BEN STRATTON (Hawthorn) 15 touches, 5 marks, restricted Eddie Betts to just 2 goals
Over the past 10 years, Ben Stratton hasn’t just beaten Eddie Betts, he’s re-enacted scenes from the Shawshank Redemption onto him. 12 games, 17 goals. Saturday was no exception as Betts had no influence on the result at all. Is it the most one-sided one-on-one match up in the AFL currently?
ALEX RANCE (Richmond) Greatest full back that’s ever played sports apparently
We’re fairly certain that as part of obtaining AFL media accreditation, we’re forced to automatically put Alex Rance in any “Best Of Team” that is ever compiled. We’re not even sure how to remove him from the template if we tried. We figure we’d put him in one last time before panic sets in, largely from the desk of Jon Ralph. In fairness, gave Charlie Curnow an absolute bath until he went down with his ACL injury.
SAM REID (GWS) Now currently living in Jake Stringer’s head, rent free.
I love this bloke’s footballing story. It resembles a Disney sporting film. One of those shit ones that don’t even bother going straight to DVD, one of those lesser formats that only kids in late 90’s Singapore use, like Laser Disc. Air Bud 7: Curling Season. He ends up on a list, gets told he’s too diabetic to ever make it. Subsequently makes it. Then doesn’t make it. Has to pursue his dream in Western Sydney with a group of rag tag misfits. More diabetes. Comes back a few years later. Gets delisted. Gets a last minute reprieve after the crusty old Dean Leon finds a technicality in the list management laws requiring a last minute rookie pick up, and will probably get delisted and re-rookied again this year, pending another list management/salary cap bit of creativity/blatant cheating.
If you watched Sunday’s game….and I did, for maybe a half before realizing that it wasn’t very good, you’d have seen this bloke getting in the face of Jake Stringer at every possible occasion. Stringer, like most games where things aren’t going his way, was a non-factor with just the one goal from ten touches. Reid, as if some of the more extreme comments on Abby Gilmore’s Instagram came to life, played a massive part in shutting down Stringer. Good stuff.
JACK WATTS (Port Adelaide) 22 touches, 9 marks
After a tumultuous off-season, Watts was lucky not to be given a suspension to start the season, but was instead thrown in the deep end by coach Ken Hinkley, and forced to sink or swim if he wasn’t capable of toeing the line racked up for him by the Port Adelaide leadership team. Watts arguably played the best game of his career on the weekend against his old club. He used the ball smartly, brought his teammates into the play, and we didn’t even mind the fake tough guy act against some of his mates, with a few late hits applied here and there. Aside from the tenuous swimming and tits analogies, we just wanted to reiterate that Melbourne got spooked by Jack Watts and a handful of first gamers.
STEVEN MAY (Melbourne) Best performed Melbourne key defender on the day.
On a day where Oscar McDonald and Sam Frost pressed their credentials toward a strong Casey Demons flag defence, as Justin Westhoff made both look very ordinary, it was probably a good day for Steven May to sit in the crowd and sink frothies, pick out his favourite vantage point from the MCG stands in preparation for being rubbed out again for another stupid act in a few weeks’ time.
RYAN CLARKE (Sydney) LOLBradScott
While Jared Polec and Aaron Hall played like the money hungry mercenaries they were accused of being all pre-season, it’s probably worth noting that Ryan Clarke was traded to the Swans for pick 61, as rumour would have it, only on the basis that North were absolutely certain that Andrew Gaff was going to nominate them as his club of choice.
Clarke was quite influential in Sydney’s last quarter comeback on Saturday night to get within a kick/the umpires giving Buddy his usual week and a half to line up a set shot by comparison, and at a fraction of the cost. Well played, Sydney.
DANIEL RICH (Brisbane), 21 kicks, 2 handballs…..3 contested possessions.
In 2013, allegations emerged that Daniel Rich assaulted a wheelchair bound man after a drunken night out, wheeling him around without his consent before pelting him with leftover kebab and stealing his taxi.
It would be safe to assume that would be the moment in Rich’s life that people went near him the least in the aftermath of such shocking accusations.
Until Saturday night, when no West Coast player went within 50m of him all night, allowing Rich to have his first relevant game in years, racking up uncontested possessions at will, using those T-Rex arms to rebound off half back with arguably the best field kick in the game. I personally forgot he was still on an AFL list. Fair game though.
JACK STEVEN (St Kilda), 23 touches, 5 tackles, 10 clearances
Jack Steven took time out from his pre-season to address mental health issues, and was quickly met with the usual nuffies making up conspiracy theories about the timing of it, that they’d definitely heard from their Aunt Carol’s best mate in Accounting who still swears black and blue that Buddy’s had his third strike. Without any real fanfare, Steven quietly returned to the St Kilda line up, showing not only that mental health carries no linear timetable, but also that he is St Kilda’s only midfielder of AFL standard.
Without Steven, the Suns run away with that game and win it by a lot. A potentially embarrassing result in the context of a Suns side largely tipped to struggle to win one game, but in the greater context of the history of the St Kilda Football Club, it would have been just another Sunday. Steven ripped apart the Suns midfield, dominating the clearances at will. We wish him the best with his recovery.
DARCY PARISH (Essendon), 5 goals (Essendon VFL practice match)
If it’s one thing that starts supporters talking about sacking the coach, it’s when high draft picks aren’t played in the seniors, all whilst dominating the reserves as the seniors cop a pasting. If that’s the case, Parish’s round one omission could start a swell of momentum that sees John Worsfold removed from his role with a year remaining on the contract.
Arguing with Essendon supporters is a fruitless task at the best of times, but Conor McKenna is now in his fifth year on an AFL list and doesn’t show that much. Matt Guelfi is blue collar reliable with questionable upside. Neither are better options than Darcy Parish, even if you have to reinvent Parish off half back to fit him in.
JACK BILLINGS (St Kilda), 28 touches, 4 marks
Makes the side largely due to Christian Petracca’s performance on Saturday being poor, but not quite that bad to suggest St Kilda got it right with Paddy Concussion at #1. Similar players, Billings and Petracca. Skillful, hurt teams on the scoreboard if they’re crap enough, rack up plenty of possessions if every little thing in the universe aligns perfectly, but still not quite committed enough to put the hours in to run out a full game in the midfield.
Billings, despite plenty of talk from Saints fans about trading him in the off-season to overcome some terrible list and draft management decisions, still looks capable of a player who just suddenly gets it, and dominates the competition the same way a Gary Ablett Jnr did in 2007, he’s just playing an infinitely poorer side. Petracca by comparison, gives off early Jack Watts vibes. Happy to be thereabouts, and live off the lifestyle that being a relatively name footballer brings about, i.e drinkcards and semi-recognizable influencers off Instagram.
Dees fans, a premature discussion to have this early in the year, but would you take a late first rounder for him at the end of the year?
TAYLA HARRIS (Carlton), 10 possessions, 4 marks, 1 goal
After a week filled with abuse from overweight boomers holding fish in Facebook profile pictures, Tayla Harris stood up in a tight preliminary final, kicked her teams’ first goal and ensured that Carlton went from wooden spooners to playing in their first AFLW Grand Final. That’s definitely worth celebrating.
ALEX SEXTON (Gold Coast), 18 touches, 2 marks, 4 goals
Alex Sexton gets a spot in this team not only for his efforts at being the only competent Gold Coast forward, but also through Alex Fasolo’s performance on Thursday night all but assuring that as a free agent at the end of the year, Carlton will pay well above market value for his services. There was a great story during the off-season that several senior Carlton players were concerned at the 3 year length of the contract offered to Fasolo, subsequently forcing Carlton officials to sit down with Fasolo and present these issues to him. Fasolo reportedly replied “Yeah, one year’s fine, I’ll prove myself”.
If by proving himself as the main reason why Alex Sexton could actually afford to live in Carlton in 2020, is what he meant, Fasolo and his four possession game on Thursday night is off to a flyer.
CAM MCCARTHY (Fremantle), 20 touches, 5 marks, 5 goals
Cam McCarthy celebrated the arrival of a far more looser unit on the Fremantle list as Cam McCarthy only knows how to. Kicking a bag of goals against an eventual bottom 4 side. McCarthy kicked 14 of his 19 goals last year against teams that didn’t play finals, and will be better for the chop-out Hogan provides on and off the field.
ESAVA RATUGOLEA (Geelong), 5 touches
The Sydney Olympics were memorable for many reasons, not more so than Eric “The Eel” Moussambani setting an Equatoguinean national record for his time in the 100m freestyle in the first time he’d even seen an Olympic-sized swimming pool before, let alone swam in one. We think Esava Ratugolea’s efforts in accumulating 5 touches in a game where we assume he’d never seen a Sherrin before is equally worthy of praise.
TOM LYNCH (Richmond), 4 kicks, 3 goals
Tom Lynch, despite having a crippling, possibly career ending PCL injury the likes of which not seen since the days of John Coleman, was helped out of a hospital bed by terminally ill orphans onto the MCG to play for his not-supported-as-a-child-team, kick 3 goals from 4 kicks, end up on a missing person’s list for 3 quarters, and yet still outperformed any other Carlton forward on the night. If that isn’t reason to have him put in a car and paraded around the MCG in the arms of Ted Whitten Jnr as Mariah Carey’s “Hero” blares over the loud speakers before Thursday’s nights Preliminary Final replay, I’m not sure what is.
RHYS STANLEY (Geelong), 18 touches, 4 marks, 23 hitouts, Brodie Grundy’s soul.
Did you know that Brodie Grundy is the best ruckman in the league, and his coach Nathan Buckley rates him as the best player in the competition, and that he could be a Brownlow medal chance this season, or be the difference between Collingwood winning a Premiership or not, whilst single handedly revolutionizing how we see the modern ruckman?
If you listened to Channel 7’s coverage on Friday night, you would have heard it a few thousand times. And you would have rarely heard the name of Rhys Stanley, who absolutely torched him. Eternally frustrating that 7’s coverage clearly has a mandate to only talk about DA BIG NAMES or DA STARZ, as if there are only 3-4 players out there, and the rest may as well be carting water bottles around. It lets callers be lazy with their research, and it shows.
TIM KELLY (West Coast’s best midfielder in 2020), 31 touches
If you think Visy are going to back up a truck of recycled $50 notes on Alex Sexton’s front door, you should see what the Western Australian government are currently doing to push the corpse of the mining boom along for 12 more months to provide an adequate deal for Tim Kelly and his family (so cruelly neglected by Geelong. Just ask his better half).
West Coast’s premiership winning midfield got obliterated on Saturday night, Dom Sheed aside, looking extremely one paced. The current deal of a few illegitimate children of Gina Rinehart, and a fracking operation in the middle of Geelong Dimmeys will need to be improved now that Kelly looms as no longer the icing on the cake, but a crucial ingredient lacking from the current cake. I like cake.
STEPHEN CONIGLIO (The guy West Coast should probably make as their best midfielder instead in 2020), 31 touches, 3 goals, 7 tackles. 7 clearances
Dylan Shiel went and took the worst of four options for his career in the off-season, Hawthorn decided that they can get Tom Scully’s shattered leg from a status of “Could probably get a disability pension without too much trouble” back to “Best two-way midfielder in the AFL”, and look like they might just pull it off. Callan Ward missed his first game since the birth of Federation. So of course, Coniglio steps in and tears Essendon to shreds by himself.
Make no mistake, Coniglio is the best player available in free agency this year by a long way. Why on Earth would either West Australian team put all their eggs in the Tim Kelly basket, if this bloke is a chance to be available to go home? Given Mrs Kelly’s remarks about the lack of support received from Geelong over the past year, its safe to say that the relationship between player/player’s family and club is frayed at best.
Is it worth a gamble to suggest that if the relationship at Geelong is beyond repair by season’s end, Kelly’s value is significantly less if you’re only competing against the Dockers, who he only seems mildly interested in? “Here Tim, you’re worth 750k, here’s 400k, take it or leave it, there’s always Fremantle”.
Coniglio in that West Coast lineup represents a possibility of a dynasty. I don’t get that impression from Kelly.
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