Welcome back to our second edition of our Q&A. I’d like to start calling it Mongrel Mailbag, but I think that was already taken! We have a lengthy read for you all and I hope you have some opinions on what we had to say, we love nothing more than responding to a comment disagreeing with something we feel strongly about. Challenge us! We might back down quickly… you never know!

DEAN BOURNE: HOW DOES BRAD SHEPPARD KEEP FLYING UNDER THE RADAR FOR THE MAJORITY OF FANS

Julian Russo: His numbers don’t bounce off the page and unless they implement a stat for impact on the game, he will continue to fly under the radar and possibly even continue to be undervalued by other teams. It also doesn’t help that he isn’t even a top five player in his team.

Matt Passmore: Like many players outside the bubble of Victoria, they miss a lot of the media attention which is catered by more Victorian outlets towards their local audience. Interstate players need to really need to stand out in order to gain that media attention and therefore the rating of fans who generally follow the reports. A guy like Brad Shepherd is highly rated in WA, but until he wins a Brownlow, an AA or looks vaguely unhappy at the club, he will be hidden in the shadows of Nic Nat, Kennedy, Darling, McGovern who are the real “superstars” of the club.

Jason Irvine: I’m not entirely sure. He’s certainly racking up the numbers. Others in the West Coast side definitely take more of the headlines and attention, but for fans specifically, it probably does have something to do with the media.

Nick Sluggett: I don’t know. I just did a quick search of his stats and realised that he is really performing well this year. Just another victim of the Victorian bias?

HB Meyers: I’m not sure he is under the radar with our crew, but I can understand how he seems to be overlooked by many outside WA. I think part of the issue is that he plays in a team with McGovern (the good one), and Hurn, and they get the plaudits. Rightfully so, too – they are great at what they do. Sheppard is probably contending for a place in the minds of the football public against Tom Stewart and James Sicily, both of whom would be in their respective teams’ top two defenders. That makes it a bit difficult to get the recognition when he’d be a clear third at his club behind Hurn and McGovern. Anyway, I think he is sitting around fifth overall in our Mongrel voting this season, so we obviously rate him, collectively.

Matt Oman: He doesn’t play in Victoria. That is by far his biggest problem. He falls into the same category as Matthew Pavlich.

Sam Marcolin: Assume this answer will be pretty similar across the board. He’s one of the key cogs at West Coast, but cogs don’t always get the recognition they deserve, and with him out of the Victorian limelight, he was always bound to fly under the radar. Backmen don’t often get enough credit either, which hurts him.

Trent Shields: I don’t want to take the easy option of Victorian bias, but I am happy to put it down to media narrative. Once you are in the good books of the media clique it’s hard to get out, likewise once you are on the outer it’s hard to get in. Sheppard’s absence last year was every bit as important as Natanui and Gaff, and I’m sure that was the message internally. Sheppard is a star and should be an AA this year, but will the dinosaurs on the selection panel be able to look past their default love-child Rory Laird who like Corey Enright before him just shows up and collects his blazer.

SHAUN MITCHELL: DOES GOLD COAST DESERVE A PRIORITY PICK AFTER THEIR LIST CLEAN OUT LAST YEAR INCLUDING DELISTING LYONS?

Julian Russo: I think they do, with some conditions attached. I’m not sure what these conditions are, but they could be something like: They have to trade it for a player that wants to come build something, I wonder how many players really want to be there and would take an opportunity to leave if given.

Matthew Passmore: I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s much need to panic about the Gold Coast. They are one year into their second “build” if you will, after the first one was unsuccessful and that does take time. Their number one pick this year will be their first number one pick since about their second season, and they have some good talent on the list. I’m pretty confident they’ll be more competitive each year as they continue to improve.

Jason Irvine: Look, Gold Coast do seem to be working well as a collective team now that the players that didn’t want to be there are gone. They’re young and just need composure to close out games, or rather play four quarters. Letting Lyons go was a mistake which I believe they’re regretting, but I think they can make it work without a priority pick.

Nick Sluggett: Not everyone gets their list decisions right all the time. I mean, do we still remember when Hawthorn recruited Tyrone Vickery? Gold Coast made a bad choice with Lyons, but this alone should not cost them a priority pick. I think people underestimate the difference in concessions that GWS received in comparison (pretty much double what Gold Coast got). I am in the camp of giving them a priority pick, and possibly a second to trade to another club for an established player.

HB Meyers: I reckon they do, on the proviso it must be traded. They’re most likely going to get pick one, so if they get pick two and work it to their favour, maybe they could get a solid player of the right age bracket (24-27) that actually wants to play for them. They can give him good financial reward and really build around him. What would a team give up for pick two? My guess is plenty. I see the AFL is thinking of zoning the Northern Territory or something like that. Not a bad idea… people are less likely to want to head home if their home state/territory doesn’t have a team to run home to. It’ll take a while to reap rewards, though.

Matt Oman: Here’s the thing. At some point, there has to be a point where the Suns stop getting the concessions they have been. They have been here and done this far too many times for them to get yet another draft pick. This isn’t what the Suns need. If they pick another superstar kid, they will continue to be a factory that churns out developed players for the rich clubs to take.

Sam Marcolin: I’m not sure I like the optics of the AFL giving the club they established, over which they still retain an effective level of control, an extra draft pick. Whether or not it is earned is another question, but I also think that unless they trade the pick it does them no good. In my opinion they need a player you come to the footy to watch play, and this is the first year they haven’t had one on their list, since Ablett and Lynch left. Not sure who the answer is though.

Trent Shields: Undoubtedly yes, they need help and the current rules stipulate the priority pick is a lever available to the AFL to assist them. Adding picks 1 and 2, and more than likely Rowell and Anderson to last year’s crop of Lukosius, Rankine and King along with Fiorini, Brodie, Ainsworth, Bowes is a very good group of young talent and ones that should they commit to stay together can start to build on the good work done by Dew and Evans. I still think they require an injection of senior leadership as well, but the possibility of a long term double-team of Rowell and Anderson is too good an opportunity to pass up.

DG MUGLIAN: WHAT GOOD REASON IS THERE FOR KEEPING THE BOUNDARY THROW IN? SURELY GETTING RID OF IT WOULD BE THE BEST WAY TO SPEED UP THE GAME AND ERADICATE CONGESTION. EVERY THROW IN TAKES AT LEAST 30 SECONDS, TIME ENOUGH FOR 20 OR MORE PLAYERS TO GET TO THE PACK.

Julian Russo: Your points are valid, but I think the cons outweigh the pros on this one. For defenders, it’s an added layer of protection and to take it away would mean defenders would have to punch the ball in favour of the forwards or towards the boundary and give away a free kick. If there is a loose ball by the boundary line, I see defenders waiting for the forward to pick it up just to push him over the line. It would also be very hard to tell and would just lead to another review system down the track.

Matthew Passmore: I like the throw in because I dislike taking away the boundary as a safe option for defenders. Defending is hard enough as it is so if they can’t punch the ball over the line, the game is too in favour of the forwards – which is largely is anyway.

Jason Irvine: The boundary is a safe option for all players. I don’t want to see it taken away. It’s a restart of play and both sides should have the tactics to deal with a quick clearance. I know there was a rule change that was meant to increase the speed of play, but I haven’t seen that enforced at all.

Nick Sluggett: I understand the sentiment, but I believe in trying other ways to reduce congestion. The boundary already present a conundrum for defenders getting pinged for deliberate. If we take away any escape route, I think we will lose part of the craft of being a really good defender.

HB Meyers: I like the throw in, but hate the time it takes to get set, to nominate and get the ball back into play – you’re right, it’s too bloody long. I’d love to see it thrown back in immediately, but maybe that means an extra boundary umpire or two? One to get the ball and the other to be ready to throw it straight back in. And how that ties in with the nomination and the “who’s going up for Richmond?” questions you hear through commentary. I hate when that stalls the game.

Matt Oman: As a supporter of the SANFL, where they have a last touch free kick rule, I personally think this is one the worst rules ever introduced. It actively discourages players from attacking the ball when near the boundary and punishes errant kicks. There was no need for it, and the sooner this horrid rule is gone, the better.

Sam Marcolin: Would the solution be to ball it up? I don’t think that takes any more or less time in reality. The last touch out of bounds rule is a horror one, and I wish people would stop suggesting it. They tried it in the NAB Cup when that was still a thing and the game was so much the worse for it. I like the boundary throw in because it adds a third aspect to ruck craft, and the more of that we get to see, the better.

Trent Shields: I like the throw-in, I’m a traditionalist who loves the forgotten art of ruck craft (big boy), a ruckman’s skill is best shown at bounces and throw-ins (ball ups are a disgrace and only favour the taller player – but I digress). A couple of suggestions are to get the ball back in quicker, none of this waiting until everyone is set and nominated rubbish, and perhaps umpires moving 10m into the playing field to re-open the play into the whole ground which should ease congestion.

BELLE JAMES: I HAVE TWO.

 

WHY DO UMPIRES WAIT FOR RUCKS TO RUN A HUGE DISTANCE TO GET TO THROW INS OR BALL UPS? IT SLOWS THE GAME DOWN.

Julian Russo: If they don’t, it would lead to mismatches in contests which would surely progress back to where we are now, it sucks, but it keeps the game fair.

Matthew Pasmsore: I don’t know. In my opinion, they should do away with the “ruck nomination” and just immediately throw the ball up. I suppose by waiting, it allows players to get organised structurally, but perhaps that isn’t a good thing from a spectators’ point of view.

Jason Irvine: Like before, once a player puts their hand up, ball it up or throw it in. If the ruckman puts his hand up away from play, they’ve nominated still. Too bad if one ruckman is unopposed, especially given the minimal speed at which most ruckman can run.

Nick Sluggett: No real point in having ruckman if they’re not at the ruck contest. I don’t see the harm in waiting 5 seconds for the ruck’s to arrive. I believe people are focusing too heavily on these minute changes to the game in order to reduce congestion and make the game faster. It’s like how people focus on plastic straws to reduce waste in the oceans when it makes up less than 1% of all rubbish. Focus on the bigger issues.

HB Meyers: Following from the question above, this can be used as a stall tactic. I’ve seen rucks nominate from 30-40 metres away, and the rule as it is allows them to, and the umpire waits for them to arrive. The problem is, it also allows six or seven others to arrive on the scene. It’s the same if no one nominates immediately and the ump asks five or six times – throw it up quick. Players will soon get the message that you nominate quickly or you don’t get a chance.

Sam Marcolin: Yeah I don’t know. In the Dees-Eagles game on the weekend, there was a boundary throw in where both ruckmen were on the other side of the ground for some strange reason, and yet play was stopped until both of them got to the contest. The game would be better to just get on with it.

Trent Shields: It’s so patently obvious that this directive is one of the major reasons for slowing down play and creating congestion. I like the speed and skills and tactics of the modern game, but compare the equivalent in regards to stoppages from the 80’s and there is not one skerrick of doubt which was better. The very second the ball stopped moving, the umpire called for it and bounced it, 100% on the ruckman of the day to be prepared. With the incredible fitness and athleticism of today’s players this small change would make an incredible improvement on the rolling scrums.

IS THIS EDDIE BETTS’ LAST YEAR?

Julian Russo: I don’t think this decision will be his. If Adelaide can get someone younger to replace him, I think he will be gone. If not, I’m sure he’ll be playing until his legs can’t keep up.

Matthew Passmore: I highly doubt it. He’s dropped a bit of form recently, but he’s still one of the best and hasn’t started suffering those soft tissue injuries that can shorten the careers of older players. I’d expect him to go around for another year or two.

Jason Irvine: Interesting. He’s certainly a dazzling player but Adelaide still hold him in high regard. He hasn’t put together a complete season for some years now, but if a small forward can kick 50-60 goals a season, that’s incredible. I think he’ll play on after this year. How long? I don’t know.

Nick Sluggett: I believe it is. I think Eddie has had a fantastic career and I don’t want him to get to the point where is really struggling. At the moment he is having an up and down season, and is definitely starting to get beaten more consistently by some opponents.

HB Meyers: I think I posted over the weekend that 37% of Betts’ goals in 2019 have come against Gold Coast. He’s had two bags of six against them and has struggled against more seasoned defenders. Even a couple of his freakish, highlight goals have come in games where the contest is all but dead when he kicks them. I think he’ll play again, and if you look at overall numbers, so he should, but if you break it down, his influence on games, sans the GCS clashes, has been minimal.

Sam Marcolin: Look I doubt it, but it maybe should be. Eddie is a legend of the game, of that there is no doubt, but if he plays on next year he runs the risk of being in and out of the senior side. I read that Adelaide’s 22 was the oldest in the competition this round, and with youngsters like Chayce Jones and Tyson Stengle not getting a run, it might be best for Eddie to hang up the boots before they’re hung up for him.

Trent Shields: We are probably a bit quick to write off our champions, however in saying that, Eddie has had an awful year. He’s probably fortunate the soon-to-be-ex-coach seems to hate Bryce Gibbs so much otherwise he might have found himself running around against Norwood at stages. A new coach and reinvigorated list should see the Crows improve next year and Eddie can still play a vital role.

 

RICH ANDERSON: WHY DO YOU THINK THE NAME OF MARK WILLIAMS NEVER COMES UP IN CANDIDATES FOR A HEAD COACH JOB ANYMORE? HAS HE RUN HIS RACE?

Matthew Passmore: One thing I really don’t like about the culture of AFL is how quickly we discard coaches after they’ve been sacked or had a lean couple of seasons. Just because a coach has stood down or been replaced and hasn’t found any recent success at one club doesn’t mean they couldn’t at another- especially after a few more years as an assistant where they can work on those issues they had as head coach. Mark Williams was a very good coach, and I am certain there could be a role somewhere if he got a chance.

Jason Irvine: Williams is a coach with plenty of credentials. In a similar vein to Sheedy at GWS, he could be good at a club like Carlton who are looking for improvement with their list. Coaches come back all the time. There are some I’d take over Williams though.

Nick Sluggett: I could not tell you. It’s like the current rhetoric around the likes of Matthew Knights and Michael Voss. One of my favourite parts about a sport like the NFL is that coaches wear being sacked by a previous organisation like a badge of honour. It’s a sign that you’ve got experience in the role and other organisations recognise you didn’t get given the role for no reason. I believe the AFL has a lot of maturing to do in this regard. As I always used to hear Kevin Bartlett say “There are only two types of coaches. Those who have been sacked and those about to be sacked”.

HB Meyers: I thought he was “next in line” there at Richmond at one stage… then they went and won a flag! I think a lot of people rate Choco, but think he is a great assistant or advisor now at AFL level. He is still coaching at VFL level with Werribee, I believe, so he isn’t too far removed from the elite level. Personally, I think he has a bit left to give – strikes me as a coach players would want to play for.

Matt Oman: At some point, the game passes everyone by. Eventually, coaches need to step aside for the younger generation. Williams falls into this category. He can be a huge asset as an assistant, but should never take charge of his own team again.

Sam Marcolin: While I reckon Choco would be an asset as a senior coach somewhere in the league, he may well be better suited to a Neil Balme style role, overseeing a coaching department somewhere. With that amount of experience, both as a senior and assistant coach, he’d almost certainly be very good at it. That said, he could also be a good option at St Kilda, for instance.

Trent Shields: Only 18 people at any one time can hold the title of AFL coach, and Mark Williams had 12 years at the top level (plus pulling the actual reins while a loud-mouthed, red-nosed clown took the accolades for a couple of years at GWS). His record of 1 premiership and another losing GF are something to be proud of, but the field is so competitive now that I don’t believe his recent record (Flag was in 2004) nor drive is such that any time would consider it.

CHRISTINE HUGHES: SOME FANS SEEM TO HAVE LOST CONFIDENCE IN LEON CAMERON LEADING THE GIANTS TO A PREMIERSHIP, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

Matthew Passmore: I think it’s the coach’s role to build a team and a game plan that suits that team that will win them enough games to finish as high on the ladder as possible.  If Leon Cameron can get them to the finals and get them into the top four, then, in my opinion, it’s mostly up to the players to do the rest. Finals are a different game entirely, and often the team who can find that extra ten percent will win them. GWS have been hit pretty hard with injuries and don’t have a great deal of depth in their list, so I wouldn’t be too critical of his performance this year.

Jason Irvine: I’ve said a few times that I don’t think Cameron will lead the Giants to a premiership. With their talent, they should’ve by now. But if they’ve failed in consecutive finals series – which are a whole new ballgame. I think they need a refresher.

Nick Sluggett: I believe Cameron gets judged very harshly. People form their opinions like sheep, and devour them like pigs. It’s all well and good to have the cattle on the park, but you still have to lead a horse to water (I think that’s too many animal references in two sentences). Cameron will find it hard to ever escape the famous comment made by Craig Hutchsion that he was an amateur at the wheel of a Ferrari. However, if you think about the players GWS has lost over the years and the injuries they have suffered over time he has had to make a lot of changes on the fly. I highly commend Cameron for the job he has done. I would say he still needs to win a final this year to keep the majority of pressure off, though.

HB Meyers: See that little wrinkle last weekend? He threw Zac Williams onto the ball and it worked a treat. Obviously part of that was tactical for that particular game, but I reckon there was  also a little bit of FU about it to the people saying he is on his last legs as GWS coach. I think they were the best team in 2016, ran into a Tiger whirlwind in 2017, and were smashed with injury in 2018. That said, somewhere in the mix there, a Grand Final berth should have occurred. If he doesn’t make the Prelim again this season, I reckon the drums start beating next year – six years without converting that list into a Grand Finalist will be hard to defend.

Matt Oman: Leon is a victim of expectation, and with so much talent at his disposal, to not make it to the Holy Grail puts pressure on his shoulders. Injuries have certainly contributed, but if he can’t do anything quickly, GWS management may want to make a change. They shouldn’t, but everyone is aware of the cutthroat world the AFL has become.

Sam Marcolin: I don’t think it’s entirely up to Leon Cameron, who seems to be a pretty good coach, and there aren’t any hints of internal dissent in the playing group with him of which I am aware. It’s not the first time GWS have been decimated by injuries, but they’ve lost a fair bit of quality this season, and they’re lacking a genuinely dominant ruckman, which may not be the difference but it would certainly help. All that being said, they smashed Collingwood on the weekend, and they’re a very good chance of giving September a shake if they get a run on.

Trent Shields: I’ve been a long time critic of Leon Cameron and nothing that has occurred this season has changed my perception. He was a well credentialled assistant, and maybe that was based more on his relationship building skills rather than strategic nous. Of course he has had the opportunity to add those skills to his leadership group, but to date has failed dismally. Watching the Giants in full flight is a joy, but those results are built more on individual talent rather than tactics. Before you make excuses for Cameron, imagine what a Clarkson, Simpson, Lyon, Longmire could do with his list?

NICHOLAS SLUGGETT: IS CHRIS SCOTT GOOD ENOUGH TO COACH THE CATS TO A PREMIERSHIP? MOST BELIEVE HE WAS GIFTED 2011 AND HASN’T EARNS HIS STRIPES AS A PREMIERSHIP COACH. WOULD THIS AFFECT HIS ABILITY LAND A SECOND JOB IN THE AFL WHEN HE IS FINISHED WITH THE CATS?

Julian Russo: I don’t think he is, he could be along for the ride, like he was in 2011, but I don’t think he’ll play a big factor in finals like other Grand Final winning coaches have in the past. I don’t think he’ll have trouble landing another job considering his record, if he goes to a rebuilding team, his one game plan style of footy may work every now and then to keep his job, but I don’t think he’ll ever be a premiership coach at another club.

Matthew Passmore: Basing this answer off my last, certainly Scott is good enough to coach the club to a premiership. Since he took over in 2011, the Cats have only missed the eight on one occasion and only missed the top four twice for the other seasons. This means he is adapting year to year, he is getting the best out of his players and that he is able to maintain success despite some turning over of the list, which is pretty rare among coaches. So he must then be considered a very good coach. Why hasn’t he won another flag then? Probably because finals are very hard to win, and they’ve come up against some very good sides during september. 2013 was probably their best chance, given a home final, but few teams were going to beat Fremantle that game and fewer still would get past Hawthorn at the MCG.

Jason Irvine: Recent form in finals suggests not. If he’s already scared about the prospect of facing Richmond in Week 1 at this stage of the season, he’s heads not really in a finish-the-home-and-away-season-first mindset. Geelong with their acclaimed trio and an influx of traded players should be making finals, no doubt, but they’ve hoped these players can help them contest a premiership, but with Dahlhaus being experienced in 2015/16 and Rohan with many finals under his belt, maybe it’ll work out. But for Scott, he needs to sort out the rest of the season first, especially when they’ve lost three of the last five.

Nick Sluggett: Good Question.

Sam Marcolin: An excellent question, this one. He may well have been gifted 2011, but as we know, premierships are hard to come by. Geelong have underperformed massively since then, and a common gripe among Cats fans, myself included, is that when things go poorly for the Cats, there doesn’t seem to be an institutionalised Plan B. You can only throw Patrick Dangerfield forward so many times before teams start to actually have a plan for it.

With all that being said, the optimist inside me says the recent form slump has been in part scheduled. No team goes out with the intent to lose games, but after having won so many games before the bye, the Cats can afford to take their foot off the pedal a little over this part of the season. We saw in 2017 that Sydney went into September having won 14 of 16 games just to play finals, and they looked tired by the time the second week of finals rolled around. Ditto last year, when Hawthorn won their last six games of the home and away season to go from 10th to 4th, before going out in straight sets.

If Scott wins the flag this year, it will undoubtedly be a greater success than 2011. Whether it happens remains to be seen.

HB Meyers: Premiership coaches don’t grow on trees. If Brad Scott is in demand, imagine the queue to sign Chris Scott? As for whether he’s good enough, I think so. So much of it comes down to how banged up the Cats are, particularly the old soldiers who still carry a fair bit of responsibility. Looking forward to seeing how they go under the bright September lights.

Trent Shields: I can’t see Scott going anywhere in the short term and that will give him 10+ years in the role, if he attains the ultimate success this or next year you’d assume you could add another 5 years to his tenure, if he doesn’t salute in the next couple of years with the talent they’ve accrued, I can’t imagine any other club giving him a chance. In regards to 2019, they will finish top 4 and give themselves a strong chance of winning the flag, only needing three wins in four weeks to achieve that. The last month has probably exposed some holes that weren’t so apparent in the early part of the year. The diabolical lack of an even barely competent ruckman could be exploited on the big stage, but the big question mark is over their heart and soul skipper and his so far lacklustre season. Has 10+ years of banging his body into every contest and willing his team over the line finally caught up with him? If Selwood can regain his ability to influence results in the last quarter I wouldn’t bet against Scott claiming a second title, if he can’t however they are every chance of being dismissed by some real heavyweights in September.

GLENN CRAIG: HAS OFF THE BALL BLOCKING BECOME A TACTIC THAT THE UMPIRES CAN’T SEEM TO CONTROL?

Matthew Passmore: One hundred percent. The problem, I think, is that players are getting too smart and disguising their blocking too well that it is becoming more difficult to pay- and when they do pay it, the decision is often incorrect.

Jason Irvine: Yep. Umpires train themselves to see one movement or motion, but the eyes are on the contest. Off the ball, that’s where you need to extra umpires.

Nick Sluggett: It’s always been a tactic. Defenders have been blocking the run of forwards for years. But I do agree it is becoming more prevalent.. I guess it’s more that umpires are being instructed to let irrelevant incidents go if they believe it wouldn’t affect the actual marking contest.

HB Meyers: Oh, I have a story. One of my old teachers is Al Westover (former Melbourne Tigers basketball coach – at this point he was an assistant to Lindsay Gaze). After I finished school I’d drop in and see him sometimes and he’d give me some NBA tapes he’d had sent over from the States as there wasn’t any on TV here. Anyway, while we’re sitting there, another of his former students, a couple of years older than me drops in – turns out he has scored a meeting with Carlton to discuss tactics and employing basketball screens as part of the forward set up. This was in 1993, so the tactic has been around forever. This is why teams flood back, because if you allow blocking, particularly as a player starts to lead, defenders have no chance to cover the switch. Do I think it is right? Nope. Can we stop it? Very difficult.

Sam Marcolin: Is it controversial to say the game is becoming easier to defend? Certainly there are a number of key forwards throughout the league who simply don’t get the free kicks they deserve to get. If, for example, Mason Cox or Tom Hawkins got the free kicks that Ben Brown and, to a lesser extent, Jack Riewoldt get, there would be justice. Anyway, yes it is a definite tactic, and yes umpires could start paying free kicks, but I just don’t think they see them often enough.

Trent Shields: I think this is a completely legitimate tactic to counteract flooding and zones which are intrinsically negative. If teams are able to set up players to block and complicated running patterns to get forwards clear and marking on the lead that is good for football!

JONATHON POPE: WILL THE CROWS DROP EDDIE ?

Julian Russo: He kicked six two weeks ago, are you crazy! The man is special!

Matthew Passmore: I don’t think so. Eddie is the kind of player who could find form in a five minute passage, and really turn the game in Adelaide’s favour. I don’t think he is their biggest issue at the moment and I’m not an expert on Adelaide’s list, but I’m not sure whether they have anyone in the reserves who is forcing him out.

Jason Irvine: Simple no here. He’s still an x-factor.

Nick Sluggett: They shouldn’t. In my opinion he is the soul of the team. The X-factor. When he goes near the ball the crowd gets excited, his teammates lift and amazing things can happen. You can’t say that about a lot of players.

HB Meyers: They probably should – there’s been a bit of flat track bully about Eddie this season, but they won’t, because he’s Eddie Betts. Worked very hard defensively against Adam Saad last week.

Matt Oman: Eddie still contributes more to the Crows forward line than others around him. There is so much x-factor around him and some of his freakish goals are simply impossible to defend.

Sam Marcolin: No. One more week, at the very least, against his old mob. I don’t reckon Pyke will drop him though. In a final, he’s exactly the kind of player who could provide the necessary spark.

Trent Shields: If the coach really wanted to shake things up he could have off-loaded underperforming stars Eddie, Tex or Sloane to make a point, he took the easy option and another promising season has disappeared down the drain.

TRISTAN LEGGATT: HAVE YOU SEEN THE PHOTOS OF PYKE THAT ATKINS HAS IN HIS POSSESSION?

Julian Russo: I’ll show you those if you can show me the ones that James Parsons has of Scotty!

Jason Irvine: Very strange. That’s all.

Nick Sluggett: Photos? I thought Atkins was a more than serviceable player for the Crows. Are the Crows fans starting to eat their own already?

HB Meyers: If you have them, send them through… you should see my browser history. It ain’t pretty.

Matt Oman: Coaches always have their favourites. How do you think Zac Dawson kept getting a game?

Trent Shields: I’d suggest there are a whole host of Crows more deserving of the fans wrath than Atkins.

JOHN BEASLEY: HOW DO WE FIX THE CONTINUING UMPIRE DECISION MAKING INCONSISTENCIES?

Julian Russo: Simply put, you can’t. Our game is faster than any other and there are so many actions that 10cm can be the difference between a free kick one way or the other. I actually think the umpires do a great job, if we want perfection, we’ll need a team of 7ft tall cross country runners that can see everything, it’s the only way!

Matthew Passmore: Because of how Aussie rules is played, umpiring is always going to be more difficult than that of other sports. I think perfect or even near perfect umpiring is never going to happen. However, if they amend the rules to make them more black and white then that may help. I think the first option should be to making umpiring full time, based out of Melbourne where they all train and evaluate their performances together as any team would.

Jason Irvine: Umpiring the sport is incredibly difficult. It’s such a fast game with so much happening, we do need to be a bit nicer on the officials. The rules are what we should be mad at. I am for the idea of making umpiring a full-time job, with extended training. I don’t know if they’re in AFL HQ’s thoughts when it comes to rule changes either, but they should have a say if they don’t.

Nick Sluggett: Has anyone actually read the rules? Almost every rule is shrouded in grey and left open to interpretation. Try getting consistency out of that. You can ask 100 people the same question and get 100 different answers. There’s game shows based on that premise! I’ll start calling for umpires to be perfect when players stop making their own mistakes.

HB Meyers: Oh man, the unanswerable question. In short, they can’t. It’s ridiculous, but what they can do is simplify the rules and STOP CHANGING THEM every single year. If the umpires are allowed to concentrate on rules they know without worrying about the new interpretations, maybe there’ll be a little less guess work?

Sam Marcolin: Stopping the ‘rule of the week’ style umpiring would be a start. I saw high fend offs paid over the weekend. When was the last time you saw a high fend off paid before that? In any event, perfection from the umpiring department is impossible, but making it a professional gig might allow for reviews and training.

Trent Shields: Stop changing the rules, stop changing interpretations during the season, stop putting umpires on a pedestal as superior-beings incapable of making mistakes. Don’t allow packs to form, pay the free kick for incorrect disposal or call for a ball up immediately. The non-officiating umpire should only pay a free kick from out of their zone if it was missed by the umpire in charge. Too often the officiating umpire sees no infringement then is overruled by an overly officious umpire some 50-75m away.

MICK CALLAN: ARE THE CATS COOKED? WILL IT BE ANOTHER YEAR OF LIMPING INTO FINALS AND BEING BUNDLED STRAIGHT OUT?

Julian Russo: Hopefully not! I’m hoping that the Cats are just lacking motivation to throw themselves at the ball, knowing the ladder position is secure if they lose and not wanting to risk an injury. This Sunday’s game against the Swans will be telling.

Matthew Passmore: Their season is reminding me of Fremantle’s in 2015, where they dominated for the first ten or so games and then once other teams worked out how to beat them, they lost their confidence and consistency and you could see from about round 14 that they weren’t going to win the flag. The Cats have so many good players on their list, though, that you can’t rule them out for any game- even if they have lost some momentum. It might be that they find their mojo again in september and waltz through to a premiership.  I wouldn’t be so quick to rule them out like I did Fremantle in 2015.

Jason Irvine: They haven’t exactly limped into finals, their season has been impressive. If they continue to fall and lose to teams well below them, it’ll be another sub-standard finals series for the Cats.

Nick Sluggett: I Bloody hope not. I don’t think I could take another disappointing finals exit. From where the Cats currently sit I am expecting us to go 4-1 and make a preliminary final. So long as they do not get blown out in the first quarter of that final and actually play a competitive game, I’ll be satisfied.

Matt Oman: It certainly feels that way, although there is time to correct their faults. The Cats are still full to the brim with talent, but they need to get it together, in the same way Richmond has. As Matthew Passmore said, this has all the makings of Fremantle circa 2015. Another finals failure, and perhaps the pressure will start to mount on Chris Scott.

Sam Marcolin: If it’s a straight sets exit, it’d probably be time to move Scott on. I don’t see that happening though. With the amount of talent on the list, and a few much needed midfield hard nuts ready to come back in to the side in place of James Parsons, you’d expect their form to begin to ramp up through August into September.

HB Meyers: With the current crew, you think it is now or never. Selwood, for the first time ever looks like he is slowing. Ablett looks like he could go around again, but we won’t see him better, and Danger looks like he is starting to feel a little banged up. They’ve done the hard yards – I’d be managing a few players to make sure they are cherry ripe for five weeks’ time.

Trent Shields: Regardless of results in the next five weeks, come September 5th  Geelong will stand just three victories from glory. I don’t think they are the best team in the comp, but as we’ve seen in the past all that matters is being the best team in the last month. Can they get their elite top end talent fit and firing? I’m not sure, but I am sure that it all comes down to the skipper, if he can muster one last hurrah they are a chance, without him at his absolute best they will be taken down without mercy by the likes of Richmond and West Coast.

SCOTT WHEELER: IS IT TIME TO MAKE UMPIRING A FULL TIME JOB TO ENABLE THE CREATION OF AN UMPIRING MRP?

Julian Russo: Is it time, yes. Does the AFL have it in their budget to pay them all fair wages along with the physios and the other medical teams that make elite athletes, elite?

Matthew Passmore: Absolutely. It’s almost farcical the way umpiring operates at the moment. Umps do get dropped, but often only after a string of poor performances. With a decent salary and greater opportunity, they may attract more people to become professional umpires which might improve the quality.

Jason Irvine: Absolutely. At least work with the AFL closely and speak with the head honchos to collaborate with what can be improved. With the outcry this year, hopefully the umpires can admit their mistakes, unlike the head organisation most times.

Nick Sluggett: I don’t see players getting dropped for missing crucial shots for goal. Geelong would be a very different looking team this week if that were the case. We really need to stop holding umpires to an unrealistic standard. In terms of the full time proposition, I am not against it, but don’t believe we should expect to see a rise in consistency of decisions. If you really focused on umpires decisions (on game snot involving your team) you would find that you agree with most of their decisions.

Sam Marcolin: I don’t think fines and suspensions are the way to go. Professionalisation definitely is though. Continuing down the part time road would be a mistake. I don’t think the umpiring has been as bad as people think it has been this year, but it’s been a combination of the umpiring department refusing to admit their mistakes and the vagaries of the rules which have led to the public outcry.

HB Meyers: Is umpiring not a full time job for some? If I were umpiring, I wouldn’t be doing anything else, that’s for sure. The AFL has a decision to make – create roles within the league so that umpiring is a viable career path with avenues out and into related fields, or keep it as it is. Personally, I am not sure it’ll make too much of a difference to instantaneous decisions.

Trent Shields: I don’t think that is viable. Most of the current umpiring fraternity hold pretty senior or highly skilled roles outside of the AFL simultaneously. While the salary at the top end is certainly more than enough to make a decent living off, can we entice enough of the right types to make the decision to pursue this extremely niche position? We can’t compare our indigenous game to US sports that play almost every day, the type of people who are currently umpires would go stir crazy sitting around doing nothing for 4 or 5 days a week. The other potential solution is to reinvigorate the former player program.

DANIEL JOHN KERSHAW: I HAD A DREAM AT THE START OF THE YEAR THAT THE GRAND FINAL WAS BETWEEN GWS AND EAGLES. POSSIBLE?

Julian Russo: Possible, and if the Cats don’t make it, I’d love to see it.

Matthew Passmore: I wouldn’t bet on in, but it is far from impossible.

Jason Irvine: I could maybe see the Eagles, but not Giants. Tigers are ones to beat.

Nick Sluggett: With a dream like that, I’d hope you’re a fan of either team (If not, where’s the love for your own?). But yes, it’s absolutely possible. Both in the finals and in good form as of the weekend just gone.

Sam Marcolin: I mean they’ll both likely finish top six, so it’s possible.

HB Meyers: I once had a dream I was underwater, and I thought “hey, I can take a piss here and it doesn’t matter.” It mattered. Anything can happen, I guess. Personally, I’d love to see the Lions make it because it gives life to the theory that any team can beat another on any given day, and some can start doing it consistently.

Trent Shields: Certainly possible, West Coast are closing in on a top two finish and a clear run to the MCG, the Giants would obviously need to avoid a trip west, and would likely need to beat one of Geelong/Richmond/Collingwood at the MCG on the way – I can’t see it, but stranger things have happened.

MATTHEW ALLEN: ON A SCALE OF 1 (LOWEST) TO 10 (HIGHEST) HOW SCARED IS CHRIS SCOTT OF PLAYING FINALS?

Julian Russo: It depends on the team, if Richmond: 10, Anyone else:  3.

Matthew Passmore: 1.

Jason Irvine: On playing finals? 1. On playing Richmond in finals? 11.

Nick Sluggett: 1. Scott is now an experienced coach with a very good team at his disposal. After last ears exit, I am fairly sure he is chomping at the bit to hurry up and get to September.

Sam Marcolin: 1. He did win two flags as a player, and has won one as a coach. He’d be expecting an improvement, I imagine, on the Cats’ last three finals series.

HB Meyers: Scared – one. This is a bloke who played in a couple of flags. Nervous – a completely different ball game. After the start they had, the last few weeks are concerning – if he can recapture that early season form, I don’t think he’d be too fearful at all. If the current trend continues, I reckon the phrase “straight sets” will be bandied around a fair bit before the first week, and that can make a man nervous.

Trent Shields: I don’t think Chris Scott is scared of much at all, but he definitely doesn’t like playing in September. His recent record since the 2011 triumph is awful, especially with the team at his disposal. But the thing about finals is you have to win them, they don’t give them away – even the coach considered the “greatest of all time never to have been acknowledged by his peers as the best of any given year” is currently riding a sickly looking 0-4 streak in the month that matters.

MICK GREENHALGH: WHEN WILL THEY SACK STEVE HOCKING? DON’T THEY REALISE THE FANS HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THE CONSTANT RULE CHANGES?

Julian Russo: I think he only has his job because of the rule changes, the AFL want to see the game evolving and he’s at least attempting to do that.

Matthew Passmore: Rule changes have been around since the inception of the game. In fact, there’s only been around 12 years in the last hundred and fifty where some rule hasn’t been added or amended. So we can’t blame the current administration for sticking to the status quo. However, Hocking hasn’t done a great job either and hopefully whenever his contract expires, he calls it quits.

Jason Irvine: A lot of people high up in the AFL need the boot and maybe with Gil leaving next year, Hocking goes too. He’s just in his own bubble on how to improve the game, but I’ve liked it how it has been. No changes necessary.

Nick Sluggett: Hocking didn’t start the trend of yearly rule changes. I think he is working inside the parameters of the role he was given. I don’t see him getting sacked before the conclusion of the 2020 season, and that would only be if things go pear shaped.

Sam Marcolin: I don’t see Hocking being sacked, but it would be nice if someone sat him down and gave him some lessons in public relations. I, like many, raised an eyebrow at his recent comments on reducing tackling as a feature of the game, when I think (and let me stress that I THINK) he meant he wanted to see fewer tackles as a result of less congestion. I’ve had enough of the rule changes too, although I haven’t necessarily minded this year’s introductions, but the AFL are all about a marketable game, so they won’t end any time soon.

HB Meyers: Do you have one of those mates who just speaks before he thinks? And just constantly spews out things he should probably keep to himself? That’s Steve Hocking in this role. If you’re thinking there is too much tackling, just think it and stop bloody saying it. You have no solution, so supporters are wondering what cockeyed scheme you’re going to come up with because you are shooting your mouth off without giving proper thought to things. Mate… I love he has ideas, but keep them in house until you refine them and have some idea of a solution. Spouting some new garbage in every interview does not endear him to me.

Trent Shields: From the time he was appointed he seemed to be wildly under prepared for the task at hand, nothing that has occurred in the time since has changed my opinion. His appointment looks to be another blunder from head office in an ever growing list.

BRENDAN DELANEY: WHY DO CLUBS CONSIDER COACHES THAT HAVE BEEN WALKED INSTEAD OF LOOKING AT THE LARGE NUMBERS OF ASSISTANTS WHO HAVE WELL AND TRULY SERVED THEIR TIME IN THE COACHING MAGOOS???  I KNOW…LETS TAKE SOMEONE ELSE’S FAILURE BECAUSE SURELY THEY WILL DO BETTER WITH US??? AAARRGHHH…

Matthew Passmore: I think the opposite is true. There have not been many coaches who have been sacked that have found another head coaching job, and I think that is grossly unfair. Consider the players who have been delisted or traded out of on club to go on and have success at another. I think that we shouldn’t be so willing to dispose of former coaches so quickly.

Jason Irvine: There are coaches that have been hard done by that’s for sure and shouldn’t have been treated that way. I go back to Guy McKenna. A great season with Gold Coast and was sacked that year. While there’s others to consider like a Brenton Sanderson, you sure do have assistants waiting in the wings, like Robert Harvey. But to bring someone back like a Michael Voss I think could get messy, even though he too was hard done by given the list at his disposal during his tenure. The interim coaches are doing wonderous things though, so hopefully the CEOs etc can see that and make a good decision based on their performances during their short stint already.

Nick Sluggett: Because you can’t beat experience (A fun fact I’m learning whilst trying to start my career). The fact of the matter is, you’re always better at something you have tried before. There are also a myriad of reasons that a coach may not work out with a club particular club. I firmly believe coaches such as Brett Ratten, Matthew Knights, Michael Voss, Mark Harvey and Brendan McCartney could all coach at another club really well, and successfully. You only have to look at one of the greatest sporting coaches in Bill Belichik, to see how giving someone another chance can pay off.

Sam Marcolin: On an assumption here, I’m guessing this is about Brad Scott being linked to St Kilda. I think that would be the wrong choice, but Brett Ratten is probably the right choice for that particular side, and he’s a discarded senior coach, as is Michael Voss, who is being linked to senior coaching gigs again. The reality is that most senior coaches are harshly dealt by, but until you’ve sat in that chair, you can’t really experience the pressure involved with the job.

HB Meyers: It’s funny, isn’t it. It can go either way so easily. Look at Bolton at Carlton – very limited senior experience when Clarkson wasn’t able to coach, and off he goes to the Blues. Neeld at Melbourne… that was a train wreck. At least if you go the tried and trusted route, you know what you’re getting, and I reckon in some cases, boards and club employees will take the safe failure over the risky one. No one likes to gamble and lose, yet the ones courageous enough to do it and win… well, they’re celebrated. What would I do? Depends which experienced coaches are available – I wouldn’t be selling the farm to sign a bloke that’s never taken a team to the Grand Final.

Trent Shields: I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here, you need to take each individual on their merits for each given situation. Some coaches are better the second time around, some others just yearning for a chance to show what they’ve got. Much like with any job interview a lot of responsibility needs to be placed on the selection panel to discover the right candidate to meet the unique needs of the role.

That’s it! Hope you enjoyed the read and please feel free to discuss and debate with us in the comments. If you missed out on a response, or got a question you didn’t get to ask, we’ll be back in two weeks’ time to answer more of your burning questions. Thanks for reading, and as always, stay Mongrel!