It will come as no shock to most that I am someone who is relatively easily pleased. Throw a game of footy on the TV, give me a comfy chair and a bit of quiet, and you’ve won me over.
As the weekend wound down and attention started drifting to Round 18, I had the chance this evening to sit back and ponder a few of the stories that seem to have been pushed aside by the media in favour of the more sensational headlines.
Let’s run through a few of them.
GARRY LYON CALLING FOR THE HEAD OF BEN CUNNINGTON
Was Cunnington hiding behind a grassy knoll as Zach Merrett threw his head back on the wing and drew a free kick against the North hard man? You could be forgiven for thinking so if the reaction of Lyon was anything to go by.
He basically nailed Cunnington to the cross after Merrett hit the deck and was awarded a free kick. He implored Michael Christian to do something about this serial offender who was going around and whacking blokes. Gimme a break, Gaz.
The replay showed Cunnington punching the ball and then his forearm made slight contact with Merrett. Was the free kick there? Yep, definitely, but if we took Lyon’s word for it, Cunnington would be the AFL equivalent of Reuben Carter, and Bob Dylan probably doesn’t care enough to write a song about him to raise awareness.
Cunnington was cleared of any wrong doing today… which often happens when you haven’t done anything wrong!
NIC NAITANUI’S DOMINANCE AGAINST GRUNDY
There are two ways to look at this – Naitanui was so unstoppable when on the ground that the consensus best ruck in the game couldn’t do anything to stop him, or that Grundy is so much better conditioned that on the whole, he was probably the better ruck option on the day.
It was quite an amazing tussle.
Nic Nat monstered Grundy, and Grundy monstered Hickey when Nic Nat was too buggered to continue.
I had a good chat about this with my mate, Adam La Porta today. He was firmly in the Grundy camp, but as a Collingwood supporter, you have to consider he may be a little biased. I was more in the middle. I could see what he was saying – do you want a ruckman out there for just 50-60% of the time? Or would you prefer a ruck that can ruck for over 90% of game time and do a great overall job?
I’m a bit torn. I saw how Naitanui went at Grundy – he was brilliant, but only in short bursts. I’m eager to see what you guys think. Who would you have rather had on your side last Friday?
THE TARGETING OF LACHIE NEALE
Another one I was torn on – I loved seeing the Power giving Neale a hard time. I loved that they went out there with an edge that made the statement that they were going to get stuck into Neale at every opportunity. They’re known for it.
They beat the hell out of Max Gawn in Round One, and won the game. They weren’t as fortunate this time, as Neale had ample backup in the form of Jarryd Lyons in the clinches, and Mitch Robinson should any Power player step too far over the line.
What I liked most about it all is that Neale kept his cool, played his game and had ten clearances under the most intense of physical pressure. That, my friends, is a class on-baller.
I also loved that people compared the Port philosophy to that of Geelong in the 89 Grand Final, and they were punished similarly as well.
I know a lot of people dislike the niggle and physical intimidation of sport, but I am not one of them. I love seeing how teams and players respond. It adds plenty to the game for me, and when it pans out the way it did for the Lions, I am sure their fans were rapt to see their team not only stand up to that kind of treatment, but overcome it and thrive in the face of adversity.
THE TOM LYNCH GAME
I can’t believe Lynch got no votes in the Herald Sun. None.
Gilbert Gardiner comes across as a lovely bloke on Twitter (as do I… it can be misleading) but I can’t for the life of me understand how he thought Lachie Whitfield was best on ground and Lynch didn’t rate even one vote.
Lynch was a monster, compiling his most complete game as a Tiger, clunking marks, setting up teammates and kicking goals himself. I have to admit, I haven’t been overly impressed with him at times this season, and I thought he’d come across as very one dimensional, but I am a big boy, and when I am wrong, I am happy to wear it – he looked amazing out there this weekend.
MITCH LEWIS EMERGING
I’ve been lamenting the fact that Hawthorn have looked lost going forward at times this season, but in the small amount of the game I watched between the Hawks and Dockers, the presence of Mitchell Lewis really stood out to me.
With 16 touches, four contested grabs and 3.2 for the game, I think the Hawks may have just found a piece of marble that Alastair Michelangelo may just be able to sculpt into the next good forward at Hawthorn.
His back-to-back goals toward the end of the third quarter put his stamp on the game and put the result all but beyond doubt. To see him on the end of two consecutive forward forays, and converting the opportunities… it warmed the cockles of this old Hawk’s heart.
THE GOLD COAST PILE ON
And heeeeere we go.
Andy Maher jumped on board today, calling the Suns “soulless”. Yeah, thanks Andy; very helpful.
This is low-hanging fruit, people. Every man and his dog could see this team was cherry ripe for the start of the season, and as the season wore on, young legs would get tired, and the older legs just don’t have enough talent in them to carry the load. They trained the house down in the pre-season and burst out of the gates, but they’ve come back to the pack, and the pack have gone past them.
They’re limping to the line, and really, isn’t that what we all expected?
I likened them to a sprinter in a marathon – good for the first couple of hundred metres, but then the slow burners catch up and pass them. Gold Coast could’ve easily been 4-0 this season, dropping their first game of the season to St Kilda by a single point. In four weeks they’d surpassed the speculative targets of most experts, some of whom thought they would not win a game.
Next season they go from sprinters to middle distance runners, and in 2021, with some key re-signings and perhaps the addition of some quality 25-27 year olds, the Suns may start to go the distance in a season. This was a complete rebuild – those calling for their relocation and lamenting their inclusion in the league are short-sighted. In five years , if we’re having the same conversation, I think it’ll have way more merit.
THE DARLING SEASON
I reckon if you ask any casual fan, they’ll tell you Jack Darling has had a poor season. At a point in the year, they may have been correct.
But no longer.
How about if I told you Darling was averaging a career-high in goals this year? Still disappointed?
Hiw about if I told you since Round 11, he is averaging 3.33 goals per game? And then if I told you the leader in the Coleman race, Jeremy Cameron has averaged 3.00 goals per game this season? Still disappointed?
Darling has stepped up. After taking three contested marks in his first six games, he’s taken 17 in his last six to sit ninth overall. He is warming into the season beautifully after a slow start. Be disappointed with the first third of his 2019, but don’t paint the whole of his 2019 with that brush… it’s getting better.
Who are the best players aged 23 or under? Check out The Mongrel’s Patron article with the All 23 & Under team
WHAT COULD’VE BEEN – MATTHEW KREUZER
There must be times when Matthew Kreuzer looks back on his career and wonders ‘what if?’
What if he hadn’t hurt his knee? What if he hadn’t had that heart condition? What if his body had held up a bit better?
I am old enough to remember Kreuzer being drafted and the wraps on him at the time – he was the prototype of what the modern ruckman was going to be. Athletic, hard-working, does the little things. He was meant to be what Brodie Grundy has been for the past couple of years, but we were robbed of the chance to see Kreuzer at his absolute best.
So it put a smile on my face to see him strutting his stuff against the swans this weekend, racking up 19 touches, 45 hit outs, six clearances and six inside 50s. I’d say it was vintage Kreuzer, but it was more a reminder for me of what could’ve been.
That said, I’d love to see him get a good run for the rest of the season and an injury free lead into 2020. With him playing well, Carlton are so much better.
So do you have any of your own news stories that were played down by the media in general? Feel free to add them on our socials, or in the comments below. I’m always up for a chat about footy.