Are We Really Sure…

Every season, it seems as though those in the know state a few things and everyone else latches onto those thoughts like those aliens in Star Trek.


Settle down, Poindexters… I know they’re called Klingons, and I didn’t even watch the show. I did watch a couple of the movies, though. Chris Pine was good as Luke Skywalker.


Anyway, these people make a statement, and the obedient members of the AFL media run with it… and they keep running with it.

There are times when what they tell me and what I see with my own two eyes are very different, and it causes me to question things. I find myself asking whether I am sure what these bozos are saying is genuinely true.

With that in mind, I have a few things here that have been thrown out there over the off-season and we’ve just been expected to believe them.

I guess. We’ll soon see.



How long til Griffin Logue gets back? Middle of the year, is it?

Any chance of fast-tracking him? Strap a splint to his leg or something?

Charlie Comben has been the ‘what if…’ at North for a while. They call him Chom but I reckon ‘The Big Hope’ is a better fit for him, as every time I speak to a North supporter about him, that’s what I get from them – hope. There is simply no certainty to him.

I watched the intraclub this week and the jury remains out. His second efforts are great, and his closing speed is excellent… but his first efforts need work, as we kind of knew they would. He is a work in progress, and really, I was more impressed with Toby Pink and Wil Dawson than I was with Comben in defence.

He is a big boy, has had to deal with a lot of injuries, and I wish him nothing but the best, however, I reckon this learning curve is going to be very, very steep, and it might take him half a year to truly find his feet in the role.



I hate to be the one to point this out, but they have played one finals series in how long?

I understand the excitement. I understand the tension. I understand that Carlton fans have been pining for this for a long, long time, but I also understand that the Blues managed to play some pretty insipid footy at points in 2023 and there are never any guarantees in the AFL.

They did manage to put it all together when it counted last year, and were one of the two hottest teams in the game leading into the finals series, but when a team like Carlton gets that shot in the arm and catapults themselves into contention, there is a need to strike while the iron is hot. They didn’t strike hard enough, and whilst people are correct to view what they did manage to do as a real positive, ultimately, this was just a big step. Making it was great, but the mountain they’re climbing isn’t the same one they scaled last year. The mountain they’re climbing isn’t predictable. And the mountain they’re climbing can result in a sheer drop just as easily as it can result in a big step up to the summit.

The Blues made a huge step up in 2023. They did what they’d been threatening to do for a long time, but unless they back it up and make the most of this momentum they’ve created, it may end up an island of hope in an ocean of despair.

Yes, this team looked good. Yes, all signs are pointing toward a great 2024. However, we have seen premiers fall and runners-up drop out of the picture as suddenly as they appeared. There is nothing stopping that from occurring at Ikon Park, either.



How long did it take before he managed to do that at Richmond?

I can answer that for you, if you like.

He started in the role in 2010. Yes, the Suns’ list is more advanced than the Tigers were at the same stage, but it took him eight years to win a flag, and he didn’t make finals until 2013.

Things take time. Players take time. Systems take time. Coaches take time. And whilst I would love to sit here and state that Hardwick has some magic potion to administer to the Gold Coast Suns to make them immediate contenders, the more cautious approach is to give him time.

Time, huh?

The Suns supporters are likely sick to death of hearing about time, and I cannot blame them. They’ve been told the kids take time, the team needs time, and that it is time to fold the club, at times. Time is not a popular word with them.

That said, you get the feeling that if we are going to use the word “time” then it should be in the contest that the time is now for the Suns, right?

Maybe Dimma does have an elixir of finals – it didn’t help Richmond much since 2020. A lot is going to have to go right, and go right in a hurry for the Suns to make 2024 their  “time”.



On paper, you look at it and nod.

They’ve added size. Esava Ratugolea has one thing going for him – size. Brandon Zerk-Thatcher is no small bloke, himself. They’ve gone from having key backs standing 193cm (Tom Clurey) and 191cm (Trent McKenzie) to Ratugolea (197cm) and Zerk-Thatcher (195cm). Combine them with Aliir Aliir (194cm and built like a tank) and you have a trio that can now hold their own against most forward lines.

On paper, of course.

How they go in actual games remains to be seen.

Aliir is the key, as he has been for a couple of seasons. If the other two are able to hold down their roles and control their opponents, Aliir can start to zone off and display the form that made him an All-Australian a little while back.

But can they hold down their roles to that extent?

Esava has basically one season in defence for the Cats under his belt. He played in a very similar style to Aliir, inasmuch as he loved running at the footy and taking the game on. Pity he had an opponent who played the percentages a bit and made Ratugolea pay at times.

I don’t rate this stat, but I am using it to make a point, here. If you ever hear of the “Reverse Coleman”, you will have seen BZerk’s name next to it in 2023. The Reverse Coleman goes to the player whose direct opponent kicked the most goals on him. It’s a shitty thing to win, as usually we find that a shitty team defence (and Essendon was particularly shitty at team defence) hangs a key defender out to dry more often than not. That’s what happened to Zerk-Thatcher in 2023. I vividly remember him being stranded on Hawkins Island as his teammates repeatedly watched him get beaten from 15 metres away. There was little help for him. Teams should “win” the Reverse Coleman – not an individual.

So, yes… on paper, the team looks better. They look bigger, stronger, and more capable of taking the big forwards of the game. But in reality?

Well, let’s just say there will be many at Alberton with their fingers crossed as the ball starts to come inside defensive fifty early in the season.



Come on, HB… he was a number one ruckman playing behind THE number one ruckman in the game.

True… true… all true.

Okay, but who have the Dees replaced him with?


Their two other listed ruckmen have a combined zero games, and whilst they would be crossing their fingers, legs, and maybe even their eyes in the hope Big Max does not get hurt, the fact remains that the best options Melbourne have in the event of an injury to Gawn are Tom Fullarton (200cm) with a career total of 50 hit outs, Tom McDonald, who could hardly get on the park in 2023, and Ben Brown, who moves like he is on rails.

Yes, Melbourne have the best big man in the game, but he is also 32 years old and carrying around 110 kilograms every week. If he gets hurt, maybe the club will rue not integrating Brodie Grundy more successfully. And maybe they’ll rue not finding an adequate backup ruck in the off-season, as well.

It’s Max or bust in 2024.



There is a lot riding on the recruitment of Matt Flynn to the Eagles for the 2024 season. Both for Flynn, and the Eagles as a club.

For a while now, there has been a lot of talk about English heading back west as a free agent after this season, but I reckon the Eagles may have been a little more desperate for English’s signature 12 months ago than they are currently.

In recruiting Flynn, the Eagles get a ready-made ruck to combine with Bailey Williams, who really started coming on in 2023, as well. Flynn was stuck behind Kieren Briggs at GWS, who made the number one ruck role his own with his bullying style of ruck play. That was a role Flynn had earmarked as his own, but an injury opened the door for Briggs and he crashed on through.

Coming to West Coast, the 26-year-old is in the window for rucks to start peaking. He is a rather unknown quantity to most of the league and will be in a dogfight with Williams all season as to who starts as the number one ruck (I reckon Williams ‘could’ effectively play forward more often than Flynn).

If the duo settle into a rhythm, do West Coast start to move away from enticing English home and redistribute the money he’ll cost to lure players at positions they don’t have covered? And does that resign English to re-sign with the Dogs, given Freo have their ruck pairing locked away?

Yes, a lot is riding on how well Matt Flynn adapts to the role of ruckman at West Coast. His form may well dictate plenty, both on the field, and off it.


I’ve got some more of these lined up over the next couple of weeks. As always, The Mongrel is doing the work


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