So, we begin the long AFLX off-season with a sense that we got exactly what we thought we’d get – a night of free-flowing, sort of football, in front of 23,000 people at Marvel Stadium.
I didn’t attend in person. Welcoming my daughter back from overseas took precedence, but I did go last year, and whilst it will never match an actual AFL game for excitement or intensity, there were a few moments that made it worth watching.
What I’ll do here is run down a few things that were both positive and negative on the night. It won't be a traditional review - more just a collection of thoughts on the event.
In terms of close attention to detail, youre probably not going to get it here. I don't think that's what the event was about anyway. I mean, there was a rock climbing wall there, and a person twirling sticks. There's some details.
I missed the first few minutes of the first game, but as I turned the TV on, I was welcomed by a picture of Phil Davis bending over… my immediate question to my missus was whether he was wearing a g-string, as I couldn’t see any underwear lines. But it seems he was wearing longer underwear. That’s a bit of a disappointment. Davis would be a great ambassador for male g-strings.
It was good to see Patrick Dangerfield trying to take Jack Riewoldt on as his rival captain stood the mark in the first game. Also good to see Riewoldt not allow him past, gritting his teeth and dragging Danger down.
Luke Hodge looks in great nick again. I really thought he’d play 10-12 games last year and fade rapidly. The fact he was front and centre in this comp indicates that he may stride into retirement at season’s end after helping the Brisbane backline evolve into a solid unit – not limp into his last year and stagger away as I originally thought. Hats off to Hodgey.
Tim Membrey’s nickname is ‘Skunk’? That can’t really work for ya, can it? He really seemed to like the wide open spaces this format offered.
I would’ve liked to have seen Team Deadly play a little better. Their involvement is a chance for an annual Indigenous All-Star team to be established. I wrote about it here earlier in the week.
Sam Powell-Pepper looks lighter. His movement throughout the night was impressive. I might get on him for most improved at Port this season.
Taylor Walker’s career as a commentator probably stalled tonight. I’m not sure how many marbles he had in his mouth tonight, but I’d say this experiment was a failure.
My missus believes Abbey Holmes’ profile looks like the Crystal Skull from an Indiana Jones movie. Abbey Holmes and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Shifty move by Lachie Hunter to intentionally juggle a mark to get five metres closer. Strange decision by the umpire to call play on as a result.
Another Mrs Mongrel pearl of wisdom – “Nat Fyfe looks like one of those Greek God sculptures… but he looks like he was carved by an apprentice and not one of the masters.”
She’s pretty harsh.
Dylan Shiel missed a couple of running goals in succession – get used to it Essendon fans. It’s what he does.
As Dangerfield was interviewed, and his son grabbed the mic, I was really hoping he was going to either whack his dad on the head, or go upside Abbey Holmes’ head with it. You let me down, George.
Bayley Fritsch looks like he was rejected for the male lead from the Twilight series with that hair do.
I was disappointed to see Rance and Riewoldt NOT go head to head in the first Rampage v Flyers game. Later, I was rapt to see them square off. Even though Riewoldt kicked the winner, Rance got the better of him in every contest they were opposed.
The place kick from Patrick Cripps was a highlight. Dermott Brereton would be proud! Derm wanted to use that kick in an actual AFL game in the 90s. Pretty sweet connection on the kick, too.
Speaking of Cripps, geez he looked like a complete monster out there. If a couple of the Carlton mids come on this season and can carry the load for him, could a move forward in periods be on the cards for him? He is an absolute nightmare to match up on.
Of course, when you’re Cripps, and you get isolated within 20 metres of goal, with only Eddie Betts to beat, you’re bound to look like a monster.
Great quote – “Done it well, the AFL. Kids are on the deck” – Luke Darcy on commentary as kids pile in on top of each other trying to get to the ball after a goal. I wonder how many kids came out of those pile-ups crying? It builds character, right Darc’?
Interesting to see Rance take on Dangerfield in the Bolts v Flyers game. For mine, Rance had it all over Danger, just as he did when they matched up in the Geelong-Richmond game last year. Rance actually played forward early, and looked really good, but when the heat was on, he was back doing what he does best.
At times I started wondering whether either the blue team, or the purple team should’ve opted for a clash jersey…
The scoring – I had no idea how much any kick was worth. I really don’t think the commentators did either. The amount of times I heard James Brayshaw ask how much a shot at goal was worth indicated that either he hadn’t done his homework, or that the scoring system was so convoluted that no one knew what was going on.
It's ok, though... I hadn't done my homework either.
Sometimes a score seemed to be worth a normal goal, yet up the other end, an almost identical situation was awarded more points. The system was way too ambiguous.
Daniel Rich sounds like an excitable fella as he was interviewed during the game. As Steele Sidebottom slammed home a super goal, Rich was like Hannibal Lecter – his heartrate barely even moved. He sounded like he was on Ritalin. Mr Personality...
Good to see Luke Hodge start taking it seriously in the last few minutes of the penultimate game. His defence on Marcus Bontempelli initially - tackling him to the ground - was great, but on the re-entry, he just couldn’t get there to contest with Bont, and gave away the free kick that cost his team the game.
So, the final… Rance v Riewoldt was great. Fyfe’s hands are magnificent. Riewoldt snags the winner, and Cripps is the most effective forward for the night.
A couple of other little things – Jack Higgins… I reckon his game may just elevate a level or two this season. He was having fun out there, but looked every bit the star.
The lack of tribalism, and the fabricated teams… it saps a bit of interest from the crowd. They’re basically watching teams they have zero affiliation with. Last year teams had actual representative teams. This year, whilst I get it was marketed at kids, and the team colours and logos were OK, you need to have something to barrack for. There was no passion from fans.
The bubbles that kept floating onto the field were a bit annoying…
And did Channel 7 have to inform us that each member of the commentary team had a nickname? JB, Tex, Duke and Abs… riveting.
No injuries. Look, there were periods where they could’ve occurred. Rance almost crashed into the goal post at one point, and there was a marking contest here or there where someone could’ve landed awkwardly, but that can happen at training. Everyone's worst fears were not realised.
Overall, whilst far from being a spectacle, for a bit of hit and giggle, AFLX was not bad. Not great, but not bad, but if this is the action we’re thinking of marketing to an overseas audience, we may want to reconsider.
I expect it'll be tweaked again next season. There's plenty of room to improve, but as a spectacle, it's not the worst event you'll see.
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