TEN THINGS I LEARNT AFTER ROUND 10

 

  1. Right now it’s really hard to know when a round starts or ends

 

It’s certainly a very strange feeling having to type up my weekly article on a Friday night. If the world isn’t falling off its axis already with this COVID disaster, having a round of football beginning on a Monday and ending by Friday just adds to the eeriness of a deathly silent and inactive Melbourne. Were it not for my trusty AFL app on my recently purchased iPhone 11, I would’ve had no idea where Round 10 ended, and Round 11 began. The fact only seven games were played also added to the confusion. To add further bewilderment, Round 11 consists of eight games and is over by Wednesday!

I guess having footy on when there’s little else we can do is not a bad thing. However, the conspiracy theorist in me has come up with the notion that we really shouldn’t have had this season, but our government ensured it would go ahead because they wanted to distract us plebs while they roll out the 5G network and get the vaccinations ready so we can all be tracked on their database and they will know which football team we follow and send us taunting emails when we lose for fun! Or is that something I’d like to do??

 

  1. When was the last time a round of AFL/VFL football had no games on Saturday and Sunday?

 

A round played from Monday to Friday. Other than trawling through the entire history of AFL/VFL football on Wikipedia, which I have neither the time nor the inclination to do, I reckon I’m going to go out on a limb and just say it’s never happened. It would seem highly unlikely that a round at any other time in history did not have a weekend game, but if anyone can tell me otherwise, please email me on gabrielrossi@bigpond.com and I’ll publish the information in next week’s article.

I’m actually old enough to remember the days of the VFL when there was just 12 teams, and all six games were played simultaneously on a Saturday afternoon from 2pm. You’d be at a game of football, and the scores from the other games would appear on the scoreboard at the end of each quarter. Then you’d go home and have dinner, then watch the replay of some of the games. Only three used to get televised. There was no live VFL football, and Sundays you had to yourself, although the diehard footy fans would tune in to the VFA on the ABC. To you millenials and Gen-Z’s, this must sound awful. But I can tell you that my heart yearns for those days. They were the best. There was no DRS, just two field umpires, and hits behind play were just part of the game… OK, so it wasn’t all great, but I have very fond memories indeed.

 

  1. Port Adelaide might just be the real deal

 

Without really setting the world on fire, the Power did what they had to do, were never really threatened by the Dogs who really laboured when it came to scoring, and they chalked up another win against what many would have considered a dangerous team. It was a tight first half with the Dogs heading in to the main break with a 3-point lead. However, it was the 3rd quarter where the Power took control booting the only four goals of the term while the Dogs could only manage one behind. The game was pretty much over. Dixon and Gray both contributed a couple of goals apiece, but it was the impressive Zak Butters adjudged best on ground by many in what was one of his best games for the club amassing 24 disposals. In his second year, like so many young stars at the Power, he seems to have maintained the solid start to his career.

As for the Dogs, once again inaccuracy in front of goal has prevented them from getting back into the game. Obviously stung by a below par effort in the 3rd term, the Western Bulldogs did their best to work themselves back into the game during the final term but could only manage 2 goals from 8 scoring shots. They also only had 3 goalkickers on the night. It seems right now they are certainly missing the likes of Aaron Naughton up forward, and since booting 6 goals against the Kangaroos, off-season recruit Josh Bruce has been sadly out of form. Another loss tomorrow night to Brisbane, and the Dogs season could be all but gone.

 

  1. Anybody who wrote the Tigers off early looks silly now

 

In the last fortnight, the Tigers have looked ominous. In Round 9 they easily accounted for a much-fancied yet disappointing Western Bulldogs, but it was their total domination of 2nd placed Brisbane this round where they truly announced themselves back into real contention in what earlier was beginning to look like a kind of gap year for Richmond. When you have Riewoldt and Lynch combining for 7 goals, and Dusty doing what he does best, most sides will struggle. I guess we’ll get an even better idea where Richmond are at after they take on the Power on Saturday afternoon.

For Brisbane, the problems were exacerbated by their woeful inaccuracy in front of goal. Managing just 4 goals and 17 behinds suggests they had the opportunity to apply scoreboard pressure but simply couldn’t convert. I guess you have dirty nights, but I imagine in their punctuated training regime, the Lions would have been practicing their kicking for goal at some point this week.

Footnote: I thought about touching on the Vlastuin-Chol incident. I’m not really OK with the manner in which it was reported, certainly when race was brought into it. I also understand Chol himself was not offended by what took place and Vlastuin and Short both made statements apologising for their actions. That’s where it ends I say. I guess if they ever want to make it into a movie, the title “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Finger” is there for the taking. (Cue the outrage…)

 

  1. I still don’t think I like the name Gryan

 

Young Miers had a terrific game and played his part setting up the Cats win with 3 goals by half time and finished with a career-high 4. He’s been a very handy pick up and is proving to be a dangerous player who hits the scoreboard. But what’s with that first name? I have my own theories. I’m thinking that when he was born, his parents were tossing up between the names Graham and Bryan. So I’m guessing they couldn’t decide so they created a new name of their own. I guess I’m just a traditionalist. I don’t like made up names or misspelt names like “Jaxon” or “Taylah”… But I digress.

Geelong face the Saints Monday night in what shapes up to be a cracker of a game. This game could be the turning point for either team right now.

For the Roos, Ben Brown’s horror season continues with a knee injury that saw him leave the field early. He looks set to miss a couple weeks. Cunnington’s return is still nowhere in sight as he struggles with back issues and they’re still missing Ziebell. It’s a case of a few too many big names on the sidelines and an apparent lack of depth to come in and fill the void. They are unearthing some talent in the likes of Hosie, and if I were Rhys Shaw, getting games into the kids would be my focus. 2020 is shot.

 

  1. Adelaide are certain to win its first ever wooden spoon.

 

Just a couple of weeks ago, they went down to the Bombers by just three points. When watching that game, my feeling was that a win was imminent. However, they seem now to have sunk to even lower depths being trounced by two teams struggling along in the bottom half of the ladder. And when you consider there’s just seven games remaining and they’ve already lost ten, the possibility of a winless season is all too real. Just understand that since joining the AFL in 1991, Adelaide’s lowest ever ladder position at the end of a season is 14th. They’ve managed to avoid hitting rock bottom until now.

For Melbourne, they were terrific, particularly in the final term where they blew the hapless Crows away mercilessly and continue to remain in slim contention to sneak into the 8, although so much needs to go right for that to happen. One of the more pleasing things was to see Oliver, fresh off copping his share of criticism for poor distribution of the football, finding targets and playing with greater efficiency. Viney, too, was also very strong in the contested ball stakes. I expect the Dees to be too good for North Melbourne this week, which means they can square the ledger with five wins and five losses. That said, these are the sorts of games where Melbourne often don’t turn up.

 

  1. The Pies almost kicked themselves out of finals contention

 

In the Collingwood v Sydney game, the inside-50’s tell a story. It was 50-33 in favour of the Pies, yet they only managed to scrape home by 9 points. I guess it didn’t help when, just before half time, they had 1 goal and ten behinds on the board. Thankfully, they managed to settle and started to find the goals. On the half-time siren, Jamie Elliott slotted a nice set shot from 45m to kick their second, but one gets the feeling that had he missed, the result could have gone the other way. That’s how crucial that kick was. The Swans had 5 straight on the board prior to that kick going through. If they were 1.11 at half time, who knows how their mindset would’ve been due to their inability to convert? Collingwood take on the struggling Adelaide next and would be expected to win that comfortably and start to entrench themselves in the 8 despite an up and down season so far.

Sydney are gallant, but, like the Roos, just have too many guns on the sidelines. Watching Longmire these days, you can’t help but get the feeling he’s feeling the pinch a little. Last year wasn’t great, and this year is following along similar lines. Some of his stars are ageing such as Kennedy, Parker and Franklin who can’t get fit right now. It’ll be interesting to see how much longer those boys will play. The remainder of their year will be tough I feel.

 

  1. Who would’ve thought a Suns v Saints match would be game of the year?

 

What a game! For the first time this year, I couldn’t look away. One minute I’d be watching Dan Butler doing his thing and wondering why my club seemingly had him signed, sealed and delivered and then suddenly went cold on him, and the next minute this Izak Rankine kid is adding to his highlight reel. Make no mistake. He’s an out and out star who is the sort of player that will turn games as he nearly did last night with his late goal. Another player who’s blowing me away is Hugh Greenwood. How well has he slotted in up at Metricon? And boy, didn’t he leave a sinking ship just in time.

The Saints are going along nicely in 2nd position and are staking their claim on a finals berth, and the Suns, while sitting 11th with just the 4 wins and seeming unlikely to feature in the Top 8 at season’s end, have plenty of upside and have a bright future. They are far removed from the basket case they were 12 months ago and have gone down narrowly in a few games this year that could’ve gone their way because of their refusal to surrender. One can’t help but feel that the loss of young Rowell has really hurt, such is his talent. But they look like a football team now, and that’s great for the competition.

 

  1. Meanwhile, the first quarter of the Bombers v GWS game was one of the worst of the year.

 

I’m wondering if the AFL would like the first quarter of Friday night’s game between the Bombers and Giants wiped from their archives so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands and people familiarising themselves with our game don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to be played. I couldn’t help but feel, after watching both sides manage just 2 behinds each and basically missing every forward target and moving the ball at glacial speed, that perhaps I had seriously wasted that 25 or so minutes of my life and would never get it back. Things did change thankfully. The Bombers looked impressive in the 2nd term booting 6 goals to 2, and at half time that 22 point lead looked pretty handy.

After half time, Draper booted his first ever AFL goal to give them a commanding 29 point lead. Have a look at his celebration if you get a chance. It’s really quite funny! For the remainder of the term, the Giants fought hard to get back into the game, and at the final break had managed to get to within 15 points. In the end the Giants’ class came to the fore and they managed 6 unanswered goals to take the lead and ultimately win the game. Stephen Coniglio is finding form and finally settling in to his role as captain, and Jeremey Cameron worked himself into the game to help get them across the line. The Bombers will be ruing this one as they surrendered a 5-goal lead, but other than the 2nd quarter when they banged on 6 goals, they scored a combined total of 2 goals 4 behinds in three quarters of football. You can’t do that and expect to win games.

 

  1. It’s really down to two or three sides currently outside the 8 that could make it…

 

If the next three weeks are anything to go by, it almost seems like the 8 is somewhat settled. Collingwood have a fairly easy three weeks so they should consolidate their position despite dropping a game they were expected to win against the Dockers. Geelong on the other hand have two very difficult weeks coming up against the Saints and the Power, so they’ll be the one to watch, although their form of late has been solid and I expect them to win two out of their next three. Outside of the 8, you have the Bulldogs and Essendon both with five wins, and even though Essendon have a game in hand, I don’t think any wins will come easy over their next few weeks. The Dogs can’t really afford to lose many more games at this point, and facing the Lions this week will be a huge challenge. They need to win that to stay in touch. I believe their entire season rests on that game.

The Blues, Demons, Suns and Hawks have probably slipped back too far. With just seven games remaining, these four teams have to win five games or more to get in (Melbourne have 8 games remaining). I can’t see it happening myself. So I would say that the 8 may not change. The sides currently occupying the Top 8 spots look set to be there after 17 rounds, although in what order remains to be seen. But, of course, this is season 2020, and anything could happen right? It’s possible teams such as the Bulldogs, Essendon and even Melbourne could possibly sneak in, but my money is on the 8 teams you see now playing finals.