihad with any alacrity (a home game against the Bulldogs this week at the same venue is anything but a home game) but even though they almost went a final quarter goalless under a roof, they had no troubles with getting the four points in reality. On talent, you could argue the Saints really struggle to stack up with any other club, so when their President still holds top four ambitions, either there’s a lot of untapped chemistry still to propel his team up the ladder or they desperately need a big fish or two to take the rest of the playing list there. Not good.
11. And as for old mate Tim Membrey, a horror two weeks. Kicked 1.8, so many of them were straightforward set shots that he has missed to all sides of the goals, so it’s not just a bad slice or hook, everything’s going wrong. If he doesn’t have a good week in front of the sticks this week I fear he will need to be dropped to find form. Which is a shame because everything else in his game is ok for playing inside 50 in a poor side, getting plenty of touches and taking good catches. It’s just the finishing.
12.On the flip side, gee, Jack Darling, a legitimate star is born. Always thought he was a bit flaky, happy to do the easy bits and be a ‘foil’, but overshadowing Josh Kennedy in a side that’s winning well is no small feat. Working very hard, showing as good a hands as any in the comp, and if you look at the last two premiers, a forward, in form, of Jack Darling size is part of the perfect recipe.
13.Getting way too far ahead of ourselves in May, but the Eagles are packing out that new stadium just nicely week in week out, so some home finals there would be another level, especially if the Eagles are able to host some deep into September. The game is in good nick in Perth and Adelaide, job well done.
14.As for finals, top four, at this point, we’d be pretty happy pencilling in, in very strong HB lead, Richmond, West Coast, Sydney and Adelaide, in no order. The reigning premier look good things to be thereabouts again, their opponents on Sunday look better still, the Swans might be better than the Eagles, and the Crows, doing really well thus far given their injury list to show that 2017 can still be bettered.
15.So, for the final four spots, Melbourne despite the form we exposed above has the talent to convert a 6-3 record into at least 8th, Port Adelaide, probably, then we’d be thinking two of Geelong, Hawthorn, North, Collingwood and GWS. 13 wins, or at least 12 and a half if your GWS, is what you’ll need. The Roos and Pies have the kinder draws in that group – that win for North up in Sydney will be enormous come the end of August.
16. Speaking of North. Hobart. Why are we there? This column is not against Tasmanian footy, not at all, we love Tasmanian footy like Rafael Nadal liked pottery class at high school, but less than 10k there on a lovely Saturday afternoon at Bellerive. Yes, North probably gets a better cheque for the game than if there’d been a crowd twice the size at Etihad, but clearly the locals are showing that they will turn up for their own mob but no-one else. The Hurricanes games in the BBL sell out, so the Taswegians are giving the Roos lip service.
17.Can we then get a Tassie team eventually? Not soon. Here’s why. 18 teams is possibly too many, which I’ll mention next, so we aren’t close to 19, 20 teams in expansion, it would then need to be an existing team moving south. Well how about North themselves? Now they didn’t take a massive package to head to the Gold Coast, so why take something smaller to cross Bass Strait, they are actually ok without being strong at the moment off-field, debt free, and only some on-field success away from a possessing a reasonable membership base. So, unless the league bails on the Suns or Giants such is the mess they find themselves in, sorry Tassie, no dice.
18.State of the game, have we got too many teams? Have we considered that the declining visual of the game has been pretty much aligned to going from 16 to 18 teams? 44 more players each week take the park in our wonderous, elite competition, that prior to would have been found in reserves footy. You think about the fringe players in the lower teams, be it youngsters who are getting games too soon, or guys at their second or third clubs now getting regular gigs, these players would just not be featuring pre-expansion. The talent pool definitely doesn’t extend to filling say 20 good, quality sides each week, we know this, so have we pushed the boat out too far by heading to Surfers Paradise and the Municipality of the Greater Western Sydney Shire Council?
19.Some non-footy to finish, firstly the cut lunches thrown at AAMI Park last Saturday. Yes, we’ve probably rightly outlawed physical violence in all our codes, but how about the nostril flaring, trouser-buckle adjusting taking place in the commentary box to lounge rooms everywhere when Curtis Scott, the 20-year-old Melbourne Storm centre, landed a couple beauties on the yappy Dylan Walker from Manly. He only got a two game suspension for that too, so given the arousal he gave red-blooded footy fans who yearn for the biff, and probably the extra couple thousand Insta DMs from the fairer sex who like a bad boy, I say a good weekend’s work to you, young Curtis.
20. And lastly, ice hockey. The NHL expanded from 30 to 31 teams this season, becoming the first major league to set up camp in Las Vegas. The expansion process was different to what we see in AFL, essentially each of the existing 30 teams could ‘protect’ ten of their roster from the Vegas franchise who then picked one ‘unprotected’ player from each club to create theirs. A bunch of misfits, average players, no stars, who would battle to be relevant and competitive in year one. This week though they defeated Winnipeg four games to one in their best of seven series to be crowned Western Conference champions and will play Tampa Bay or Washington next week for the infamous Stanley Cup. 500-1 at the start of the season to win the whole thing, and if they win four more games they will do just that. The kind of stuff they make movies about. Less of the dancing minions and talking safari animals, more movies like this please. Amazing story.