WHAT a stupid year.
The losers of the NRL Grand Final are paid out as winners by bookmakers, and not because of a silly betting promotion but because the code and its officials are as relevant and effective in their jobs as contraception to Irish catholic newlyweds on their honeymoon.
Where Donald Trump himself is evidence our species might now be regressing, the fact endless hours of Trade Radio always have talkback callers is the proof in that devolution pudding.
And in a year where all the conservatives and right-wingers in this country should be as excited as a Beagle on full lipstick following ScoMo’s Steven Bradbury effort in May, they’re got their pantyhose and pressed slacks in a twist because of what some Volvo factory-worker’s teenage daughter has to say about the inclement weather conditions.
There was chaos and anarchy on Swan Street for the second time in three years last month but Hold Kong locals asked Richmond fans if they could hold their beer. We lost Polly and Spud, and said vale, gone too soon, to Saturday Night Rove. Five clubs let go of their coaches, Pope Francis delisted one of his cardinals, and a ginger from Christchurch defeated his own country by the virtue of most boundaries.
But at least we retained the Ashes in England.
1. Let’s start with the footy, trades season is almost done. Hutchy to his credit was a genius for seeing revenue opportunity in this trade period, with an ‘insert sponsor here’ open line and hours and hours of coverage, its been a windfall and then some for his business. But I reckon we’re only a year or so away from the unwashed realising there’s no relevance in any of it until the final day. There’s only so many Terry Wallace orations on the merits of list analysis before your average punter switches off. Know when to hold them, know when to fold them, Craig.
2. The biggest name out there with a day to go is Joe Daniher. Was that meeting with Tom Harley a personal one or an actual, official Swans’ approach? Soft tacos, hard tacos, why not both? Now we have Essendon playing hardball and who knows if it gets done. Chances are it does, Geelong last year with Tim Kelly was more exception than example, if the Swans want him bad enough, they’ll lump up the pieces, especially if they fear as I do that Bud’s barely got ten more games in him in a market that requires a star.
3. St Kilda has a lot on. Jack Steven and Josh Bruce are two big losses, but getting in Dougal Howard, Bradley Hill, Zak Jones, Paddy Ryder and Dan Butler are some nice pieces. If Ratten can indeed coach, and as an ex-Clarko assistant he should be just fine, next year looks properly solid down at Moorabbin.
4. Whats the thinking with the Dogs? Aaron Naughton looks like a key forward gun, and Josh Schache was just starting to show something as a footballer without being a star. Yet they’re throwing all the cash at Josh Bruce for a go at a third flag? I do know he was free to a good home because the Saints were hellbent Max King’s twin at the Gold Coast would head home next year – not now after that re-signing yesterday. Couple big mistakes there for mine.
5. Tom Papley worth pick nine? Righto. And the Masked Singer will be popular on Australian television too, right?….. Yep, pick nine sounds about right then, forgive me.
6. Jack Martin though, to Carlton, that’s the steal of the whole thing. Martin is a freak, who has gone underappreciated playing in the ghost town that is Gold Coast, for a horribly weak side, in a club that can’t develop anyone not named Tom Lynch. But has talent to burn and could easily become one of Carlton’s top 10 players next year, in fact based on the player he can become, he should. Think 2019 Michael Walters. Seriously. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
7. Collingwood have cap issues? Really? Firstly who really knows, unlike North American sports where contracts are public, only each club really knows how much room they’ve got and how that ever would be divulged puzzles me. And yes they have to pay Grundy, De Goey and Moore next year, although the latter won’t be all that much given his hamstrings are like an Uber driver with turrets, unreliable and could snap at any time. But given the Pies were offering Tom Lynch the same financial terms as Richmond this time last year, with Scott Pendlebury out of contract next year and coming down in salary, with less stars to pay than West Coast, how is this a thing? It isn’t. Chris Mayne is overpaid, sure, but that’s it. Wells has retired, Beams took a cut, and unless George Calombaris oversaw their player payments and there’s backpay to cover off, I think it’s a total beat-up. But sure, let James Aish being wanted by his former backs coach at Freo to fuel that fable.
8. Crows hired Matthew Nicks. Reckon that’s got fail all over it. Adelaide’s list is in a heap, the review basically said their post Grand-Final plans two years ago totally wiped the place out like a broken toilet on a buck’s weekend, and not seeing to the damage since has only exacerbated the crap spilling out all over the shop. Good half dozen or so quality players leaving this offseason, Walker and Sloane are the wrong side of 30 and they’ve got only a few good kids, most clubs around them have better youth and are more rapidly improving. Either Nicks can’t coach at the level or he can but the Crows will be a bad side regardless, either way it doesn’t see him making a new contract beyond whats given out today.
9. NRL. Definiton of a pub league. Your local Wednesday night basketball is better run. And with better officiating. That Six Again controversy was the most befitting thing you’ll ever see to a sport, a sport where 13 of its 16 clubs run insolvent, but that’s ok because all their giant pokies-infested leagues club venues write them all a cheque to cover the losses each year. Absolute pub league.
10. If an umpire or referee makes a bad call, it’s only made worse by changing that decision midstream. If a player marks the ball, but then the umpire overrules saying no, it was touched, its no mark, and because you’ve claimed it and made no attempt to get rid of it its now holding the ball, you just can’t do that. Kids are taught to play to the whistle. Except in rugby league then. Because chances are what the ref just said isn’t what he is about to mean in a couple seconds time, just be patient. That referee shouldn’t be crucified for what’s essentially just one error, but in the grand scheme of things, he needs witness protection. Or better yet, stay off the roster for trips to Canberra next season.
11. It was mentioned in the preamble but no wonder SportsBet paid out all Canberra to win bets. The Raiders had all the momentum, it was 8-all, and it was near the Roosters tryline. They were no guarantee to score off that play, at best they might have got a repeat set. But if there was anyone more likely to break that deadlock given who was playing better but also, more importantly, the territory battle, it was the Green Machine. This isn’t SportsBet just being philanthropic, the result is just that shady.
12. Speaking of Sportsbet – Western United. Made their A-League debut on the weekend, won one-nil in front of some fans at Wellington. But it was midweek that we saw their announcement which said “we are proud to announce SportsBet has joined the club as its exclusive sports wagering partner”. Firstly, poor form, in a city where all the AFL clubs are quite publicly backing out of gambling revenue, to be going the other way stinks big time. But secondly, what does that even mean? That if I go into a TAB all Western United games are unavailable to bet on. Coz that’s just not even close to true. Dumb and stupid in all of the ways, that.
13. So the new boys have their home opener this weekend down at Geelong, even though they’re a team based out of Tarneit. Melbourne Victory when they’ve ventured down to Sleepy Hollow attract 14,000 or so, who knows how many turn up for the novelty first time around this Saturday. But going forward, given Melbourne City don’t exceed 10,000 and they play in town, if they’re getting anymore than 5,000-6,000 in what’s otherwise a 36,000 AFL venue, its going to look oh so pretty on television. What’s the opposite of the eggplant emoji?
14. Few more on the A-League, firstly, why have your opening round smack bang in the middle of an international window? They were so hyper vigilant to schedule their opening round after the AFL and NRL had ended they failed to recognise all of the good Aussie players will be off winning 28-nil against Chinese Taipei or Christmas Island or whoever it was. Its like Victoria Police planning a social function on New Year’s Eve. No-one’s going to be able to make it you morons.
15. And you open up with the Melbourne Derby. Lucky Victory is a terrifically run club with a strong, loyal fanbase. But only 33,000, with zero promotion? These should be nudging 50,000.
16. Lastly, you know they’re going really well when the free-to-air partner this season is the ABC. Even the VFL got a commercial broadcaster, yet the country’s premier round ball competition shares a channel with Gardening Australia and Four Corners. And the cherry on the top is when it comes to finals, and I’ll quote the ABC press release on this one, where “one A-League match per round broadcast live on ABC TV and iView around the country… and a selection of A-League finals on delay, including the grand final.” Delay?! Remember those days? You can’t make this stuff up.
17. Darren Weir got done for using jiggers. Rest of racing stays dead quiet. Right. Now is that because Darren is their mate and despite the heinous crimes blood is thicker than water in the industry and they have some empathy for him? Or is it a case of if he can get caught, then maybe some of the others equally as guilty could so easily as well, and staying mum is step one of avoiding such scrutiny? I wonder.
18. So, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour barrier for running a marathon. Phenomenal achievement, just ridiculous to even comprehend the feat. Amazing. But it won’t count as a world record. Why? Well it wasn’t a race. Old mate contrived the event with a couple dozen pacers to help him do it and that’s it. It’s like if me and some mates hire lane eight down Altona Pool Thursday morning, and fresh off a high-protein breakfast and a quick hit of flakka happen to break 20 seconds for one-lap of freestyle – you think FINA will recognise it? You think Kieran Perkins will shout me free Light Start for life off the back of it? As a milk crusader I could only dream of such a reward but yeah nah. Nice stunt Eliud, you’re a freak of a human. But we’re in the same boat brother.
19. Tough one, not just for boxing because its bigger than that, but Patrick Day is in real bother and sincere optimism about his recovery to one side, so is his sport. Day was knocked out in the tenth round in a bout with Charles Conwell in Chicago in the weekend, which in itself is not unusual. But the consequences of the blow are such that Day is in a coma and in an “extremely critical condition”. Again, nothing but positive wishes about his eventual recovery first and foremost, but in an era where concussion in the football codes is as alarming as ever, combat spots’ existence, like boxing, could/would/should be on borrowed time with cases like this.
20. TV ratings worry the pants off me. By far the most important and major revenue source for all the sport we love to watch, it helps grow the professionalism and the standards, and the access really. But as TV viewership declines, so does the viewership with live sport. And we all waited with bated breath for the NRL Grand Final numbers in the hope maybe they would be good, and it wasn’t just sport in general in trouble, that maybe rugby league was still on an upward trajectory and its just everyone else.
Nope, it was down too. Usually something that rates at times near 3m nationally, it was around 1.8m. The AFL Grand Final, with an engaged Sydney audience, has been on a trajectory over 3.5m, topping 4m occasionally, it was under 3m for the first time in years. Australia Open primetime slots were down, cricket was good but still down, be it the summer on Seven or The Ashes mid-year on Nine.
What does this mean? It means less people are watching live sport. And when advertisers hear that, they’ll be paying less to the networks for the privilege of putting 30 seconds of their product in front of the eyeballs of footy fans. And that then means TV networks will hand over less cash, subsequently, to the sporting bodies for the rights to broadcast their fixtures.
It doesn’t mean that we’re all destined to see the days of the 1980s return where players need a job outside of footy and only one game is broadcast a week and all that nostalgia. But the idea that salaries will keep going up and up is gone, the idea the game can grow at the same rate looks doomed. So unless someone makes Foxtel honest (nudge nudge Amazon Prime) or this is only a lull, and once we get over Fortnite and Korean boy-bands we will all fall back in love with Friday night in front of the telly watching footy, it’s a big, big concern.