This is fast becoming my favourite column to write, as it’s basically you guys giving me topics and all I have to do is have a bit of a think about them and write in what I hope is a sensible manner.

I’ll be happy with about a 50% ratio of sense to nonsense, particularly given the nature of the last question. It’ll probably be a decent length, given the amount of questions we got, so I won’t bang on.


No Rance, no Richmond?

I reckon I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t, here. If I say the Tigers can win it without Rance, I’ll get the usual suspects saying I’m undervaluing Rance again. If I say they can’t, they’ll say I am devaluing the resilience of the Richmond Footy Club.

Well, since I can’t win, I think they definitely can win it. It hurts them significantly, and only maybe the loss of Dustin Martin would hurt them more, but the Tiger backline has these two blokes named Grimes and Astbury who are pretty bloody handy in their own right.

I’ve long sung the praises of Grimes, and with an increased responsibility may come increased recognition. He looks (and runs) like a greyhound and can compete with anyone in the air. If there is a silver lining to the Rance injury, it may be that Grimes is finally gets an All-Australian berth.

I suppose the other question is – who replaces Rance? The short answer – no one. You don’t replace a player like Rance. You just shuffle the pieces around and replace a number in that back six, and hope that they’ll be able to work within the Richmond defensive structure as Grimes and Astbury do a little bit more.

The Tigers will be there in September, and who knows… I heard Jack Riewoldt on AFL 360 intimating that Rance may be back by then. Perhaps they don’t have to win a flag without him. Perhaps he’ll be one of those blokes who gets back quickly?


Would an All-Indigenous Northern Territory-based team be feasible?

In a word – no.

I’m not sure any racially based team is a good idea in any sport. Remember the old National Soccer League with their racial ties? That was everything wrong with sport in Australia.

But the racial stuff is only part of the problem. The Northern Territory? We worry about membership and attendance for a potential Tasmanian team – how do you expect to get numbers in the NT? And how do you get players to want to go and play there?

Hell, we’ve got players not wanting to stay on the Gold Coast, and I’d think that it would be a much more attractive prospect to live there than Darwin or the Alice.

I’m sure the Northern Territory has a long-term plan to house an AFL team – Tom Basso has written about their goals on this very site – but an All-Indigenous team? I reckon that’s better suited to an annual All-Star game. The All-Indigenous Team v The All-Australian Team, and if an Indigenous player makes the AA team, they can choose who they play for.

Yeah, I hijacked that question to push my own idea.


Who will be the first coach to be sacked?

Alan Richardson, surely. He looks like a dead man walking, and in a recent radio interview on SEN, he sounded like one, too.

I do feel for Richo. I reckon he’s had the carpet pulled out from underneath him on the Hannebery deal, and the only reason he is still in the role is because the Saints are penny pinching. As we hit the second half of the season, I’d expect him to have his papers stamped.

And if they had dropped the Round One game to Gold Coast, we might’ve seen them take the financial hit and get rid of him early, anyway. The only contender to Richo would be John Worsfold, but a lot will be riding on the outcome of the Saints v Bombers game this weekend. If St Kilda rolls Essendon… expect blood.

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Did you notice anything about Gary Ablett on the weekend?

Yes, I had this chat with a reader just the other day, and the fact that Gaz has no tape on his shoulders for the first time in years indicates that he may have finally got himself physically right again.

He looked great last Friday, and moved really well. His ability to make things happen inside forward 50 in the early going made a statement that he has plenty in the tank yet.

I’m sure there’ll be injury hiccups along the way, but Ablett has had a good run into the 2019 season, and as much as possible, he has actually flown under the radar. Those who were expecting this season to be a funeral march for Ablett may have to wait a little while to lay a wreath of the grave of his career.

Enjoy watching him all you can – he’s an all-time great. You only get booed by opposition supporters for two reasons – you’ve pissed them off with your tactics, or you’re just too good. Gaz was booed for the latter.


Will you watch the AFLW Grand Final, or North v Brisbane?

I’m rostered on to do the Hawks v Dogs game on Sunday, but over the ensuing 24 hours, I’ll probably watch both the games you mentioned. I’ve still got a couple of weeks of leave, you see? I can do that at the moment.

The North v Brissie game is so pivotal to the fortunes of both clubs this season, and in the AFLW Grand Final – I know a lot of you don’t care, but I do – we have the chance to watch a generational player perform in the biggest game of the season.

So I won’t miss either game. I want to see how North rebound… or IF they can rebound is probably more accurate, and I want to see how the Lions go on the road. Then I want to see Erin Phillips do what she was born to do – play footy.


Did you like the emotion of Jack Watts on the weekend?

Personally, yes I did, but you know… it wasn’t like he was Todd Marshall out there, talking about the loss of his parents or something. He was emotional in having to deal with stuff he kind of brought on himself. Jack had an off-season where he screwed up – a couple of times, and as a result he was put under the footy microscope.

Yeah, it was great to see him come out and play some good footy, but in regard to the outpouring of emotion and the reaction it got… if you stop being a silly bugger, you don’t get that sort of scrutiny, do you?

That said, I hope he backs it up this week. Consistency has long been the issue for Watts. He’s made the right start – now he just has to continue it.

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Do you want to reconsider your tip for the flag?

I knew this would come at some point – I didn’t think it’d be after Round One. A few of you remembered, though which is nice.

It’s way too early to be jumping on, or off any team as yet (except St Kilda – I am well and truly off them). Adelaide needs a win this week to avoid a shocking start to the year. Chasing tail and having to get on a roll to make the finals takes a toll – just look at Sydney last year. They were up and about and then once finals rolled around, they fell in a hole.

Adelaide can’t afford to fall too far behind the pack. The talent is there, but the loss of Doedee really hurts. A reader suggested moving Tom Lynch to defence – not the worst idea I’ve heard. Sometimes a change is as good as a holiday, and even though Lynch has been up forward for years, a stint down back could see him start turning into a James Sicily-type player down there.

I’m still on the Crows, but I’ll expect the same question next week if Friday night doesn’t go to plan.


Should Jesse Hogan be playing this weekend?

Yep, in the WAFL. What a pit it doesn’t commence until next week.

You don’t go screwing with a winning formula, and with Cam McCarthy and Rory Lobb monstering the North defenc (albeit possibly the weakest defensive unit they could’ve fielded), they deserve a chance to back it up against the equally suspect Gold Coast defence.

On the flip side, if you’re ever going to ease a bloke into the side, having the Suns make the longest road trip in the game would be the ideal opportunity.

I’m a big believer in not rewarding shit behaviour, but the later start to the WAFL means that the best option is to get Hogan into that side, and get him up and running..


Who is the most underrated player in the comp?

There’s a few I’ll run through, as singling out one does a bit of a disservice to quite a few.

Tom Jonas – Will probably get some recognition now as co-captain at Port, but criminally underrated by those outside of the Power.

Ben Jacobs – Makes a huge difference to the North midfield. Sadly, I have fears for his future given the length of his current absence.

George Hewett – Another accountable midfielder. Will be a key as to whether the Swans stand up this season.

Mark Hutchings – Noticing a theme here? I can’t believe that Champion Data has him rated as poor in regard to his 2018.

Mitch Duncan – So often overlooked when the Cats midfield is mentioned.

Nick Haynes – Very rarely beaten, but his performance is often overlooked due to the shadow cast by Phil Davis (also very underrated, for the record).

Stefan Martin – He can hang with both Gawn and Grundy, yet is often left out of the conversation around the best ruckmen.

And that’ll do. There are others but I’m getting carried away.

Okay, one more – Brayden Fiorini. You watch this kid take off this season. Another Champion Data “poor” rating. *Sigh*


What was the point of the MRO crackdown on punching when no one is getting suspended for punching?

I’ve given up on trying to work out what the MRO are doing. I heard Michael Christian talking about using medical reports to ascertain the severity of a blow, and factoring that into whether or not a player should be suspended.

Well, Michael… the punches everyone was warned about when you were talking about your “crackdown” weren’t the sort that leave bodies broken and internal organs damaged – the league has been punishing those sort of actions for ever. These ones – they’re the niggly little gut punches that are an annoyance and little else. They’re the ones players use to get inside the head of their opponents and “let them know they’re there.” They were supposed to deserve a week suspension

And then Round One rolls around and basically every incident was met with a fine, which completely flies in the face of everything we were told in the lead up to the season. Ugh…

For too long, the AFL has punished the result of an action rather than the intent. They’ve suspended players for tackles because the player being tackled has hit his head and didn’t get up. The exact same tackle on a guy with a bit of a harder head, or one who doesn’t have his marbles rattled as easily is called a free kick at worst. Now they’re waiting for a player to be knocked out or have a rib broken by a punch to suspend them?

Personally, I don’t think players should be suspended for these little love taps. There’s not much in them, and suspensions should be handed down only for significant injuries.

And if you don’t agree with me, I’ll give you a short, sharp one in the ribs, just so you know I’m around.

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What is it that drives someone to vilify Aboriginal players?

Let’s be blunt – we’re talking about the lowest common denominator, here. Hillbillies, hicks, bogans… they’re the people throwing around derogatory terms in relation to players like Eddie Betts and Liam Ryan. I’m surprised they’ve mastered the nuances of keyboards or phones, to be honest.

It’s thoughtless, and deserves only the minimal column space here. Call it out, don’t tolerate it, and teach your kids the right thing.


If Jonathon Brown and a lion swapped places, who would be more successful – the lion playing centre half forward for Brisbane, or Browny living in Africa and hunting animals to survive?

Great question – my favourite so far.

I’m quite torn on this one, as I could see both excelling in their new roles. The lion would add an element of toughness to the current Brisbane forward line. Right now they’ve got Eric Hipwood and Dan McStay roaming around, contesting high marks, but the lion would add a real presence, and would be incredibly difficult to stop when it was running hard back toward goal. That said, its lack of opposable thumbs would really hamper the lion’s ability to mark the footy, and to control the ball

I would be particularly interested to see the lion employ some forward pressure, and inflict some significant damage to the opposition with those retractable claws in tackles, but I’m not really sure how well it would follow instructions if required to follow a man outside 50 and NOT kill him and eat him.

Of course, in retirement, a position on the Fox Footy team awaits the lion, and a place on the couch on Monday nights could see him tear Gary Lyon’s throat out if he interrupted him. You know, it’s a dominance thing.

Browny in Africa would be an entertainment bonanza, with the gazelle, wildebeest, and zebra all on alert as the big fella stalked them. He could use fallen trees as camouflage as Browny’s resemblance to a big block of wood is quite uncanny, and as an unsuspecting bison wanders into his vicinity, he could take it down with a head on charge with blatant disregard for his own safety.

The most significant aspect of Big Jon’s time in Africa would be finding a mate, and to do that he’d have to take over the territory of a rival lion.

It’d be like 2000 all over again, as Browny eyes off the position of Jarrod Molloy. The young lion against the old lion. It didn’t take long til Molloy was at Collingwood, did it? Browny would usurp the position of the older lion and take over the pride.

Browny strikes me as someone who’d get along famously with the lionesses – lots of grunting and growling, a few bites on the back of the neck en route to consummating the relationship… but I’m not really sure the lioness would be pleased with its offspring having such a low hair line.

Lions have pretty high standards with that sort of thing.

It’s a pretty fair swap, Browny for a lion. I give the nod to the lion, but only slightly. I reckon it’s capable of 50 goals in the modern game, whereas life in Africa… it seems pretty harsh, even for Browny.

Plus, those lionesses are pretty temperamental. I reckon he’d miss Kyls…


And that’ll do us nicely for this week. Bring on Round Two.

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