We lost an icon of our State this week, in a moment where the loss of Dean Jones, or the acts of courage and resilience of Brett Lee, showed us that life is bigger than being forced into another Netflix binge and that there’s still so much to be grateful for and to look forward to
1. Gotta start with Dean Jones. Described by Shane Warne as a bit of a cricket “maverick” is bang on. Not only a big personality, brazen, bold, passionate, charismatic, but for the stuff that matters, runs, success, record, he was top of the tree too. He was no mug at test cricket, in fact one of the best Victorian test batsmen of all time, and then as far as the short-game, he was our country’s premier limited overs batsman, driving the shift in strategy from simply playing test cricket in one day, to pushing the envelope of what short form batting looks like today. He averaged 47 in test cricket, which is elite, and then 45 in ODIs, which at the time was unparalleled. A devastating loss, too young at 59 and this column has links to members of his immediate family and we continue to think of them especially in this God awful time. Vale Deano.
2. Do want to highlight ‘that’ Madras innings. 210 at the first test in Chennai, 1986. It was over 40 degrees, at times nudging 50, and 80% humidity. Even for the locals, borderline unplayable conditions. Yet Jones batted for over 500 minutes, and hit 27 boundaries and two sixes. So that’s 90 left all-run, in stifling heat. And to then think he was batting at a 63 strike rate, so some clip, it’s phenomenal he was even able to walk off.
3. Onto far more sobering and unimportant matters, the All Australian team. Firstly, I don’t for one moment suggest its not an easy task in that its entirely subjective when it comes to separating numerous candidates of quality and worthy consideration; its problematic. But there’s one thing to be erring over player of merit A versus fellow player of merit B, where either are of the standard, either could be argued, but then there’s picking player C who shouldn’t be in the conversation. “Its not an easy task”, they say, well its not easy fitting 30 good players into 22, but its certainly easy to not pick spuds who shouldn’t be in the conversation; there’s a difference.
4. For example, I don’t protest Cam Guthrie’s 2020, I think he is a super part of that Cats’ team and on balance worthy of an AA jacket at least once in his career. But he isn’t even the best wingman at his club. Sam Menegola is a name easy to look over, he is unlikely, to put it that way, not a big name. But he has been the best wingman in the comp this year, numero uno. Even if you get that wrong, he is top two. Didn’t even make the 22.
5. And there’s plenty more, but why is Max Gawn in the team? Not his best year, not even close to an AA year. Firstly, wasn’t even the second best ruckman in the comp, I think Todd Goldstein would be that guy if you had to pick one, in fact by the halfway point of the season I’d have Goldy in at first ruck over Naitanui. But, surely, as this team is not playing anyone, you pick the best 18 in their spots (which they fail at too but we can’t be bothered going into), and for the bench you go “ok, who were the most unlucky four to not make the team” and give them the four bench spots. And from that, Gawn is so far from that conversation it is baffling.
The AFL is considering further rule changes to ease congestion for the 2021 season
Leave it the fuck alone. Hocking. Ship off. If you’ve ever wanna know if its possible for someone to be kidnapped and then no ransom requested, you might be about to see it.
7. We’ll get to the Eagles-Magpies game in a bit, but not an excuse more a ‘bloody hell, 2020 strikes again’ observation – the Pies have taken over a squad of 33 to Joondalup and left a number of players and staff back in Brisbane. Why? Restrictions enforced by WA Police. Basically the Pies can only have one per room, and due to resort capacity and/or quarantine restrictions, that’s too many for the resort. So despite getting 33 players over, and all in rooms, its meant some of the footy staff are actually shacked up in campervans in the resort carpark this week. Every player and staff member of the Eagles footy club is sleeping in their own bed this week yet not quite the same experience for their opponent.
Also, if the Eagles lose this week, they aren’t out of the season and then free from the restraints of being an AFL footballer in a covid-19 world. Not quite. So the restrictions all players are subject to by the league to get the season going would be over for them, but, because they played Collingwood who will have only done 7 not 14 days quarantine come Saturday, the Eagles would have to quarantine for another 7 days themselves before they could re-enter Perth society as locals. Madness.
Victoria can re-open safer and sooner under our plan…
Vic opposition leader Matthew Guy on the weekend just gone. Ah, it’s like when asked what they’d like to order, a patron at a restaurant responding with “firstly, I’ve bought in a menu I’ve prepared..” Your plans aren’t relevant Matthew, not really how it works.
9. Onto onfield, and let’s get stuck into the finals in front of us. Firstly Thursday night, I think the Power win or the Power lose. Sure, last time these two teams met the Cats did them over, and then also to acknowledge Geelong’s form line stacks up. But Port, at home, with a very healthy and predictable lineup, its theirs for the taking. Think Port-Richmond a couple months back. No-one was going to defeat Port at AO that day. So if they don’t want to show finals nerves, as minor premier, or waste opportunities, they’re into a prelim off a 2-3 goal win. Port somewhere near their best, don’t care how good Dangerfield is. Think last year’s Qualifying Final with Collingwood. The Pies wanted it, they got it.
10. Brisbane aren’t in this Friday. When did the Lions last play a good game? Ok, they got some % against Gold Coast, but that’s not entirely reliable form going into finals. Round 11 against the Doggies? Maybe. If you look at their year its been a steady decline since the start where, wait for it, they were stuck in a hub with a good Port Adelaide, sure, but then stinky poo West Coast, lowly Freo and even-worse Adelaide. Meanwhile, conversely, Richmond’s season has just got better with each passing week and Tom Lynch aside are putting out a team Friday that wins a Grand Final. Plus Brisbane probably kicks like 6.11 or something. Tigers by 8 goals, if they want to get out of third gear.
11. St Kilda-Bulldogs, everyone’s going Footscray. Madness. Sure, I trust some of the more senior members of the Doggies, not because they played in a flag four years ago because that was ever such a different time, but when it comes down to it, Bont, Libba, Easton Wood, Mitch Wallis, Lachie Hunter, they’ve got a bit more ‘big games cred’. Whereas other than Dan Hannebery and Bradley Hill, the Saints are very green. But, St Kilda is a much better team. I don’t care for the Doggies “decent form” the back end of the year, the Saints have a level above the Dogs and should they get into gear this has 4-5 goal margin written all over it. St Kilda’s win over Port at home, or against Richmond earlier in the season again, should they perfom like that the Dogs are making up the numbers. Sainters are the bet of the round, promise you.
12. Head to head wager, Eagles easy. But I don’t think this will be as non-competitive as Round 8. At three quarter time that day it was 15 shots to 11. Yet it was 13.2 to 5.6 and game well and truly over. The Eagles played the game purely out of their arse that day, couldn’t miss, couldn’t do a thing wrong. And the Pies showed up in the first term, kicking the first four. Plus, if we go back to the last time they met at Optus Stadium, late last season, the Pies nobbled the Eagles by a point in a very decent game. Round 8 the Pies didn’t have Jordan De Goey, he is the biggest concern for the Eagles “if” the Pies aren’t just making up the numbers. Last time he played at Optus Stadium he single handedly defeated a very good Geelong. And lastly, the two biggest problems for the Pies all season, metres gained and scoring, matter far less in a final. It’s about tough, contested footy and making the most of far less opportunities than usual. Collingwood is more likely to win 9 goals to 8 in a final than in a whatever home and away game. Eagles at home for me, but it should be a game.
13. I think whoever wins out of West Coast-Collingwood will do little to scare the loser of Port-Geelong. If Port loses I expect a good rebound the following week, if Geelong loses, unless the Pies do something really unexpected I think they progress to a prelim also. On the other side of the draw, if the winner of St Kilda-Bulldogs shows some real polish and class, Brisbane might get the wobbles. The stench of last year, top four finish, straight sets, but with the added pressure of this year hosting the entire four-weeks of finals at home, would be weighing heavily. Still maintain the idea of St Kilda showing up on Saturday and then having a red hot crack at an embarrassed Brisbane week two wouldn’t shock me.
14. Richmond ends up hosting a prelim, against a Port, Geelong, or West Coast – I suspect only a real out-of-the-box Geelong could possibly threaten the Tigs making another Grand Final. Conversely, I think Port’s hardest game will be Week 1. They get the nerves out of the way and show Geelong up, they’ll finish off whoever they host in a prelim come week 3.
15. So as it stands, I think it’ll either be a famous Richmond win come the 24th, to pick up their third flag in four and be yet another dynasty team to add to the Hawks, Cats and Lions of recent memory, or the Power salute in their 150th year, leading the comp from Round 1 all the way through. I’m not confident yet on either, nor particularly been sold on Richmond doing three in four purely because that’s simply so hard to do, so right now, still four weeks out, I’d put a couple pennies on the mob from Alberton.
16. Some trade/offseason stuff. Firstly how much of a dickhead is Brad Crouch. Already a free agent with an asterisk, sort of “is he worth it” or “is he actually that good”. And then to be done on the Gold Coast with whatever, a pocket full of blow or something, come on now Bradley. Like walking into a job interview, looking to break the ice with the hiring manager by showing some pictures on your phone of your family to show your admirable core values, and not realising that if you swipe one photo too many it’ll be a picture of your twiggy stick at full mast in a funny bunny face insta filter. Whatever suitors and offers Crouch had this time last week had to have taken a hit. Clown.
17. Paddy McCartin has reaffirmed he is fit and raring to go, as per the weekend papers. But the threat of “nah, don’t’ want to consider him, he is too big a risk” runs parallel from the footy media. Ok, so define risk. Risk is where the cost is too valuable to consider the potential reward and the likelihood of said reward. If we use Collingwood as one example, what is the risk? You pick him for nothing, you pay him nothing, he can start the year as the last player on your list for all that matters. Or as a rookie even, if the market is that thin for him. Then you’re not required to play him in the seniors right away, we expect there’ll be second tier footy in 2021 to see if he one, still has it, and two, can string games together. And you know what, if he gets ill again, or isn’t up to it, you’ve wasted a pre-season draft pick. No loss. But, if by some chance he can stand up to senior footy, if the issues are largely, or altogether by some chance behind him, you’ve secured a no.1 overall key forward talent for a bargain price. He is the perfect late-draft stash for half a dozen clubs, so if they have any sense I suspect he finds many suitors.
18. As for other tall forwards, I suspect Peter Wright gets a new club and he’ll be a sublime pickup. Where others on the market, Daniher, Brown, Cameron, etc., will cost a lot in salary and/or trade compensation, I reckon Wright’s gettable for a pick lower than his worth, and for money that won’t break the bank. Hypothetically, if Essendon lose Daniher, get a sweet free agent compensatory pick back, and then spend a 2nd or 3rd rounder on Wright, that’s great business. He has just turned 24, racked up 66 games and has kicked three goals or more on nine occasions with a PB of five, or kicked two or more 27 times. So a 200cm giant who will kick you two goals every second week.
19. Over to the NRL, the Brisbane Broncos, by far the biggest club in Rugby League, they dominate the Queensland market, they’re a huge brand, massive. Just had their worst season in their history though, first ever wooden spoon, PR nightmare, just deplorable any which way you look at it. But then, to show they may have literally no clue of how to handle things when its not all going their way, retiring skipper Darius Boyd, post-game on the weekend, their last game of the year, another loss, organised a gender reveal for he and his wife’s third kid, on the ground. Um. Bad look much? It’s like revealing to your wife that you forgot her birthday but never mind you’ve just heard a really cool joke and asking if she’d like to hear it.
20. And lastly, North America, Stanley Cup awarded today, Tampa Bay defeated Dallas, a very fair result. Tampa have been probably the best team in the comp if you combine the last three seasons so worthy of a title, and Dallas, scroungy, slightly dirty team who punched above their weight through three rounds and their luck couldn’t make it far enough come the all important fourth round.
And then Thursday we have the NBA, Lakers-Heat, LeBron against his former team. The Lakers should win in 6 largely because no-one on the Heat can go with Anthony Davis. Bam Adebayo is a gun and will prove lively in the paint, but James and Davis should outweigh the rich vein of form Miami have found themselves in. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Heat can scare LA to game 6 or maybe even game 7, but the King should win his fourth chip with his third team, amazing achievement.