AND that was the 2018 season.
What started with Zooper goals on rectangular pitches ends with Luke Dahlhaus wallowing in his lack of motivation on a Portuguese beach.
In a nail biter the Eagles probably deserved to be in front at the final siren but Pies’ fans shouldn’t be too upset with their year despite the result.
And Melbourne fans too, it ended ugly in Perth two weeks ago but there’s a lot to like into 2019 and beyond – even if their no.1 jumper is adorned by someone new next year all of a sudden.
A cracker finale to cap off a season where the game is apparently in as much turmoil as a David King breath test.
For the final time this year, shall we?
1. Up front, the result? Bugger.
2. Let’s not spend too much time on a game that now feels like months ago but the Pies started as well as they did against the Tigers, but the Eagles replicated that final term in the Qualifying Final earlier and for longer this time around which made the difference. There is very little between the two teams and it became a game of musical chairs in the end but for West Coast to be in front at the siren was probably the more just result to be fair.
3. Luke Shuey a deserved Norm Smith winner considering that Dom Sheed aside there wasn’t a tonne of contribution from the rest of the Eagles’ engine room, so he carried a lot of his team’s midfield performance on his own back, outstanding.
4. Credit though to Dom Sheed who I would have given the two Norm Smith votes to. He was dropped for the Derby against Fremantle and only came back in because Andrew Gaff went out through suspension. In the six games since he has averaged 28 disposals, five clearances and five inside 50s. If Gaff does leave Sheed has replaced him with aplomb.
5. Nathan Vardy and Scott Lycett vs Brodie Grundy was fascinating. Grundy got pillared a bit but whilst he had only the ten touches, half his season average, he laid six tackles, took four marks and broke the hitouts record for a Grand Final with 49. For a one on two battle, he did well.
6. Mind you Vardy I thought was particularly impressive, 14 touches, six tackles, four marks, four clearances and a goal; the two-pronged attack against Gawn and then Grundy works.
7. But let’s be honest. We can talk about how good Shuey and Sheed and Vardy were, or how poor Grundy or Sidebottom or Cox, but if Sheed misses that goal, or the Pies got one back in the last 100 seconds, we’d be flipping the narrative and celebrating Taylor Adams’ game, or Tom Langdon, and asking where Lewis Jetta was and panning Jack Darling. Game of inches.
8. On that Dom Sheed winner, interesting which part of the MCG that shot was taken from. Most players at the end of a training session during the week will often take a few extra set shots right in front of the race down to the rooms. So guess where the Eagles’ players race is at Subiaco Oval? Deep in the pocket on that side of the ground, the exact same spot. As per most players around the league, at the end of a session training before ducking into the rooms, its probably the most practiced set shot, so that mark could not have been taken anywhere better (other than directly in front of course).
9. 100,022 at the MCG, great crowd, two short of capacity, don’t know why they keep allocating a ticket for Karmein Chan and a plus one, she’s a perennial no-show. But as it turns out, Campbell Brown’s two tickets showed up Tuesday, so it was a delayed express post that spoiled a literal full house.
10. But a ripper Grand Final, certainly not one that yearned for a longer goal square. Also worth noting that roughly half the time the ball started in the middle both teams had six forwards and six backs, but in a game with only 26 centre bounces, how much starting positions could influence congestion is a crock anyway. Rule changes can sod off.
11. So what’s next, firstly the Gold Coast. Tom Lynch was their most talented player, he is gone, for free, to a Preliminary Finalist. Then Steven May is off it seems, its just a case of where not if. I’d then argue Kade Kolodjashnij could easily be their next talented player after those two and seemingly the Dees are into him as well. Aaron Hall is off to North, clubs think Jack Martin is gettable and their no.7 pick from two years ago Jack Scrimshaw wants to come home to Melbourne too. This club continues to be a breeding ground for other clubs as opposed to anything competitive in their own right and the solution isn’t picks or extra cap space or other concessions, they need to sort their people out. 50kms up the road there was a club in just as much panic and they’re almost a destination club in a heartbeat now. Get that right and players will stay.
12. What else do we have, Jesse Hogan back to Perth is strangely gathering more and more steam, Rory Lobb might join him, Dylan Shiel will head to a Victorian club just a case of who, Andrew Gaff, gut says gone, Roos, Dean Kent to St Kilda, Aaron VandenBerg to Sydney, Ryan Clarke to Sydney but Nic Newman to North, Sam Lloyd goes to the Doggies, Darcy Moore, probably stays after all that, Marcus Adams leaves, somewhere, probably Brisbane, Wingard probably stays now too, Tim Kelly goes to West Coast, Dom Tyson probably moves on, Lachie Neale ends up at the Lions, Scott Lycett ends up at the Power and Jacob Townsend will be a good get for someone else. The Dees have been linked with plenty and yes, the haul for Hogan will help but given they spent a bit on Jake Lever last year I can’t imagine they get everyone in that they are being linked with.
13. After 25 years the NRL Footy Show has been canned, so we’d expect the AFL equivalent might follow suit down here. Mind you, the network knows its got a talent in Brendan Fevola, they are also properly fond of Chris Judd, so something involving the former especially in a new, revised format, sans McGuire, sans Newman, might have legs. Might.
14. Is it wrong to organise a couples’ costumer for Halloween where one goes as a Thai soccer player and the other in a fully divers outfit, flippers, face mask? Just putting that out there to ponder amongst the constituency.
15. The draft is next month, the top 10 or so are going to be very good gets. It wouldn’t be the worst thing for a Gold Coast or St Kilda to take the hit to get a few more high picks in, or moreover keep the picks they already have and avoid the trade route. Jake Lukosious is a Nick Riewoldt meets Jack Gunston mix, the King twins are All-Australian potential two-metre bookends, there’s a half dozen midfield types who will be very, very good at worst, Bailey Smith, Jackson Hatley, Sam Walsh, Connor Rozee and then someone like Izak Rankine who could be anything from Cyril to little Gaz.
16. Clubs will be allowed to trade picks during the draft this year, that’ll be fascinating. Gut feel is that it will be hardly used initially as there isn’t the complete freedom or precedent like with the American sports, but if and when it happens for the first time it’ll bring some excitement to what otherwise as a spectacle is a pretty good remedy for insomnia.
17. So as we close, what have we learnt this year? If you think game is in turmoil and needs mass rule reform because the TV ratings are diabolical, check to see if its it’s because you keep fixturing Carlton and St Kilda in primetime and you’ve got Richmond v Collingwood only on Foxtel. Too, it’s also important to probably decline any invitation to a drop in basketball game if it includes a couple of red-misted Filipinos and if you’re going to have a video referee in place in case of suspiciously offside goals in your Grand Final, um, use them?
18. Also, I think it’s always important to count your numbers correctly, especially when you finally have more numbers than the incumbent PM but fail to reconcile it’s become a three-man race, and if you’re going to make a joke about a pregnancy procedure, firstly don’t, secondly don’t, thirdly make sure you’re not live on commercial radio when you go with it. As well, don’t embarrassingly proclaim something’s “coming home” when you then go and stuff it against Croatia, it coming home was as likely as JFK getting away with a mild concussion on his open-top car ride through Dallas, and if you’re going to pursue a career in cartoons probably best to exclusively draw able-bodied, heterosexual, white males just to play it safe, Mark.
19. Never include a visit to Bunnings as part of your preparation to a weekend’s cricket match, don’t look twice at your media advisor despite how fertile she may look, you’ll end up on the back bench in no time, and if you’re going to supplement your strawberry farm income with a second job involving knitting ensure you keep the tasks involved with both really separate.
20. And finally, my highlight of the year, wow, where to start? Bernard Tomic winning an ATP title, yeah, he sobered up, found a clean pair of underwear and turned up and won not just a match but an actual tournament! I know, amazing the potential when one doesn’t tank! This column has long promised Tomic, Kyrgios or Kokkinakis success, and who knows, maybe 2019 is the year? Or perhaps it was the cheek of some of our African friends who landed in the Gold Coast in April for the Comm Games and chose to illegally stick around after competing because compared to heading home they just preferred it here, mind you Peter Dutton’s now scared they’ll follow him to restaurants so it’s getting out of hand.
But for me, I can’t go past the first goal in the Grand Final. The loss of his sister still raw, still fresh in the memory, her name written large and boldly on his arm, Travis Varcoe on the run to the roar of the faithful. Despite the final result a moment like that was beyond joyous. Or, its that we can talk all we like about getting serious and calling it like it is, like no-one else will, but that I did not have West Coast or Collingwood in my eight at the start of the year? But let’s stick with Trav’s goal and call it a good year.