Midway Through the Third Quarter of the Season – The Martians Are Coming

Midway Through the Third Quarter of the Season

The AFL(VFL) and the Spiders from Mars


The Spiders from Mars


The Spiders from Mars have only ever played in three Grand Finals where both finalists have been from Mars. Port Adelaide v Brisbane in 2004 and Sydney v West Coast in both 2005 and 2006. Since the Eagles’ 2006 triumph, the Victorian-based clubs have successfully kept the Spiders at bay except for a couple of hiccups in 2012 with the Swans and 2018 with the Eagles.


Since the Eagles’ successful 2006 invasion, the Premiership Cup has been the Pride of Victoria, with the Hawks winning four flags, the Cats winning four flags, the Tigers winning three flags, the Pies winning two flags, and the Dees and the Dogs winning a flag each. Not a bad return considering the death by a thousand cuts amendments to the rules to make life harder for the Spiders from Mars (but that is another article for another day).


It would be fair to say the Spiders from Mars have, for the most part, have been contained.


Midway through the third quarter of this season, one of the most despised Spiders from Mars, the Sydney Swans, sit comfortably atop of the AFL ladder with their eight legs dangling tantalisingly over the top of the 2024 Premiership Cup.


The Victorian ‘Mission Control of Social Order’ (AFL House and the media) is calling upon their Superheroes, the Blues, the Pies and the Bombers to fight back and defeat the Spiders from Mars so they can arrogantly give the Victorian hordes the Grand Final they want, and in turn call it the Grand Final WE ALL WANT. As the AFL (should I insert VFL here) saying goes, isn’t it good when the Big Victorian Clubs are up and about!


As we enter the midway point of Premiership quarter of the season in the deeps of winter, it is way too early to speculate about what the rest of the season holds, but the Victorian’s may be in for more shocks from Mars as one, maybe even two Spiders weave their way to the upper echelons of the ladder and stake a claim on sacred Victoria turf.


Mars Needs Guitars – the Invasion of the MCG


It is extremely hard for any interstate to win a Premiership at the MCG, and even when the grandest of days has been played in outer fathoms of space at the Gabba and Optus Oval, the Spiders from Mars were still found wanting as the Tigers (2020) and Dees (2021) conquered the outer realms of the AFL.


While Sydney seems like the most likely team to invade the MCG on the last day of September, is it possible they might be joined by another team or two from outside Victoria? 


The Swans and the Axis of Spiders 


Sydney Swans – Planet of the Swans


Three games and a massive percentage advantage has the Swans sitting comfortably atop the ladder. Some are saying they have peaked early but given their slow starts recently it is arguable they are currently in a form slump right now. Thinks about that for a minute, this team which is Red Dwarfing opposition teams may only be going at ninety percent with time left to perfect their game before September. BLOODS!


Greater Western Sydney Giants – Dr Who(cares)


The Big Big Sound have been a bit out of tune this year, but they still find themselves sitting fifth on the ladder with a relatively superior percentage to the teams around them. The Giants are in a cluster of clubs vying for positions second on the ladder to let’s start the rebuild for new year.


The return of Josh Kelly last weekend did tighten the Giants up, but it was an ugly game to watch and an ugly win (which are important). The question with the Giants is whether they can recapture the exciting orange tsunami brand of football from 2023. The signs are good, but they need to get in tune sooner rather than later.


Brisbane Lions – My Full-Forwards are Aliens


The resurgence of the Brisbane Lions has taken place in deep outer space over the last month, as they have slowly crept up on the opposition. The AFL’s version of Starmen, Joey Daniher and Eric Hipwood, at times seem like they are from another planet, capable of the extraordinary one moment and the inexplicable the next, but they are the keys to the Lions’ Premiership chances.


Yes, I said premiership chances, not merely making up the numbers. The ladder is very tight all the way down to thirteenth where the Lions currently find themselves, and given their dominant strength, the lads from Alpha Centauri are on a trajectory to finish strongly and create havoc. I may regret saying this, but the Lions will finish top four.


Port Adelaide Power – the Space Oddity of Major Ken


This is Major Ken to Ground Control, I’m stepping through the door, and we’re floating in a most peculiar way, and the finals seem very different today. 


For here I am sitting on a tin can, far above the Earth, the MCG is blue and there is nothing I can do.


Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles I’m feeling very still, and I think my star-team knows which way to go, tell the board I love them very much, they know.


Ground control to Major Ken, your season is dead, there’s something wrong. 


Can you hear us Major Ken? Can you hear us Major Ken? Can you hear us Major Ken? Can you hea… (David Bowie, Space Oddity, released as a single July 1969 by Phillips Records)


Fremantle Dockers and Gold Coast Suns – Mars Invades Planet AFL


Win one, lose one, win one at home, lose one away, is the form line of both the Dockers and the Suns. Both clubs fall back down to earth very quickly when they are asked to perform away from their battle fortresses. The Dockers and the Suns find themselves caught somewhere in the Milky Way, not sure whether they are going towards the light or are they going to get swallowed up by the Black Hole?


HB has been following the Dockers all year, while my pet project has been the Suns, and it is likely one of these two teams will finish in the lower end of the finals come September – providing they continue to win at home and struggle a win or two away from home.


We Don’t Need Another Hero – the VFL, I mean AFL, Superheroes and Friends 


A couple of weekends ago I nearly ‘spewed up’ when the former CEO of the AFL’s (VFL’s) poorest clubs (in all ways), North Melbourne, stated words to the effect, it is good for football when the big Victorian teams are up and about, while commentating a Blues match. Think about that for just a minute and consider this, North Melbourne, St Kilda, Western Bulldogs and possibly Melbourne, are all just a mere sideshows when compared to the big Victorian clubs, especially the so-called Big Four, Collingwood, Carlton, Essendon and Richmond. 


My disdain towards James Brayshaw’s comment is he knows better than most what it is like to fight for relevancy in Victoria with a club seen as a pauper with ‘cup constantly in hand’ rather than a main event. I thought Brayshaw may have spoken against the party line, and supported the continuing woes some Victorian clubs are confronted with every year, but alas I was disappointed.


Three of the Big Four currently fill ladder positions two to four, while a nest of other Victorian based teams are in a cluster-storm behind them ready to jump up if they dare to falter. 


Captain Cripps and the Super Bluebaggers


Captain Cripps and his brave men of valour, all draped in navy blue, are considered the hottest item in town at the completion of 14 rounds, yet their kryptonite is percentage. In a season where percentage will decide positions on the ladder at year’s end, the Blues need a few big kills, and they need to be beating teams around them to maintain their position.


As long as Cripps, Walsh, Curnow, McKay and Weitering stay fit, and TDK keeps improving, the baggers are on course for a big year, and wouldn’t their salivating masses love it. 


It was by pure mistake (and regret), but in 1995 I happened to be on Lygon Street the night the Baggers last tasted success. The flag waving and the sound of horns and burn outs up and down the drag lasted until almost Melbourne Cup weekend.


Fly’s Guardians of the Galaxy


Since when did it become acceptable to secretly barrack for Collingwood and say nice things about them? Strange times we live when the Pies, formerly known as the Filth, are beloved and respected by all in Mexico (Victoria). I know some diehard Pies fans who despise their current popularity and their status as the antihero, and they long for the days when they were the most villainous and hated team in Victoria. Therein lays the answer, the Pies are Victorian in a national competition, and the Spiders from Mars are now the most hated of villains – the modern day Filth.


The Pies are third, but they have the bye this weekend, so their ladder position may alter a bit come the end of Round 15, but as the reigning champs they are on the right course to have a crack at back-to-back success. Luck is a fortune, and without creating a storm of hate my way, their wins against the Crows and the Kangaroos have relied upon some dubious (shocking) umpiring decisions going their way. Paul Roos famously said, “you need luck to win a premiership”, so maybe the Pies ride their luck all the way to a flag? Who knows?


Forgive me, and off topic, but whenever I see Craig McRae always smiling and inanely grinning, it is starting to remind me more and more of Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. 


Brad Scott is Judge Dredd


There is a lot to like about the Bombers circa 2024, with their list of basically ‘no name’ players playing as a team inspired. Please don’t be offended by the ‘no name’ Bombers fans. In games I have watched this year every one of the 23 players named each week is expected to perform their task. The captain is just as important to the team as is the last player named, such is the team-oriented game plan Judge Dredd, alias Brad Scott, has employed.


Win at home over the Eagles next weekend and you are well on the way to September (possibly even top 4) action, and the chance to exorcise the ghosts of finals past with an elusive September victory.


I reckon the appointment of Judge Dredd was an inspired choice given the success he had with a largely ‘no name’ Kangaroos outfit in the mid-2010’s.


The ‘Cocoon’ Cats


If the Cats are to find any success this year, then I suggest they need to employ Ron Howard (Ritchie Cunningham) to help stop the anti-ageing processes. At the moment the majority of once graceful and lethal Catters look like they are just hanging out for pension day on a week-to-week basis.


The Cats (like the Power) are in a precarious position now, with injuries and lack of form to their stars hurting them, while the younger kittens are just learning how to tentatively land on their feet. Tom Stewart is one of my all-time favourite players (a huge statement as people close to me know I am not Cat friendly) but his form slump since Round 8 is symbolic of the fall of the once mighty Cat Empire. 


Stewart is just off the pace, Hawkins looks his age now, Danger cannot get on the field, while Cameron is chasing kicks instead of demanding kicks, and as a result, the once feared feline edge has gone, at least for now.


Dog Day Afternoon


Al ‘Bevo’ Pacino and his Dogs are currently operating under a state of siege as they jump up and down in the one spot always promising to go forward, while holding the rest of the competition to ransom not knowing which direction they are heading from one week to the next.


The club formerly known as Footscray is on the verge of going one of two ways after their bye next weekend, bit if percentage is Carlton’s kryptonite, then percentage is the Doggies strength. Sadly, the Dogs win tally doesn’t equate with their percentage and as such they find themselves on their hind legs with ten games left chasing their tail. 


On paper, along with the Lions, the Dogs are one of the best two teams not currently inside the eight and they should make the finals. ‘Should’ and ‘The Dogs’ are words used far too regularly. With the Sons of the Scray, it is about time they just ‘did’.


To quote a famous election slogan from 1972, “IT’S TIME”.


Mitchell’s Cool Runnings 


One of the best performed teams over the last six weeks has been the Hawks, who have come from nowhere to be a puncher’s chance of making the finals. The achievement by the Mitchell’s band of merry men since their lousy start to the season has been no mean feat, and while they are the outsider of the top Thirteen teams to make the finals, they are on a roll.


There is a freedom about Hawthorn style of football presently as they have everything to play for and nothing to loss. Given they weren’t expected to do much this year, the Hawks win/loss ratio of 50 percent is a remarkable achievement, and it would be even more remarkable if they maintain that form.


Early Morning Cartoon Show – The Rest


North Melbourne – I give an unequivocal and public apology to the North Melbourne Club who I slammed unmercifully in my mid-season report. The character shown by the Roos over the last month has been more than impressive, and but for a couple of dubious umpiring decisions (or non-decisions) the Roo-Boys would now be sitting on two wins for the year. Putting the win/loss record aside, the Roos have real heart and are now displaying the Shinboner Spirit the club is famous for. 


St Kilda – I just feel so sorry for your fans.


Adelaide – it is time to move on from 2017, the infamous Bus Trip, and get rid of the chip on your shoulder. It’s over, move on.


West Coast – that Harley Reid is a pretty handy player.


Richmond – Congrats Dusty on 300 games, 3 Premierships, 3 Norm Smith Medals and a Brownlow Medal. I really enjoyed you embracing the crowd on Saturday, and while you succumbed to an interview, your actions have always spoken louder than words. 


Conclusion – The House of AFL(VFL) 


Nothing would delight The House of AFL more than a Blues v Pies Grand Final, but they are more than aware the Sydney Swans will likely spoil that party. The push for two of the Big Four playing off in September finale is gathering momentum, especially amongst media hounds, with commentators and experts like BT, Huddo, the Pipe, JB, Whateley, Robbo, Eddie, Wilson, the Velvet Sledgehammer, and others, openly pushing the VFL agenda. The all Victorian Grand Final they ALL WANT.


Hats off the Cornes for once, as he is biting back a bit against the dominant discourse.


Sydney sitting on top of the ladder is not the only thorn in the side of The House of AFL’s dream decider. If there is any form loss by the Blues, Pies and Bombers, then it more than likely their place in upper echelons will be taken by one of the Spiders from Mars leaving Presidente Dillon, Capitano Kane and Lieutenant Burney facing their biggest September nightmare, an all-northern states Alien granny.