We kicked off with a nil-all draw, and the sky was going to fall in, but we bounced back with the hot-to-trot Cats and rounded it off with a on-the-nose Dogs. Oh, and the Suns won for the first time since Jesus was in Prep. Weekend had it all.
1. NRL got back first, but the AFL gets the win as far as ratings go. Rugby League’s first game back, Broncos-Eels, Brisbane’s only team and the biggest club in the comp versus a big Sydney club, first sport to resume, 1.273 million viewers. Collingwood-Richmond last Thursday, 1.643 million. Monstrous ratings, Gil and his cohorts will be pleased. Certainly helps the financial situation and outlook very muchly.
2. Quick one on cricket, actually, before back to footy – seems like Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts is going to get sacked this week, and far from a graceful thing to say but ‘good riddance’. Why? Cricket lost no matches to the ‘rona unlike every other sport who copped significant interruption, all that was affected was a couple meaningless one-dayers that had no crowds, matches that would have gotten no crowds anyway because they were against New Zealand in mid-March. Yet two months ago Cricket Australia declared their financial situation was in utter shit. What from? They avoided the reason everyone else was screwed, they thought we wouldn’t notice the same excuse doesn’t apply? So Kev me old boy, you can take your massive severance cheque and ship off.
3. Back to footy – Thursday night, between the heavy dew, two defences too good for the others’ attack and both teams not quite there yet for match conditioning, nothing to worry about for either team, they’ll be playing in October.
4. As for short quarters, spare me. Friday night onwards the footy has looked totally fine. Talk that it’s been a noticeable shift, piss off – put it this way, from a cricket perspective it’s like turning a 50-overs a side one-dayer into 40-overs a side – different but not that much really. It’s fine. Move on.
5. The Thursday and Friday night games have shown seasoned vets who can still influence a game will be even more influential in 2020. Thursday night was more about Pendlebury, Sidebottom and Cotchin than say De Goey or Pickett, and then Friday night Dangerfield looked sublime but Selwood played some of his best footy in a while and Ablett didn’t look on his last legs.
6. Bont needs a few more mates. Bailey Smith will be very good but you can’t expect him to be Chris Judd, or so soon. Josh Dunkley gets a lot of the pill but is a poor man’s poor man’s Tom Mitchell. And Jack Macrae hasn’t looked the player he can be. So if you nullify the captain, the rest of it doesn’t look up to scratch for the Dogs. Long way to go but finals looks a mile off.
7. Interesting season for the Dogs if they are to struggle. The projected number one pick this year is a kid from Warrnambool called Jamarra Ugle-Hagan who is an indigenous 6”4 freak tall forward, left-footer as well. Interestingly he is also part of the Bulldogs academy, so they get to match any bid, which will likely come at pick 1. But if the Dogs were to finish lower than we all expected, the value in having possibly the rights to the player picked first overall without actually having finished last will diminish big time if they were to end up 12th or 13th instead of making the finals.
8. Saints success relies on a balanced team output, not “its ok, just give it to Bradley Hill”. And they got that Sunday, very few played poorly and a lot of blokes chipped in, Zak Jones, Dan Hannebery, Jack Steele, and of course Jack Billings was mega. Saints should’ve been two and zero and with some confidence into playing the Pies this week; they’re a watch for sure.
9. Crowd noise, a pass mark for me. Not great, hasn’t been slick nor to the delivery of what Nine/Fox has given us in the NRL. But to be fair after a while it’s just good background, which is precisely what it needs to be. You don’t watch footy in non-covid times for the crowd noise, so if we’re not noticing empty, eery stadiums as much then the fake stuff this weekend has been a pass.
10. This column called for better coverage and Fox came to the party, especially with Fox Air, another angle on the coverage which added to the experience, masking or offsetting the impact of having no crowd. Keep the innovation coming I say, this is a TV sport for a bit longer.
11. Crowds. Predictions? Generally speaking ‘nationally’ we’re allowed crowds of up to 10,000 from Round 5. But I honestly believe if the Showdown was in a fortnight the Adelaide Oval could have been at half capacity, if not full. I’d then suggest, especially in Perth and Adelaide, they’d be able to accept full capacity by the start of August latest. And if we can in Melbourne and Sydney have days of no new cases more often than not by the start of July, we’d be no more than a fortnight or two behind that. All in all, full crowds everywhere by the start of the finals.
12. South Australian Government has lifted their restrictions so once we get to the next part of the fixture, clubs can fly in and out of Adelaide just like we’re able to on the east coast, so that’s half the hub teams who can be released from Round 7 or so. And you know what, I suspect WA would only be a week or two behind, so the Hubs will be done with mighty soon.
13. Andrew Gaff continually offers nothing to West Coast for mine. He was the Eagles’ highest disposal winner on Saturday but his influence on the game was minimal. Collingwood’s Tom Phillips effectively, but with less talent, plays the same game and influences a match as much. Yet Gaff’s critically acclaimed. Don’t see it.
14. West Coast won a Grand Final off the back of Luke Shuey winning a Norm Smith and Mark Hutchings shutting down Steele Sidebottom. And it took Dom Sheed to kick ‘that’ to regain the lead. Their midfield has a lot of nice names, but its over-reliance on Shuey will see them drop games this year. Don’t buy the ‘put off by being part of the Hubs thing’ either, it was their first game so in essence had a lesser travel disruption compared to North and Essendon this weekend, and how’d they go?
15. Worse though, Adelaide. They have no Shuey, its just the Crouch brothers and then bugger all. The Eagles have Jack Redden and Dom Sheed and now Tim Kelly who’ll get better, but after brothers Brad and Matt, who else is there? Rory Sloane is a warrior but he ain’t winning an All-Australian again. After that, wowee, this is a bad team.
16. Port on the other hand, they have a top eight spot to lose. This team is balanced, talented, got the right types in the right spots. Maybe not a contender just yet, but I can’t see why they can’t host an elimination final come October. Good team. Better than Brisbane, put it that way.
17. So the Suns have sucked for a while, and this column thinks this kind of season doesn’t favour them one iota. But Matt Rowell is as ready a first year player we’ve seen a long time, so he needs to be considered a midfield gun already. The best game by a teenager in years. Chuck in Noah Anderson who is a very, very handy player already, Sam Day as a key forward might be ready to be a top-ten in the league at his position, plus Ben Ainsworth as the 2106 pick 4 looks like finally they’ve got one right. To further the optimism Jack Lukosius looks seemingly settled, their most talented player Izak Rankine is almost ready to debut and whilst they paid a high price for Lachie Weller from Freo, he looked sublime on the weekend. All this means that whilst they will still have some poor moments this year because they’re so young, last Saturday might be no fluke.
18. Melbourne didn’t deserve those four points and are looking far more like last year’s team than the 2018 version. Christian Petracca being 10-20% better than previous years, finally, is probably the only reason they didn’t end up stuffing it, losing to a Blues team that barely wins more than the Gold Coast. For a team that thought they were close 18 months ago, nup, in fact I wouldn’t be shocked if the Blues still end up higher than the Dees come Round 17.
19. Well done to North, and well done to Rhyce Shaw. I was unconvinced of his promotion and subsequent appointment, but the Roos’ coaching staff informed how Sunday’s game would be played, it gave the Kangas a chance they otherwise wouldn’t have had, and they saluted. If Polec, Dumont and Simpkin can have consistent years then North will do far better than what we’d expect.
20. Essendon, two and naught, could have easily been the opposite but the record will still show they’re perfect from two. We haven’t been totally enthused by the eight quarters to date but we think there’s still a bit to like on paper if they can work into their season. Mind you, David Zaharakis, has only had three games of 20 touches since this time last year, be interesting to see if Ben Rutten can reinvent him in his twilight years or if the end is far sooner than we all thought for 2011 best and fairest.