1. Football in the top end is not pretty to watch.

I’m no meteorologist, but Darwin in August seems less than the ideal time for a game of Aussie Rules football. It was obvious from the beginning of Friday’s game that the ball was going to spend more time on the ground than in the air, and that overhead marks were going to be a rarity.

The Blues were wayward in front of goal, and perhaps some of the blame could be put on the conditions, although their wastefulness could’ve been more costly if it wasn’t against a Gold Coast outfit exhausted after just a four-day break. We love the idea of football in Darwin, but I do wonder if the added dew of night games is a bigger issue than the extra heat during the day? Either way, the game was messy, as was the Tigers-Bombers clash at times.

The Suns seem a spent force now after a promising start to the year. There was much to like, and losing Rowell has seemingly coincided with their fortunes. Hard to believe a first year player could possibly be the most important member of their list.

For the Blues, the daring to dream begins as a chance to make finals has slightly opened up. It’s actually debatable that nine wins will be enough to make the 8 this year, so that means Carlton need to win four of their remaining five. It’s not impossible as the draw isn’t too bad, but having followed the Blues all my life, and in particular with their recent history, I’d be keeping those aspirations on ice for now. Being starved of success for as long as they have means a tendency to blow chances as they present themselves, so whilst it’s a welcome change to still be in the mix, I’ll keep my optimism under control for now.

 

  1. The Dees fall short on the big stage.

I mentioned the Blues being starved of success in my previous discussion point. Their lack of success parallels Melbourne’s to a big degree. In the case of both teams, their best is very good, but it rarely seems to show itself when it counts the most. A few weeks back, the Blues went into the Hawthorn game as favourites and were humiliated. The Demons began Round 13 in eighth position and, based on their recent good form, many would’ve thought they would be a very good chance against the Bulldogs who have also been up and down in season 2020. Alas, after half time, an unanswered six goal blitz pretty much put an end to their prospects of taking the four points, and now Melbourne find themselves back outside the 8 and in that middle bracket jockeying for a spot for finals action. A win would’ve consolidated their position, but as is often the case, when it really counted, they just couldn’t get it done.

For the Bulldogs, Mitch Wallis is fast becoming one of the league’s better small-midsized forwards. He seems very comfortable in this position banging through another four goals on the weekend and it may be time for opposition teams to put in a plan to counter his influence. As good as Mitch was, the game was won in the middle with the group of Liberatore, Bontempelli, Macrae, Hunter and Smith who proved too strong in the clinches and a bit more efficient on the outside and going forward. Melbourne take on the Saints next week and simply can’t lose. The Bulldogs take on Geelong in what will be a very tough encounter. The final spot in the Top 8 is anything but decided.

 

  1. Port scraped through against an undermanned Hawks

Taking nothing away from the win, but it does have to be said that the Hawks did enter this game missing quite a few key players. And yes, bad kicking for goal by the Power (9.14) certainly allowed Hawthorn to stay in touch. It came down to an amazing bit of tap work in Port Adelaide’s forward line to young superstar Zak Butters with just two minutes remaining and only four points separating the teams to seal the deal with Port eventually running out winners by a slender margin of 10.

Travis Boak will be in the votes yet again, and may well be one of a few who could challenge Lachie Neale for the Brownlow. It will be interesting to see how many votes the 32 year old will poll. For the Hawks, losing O’Meara, Sicily, Frawley and Gunston from the previous week was always going to be a challenge. They performed admirably but were a little lucky to have been as close as they were. It will be interesting to see what Clarko does with the team for the remaining games.

Port Adelaide do seem to keep finding a way to win, and if you look at their remaining four games, Top Four is all but assured barring a big drop in form or serious injury concerns. Their next month looks pretty cruisy. Although, have I just uttered famous last words?

 

  1. How good was that welcome speech at the Dreamtime game!

Richard Fejo of the Larrakia Nation, take a bow.

That welcome to country speech is as good a speech as I’ve ever heard, and said with so much passion and gusto. I was seated on the couch and I wanted to stand! Well, nearly anyway, but it was fantastic. I loved it, and I felt his words. I even felt that me, an Aussie-born from Italian migrant parents, was being welcomed with open arms to Darwin and I so wished I was there. In fact, most of the time I do hear welcome to country speeches, there is a common theme. And if you’re reading this, and like so many people who get bombarded with stories and articles relating to social justice, believe me when I say that I do not like tokenism, nor do I consider myself any sort of social justice warrior. However, this was one out of the box and it touched me. It was real. There was no finger-pointing. Just a strong message of good will, and I felt it. Kudos to Richard Fejo.

The game that followed possibly didn’t reach the heights of that speech, but there were a few good moments. It looks like the Bombers have unearthed another star in Irving Mosquito. I didn’t buy the paper on Sunday, but I imagine there would have been headlines surrounding the young man with words like “buzz” and “sting” somewhere mentioned. His two goals were a highlight, and the Bombers, just like the Hawks, were kept in the game by the Tigers’ inaccuracy in front of goal who were just a class above in the end without really reaching any great heights.

Tom Lynch seems to be on angry pills and found himself fronting the tribunal for a third incident in two games. Losing him for the match against the Eagles would have been untimely. That game looms as a beauty, although the Eagles seem hard to beat these days. Essendon supporters are all scratching their head wondering where to from here. It won’t be finals this year anyway.

 

  1. The Newnes goal might cause the Dockers to miss finals…

The Dockers have hit form and are unearthing some great young talent this season. They lost their first four games of the year but were competitive, and have won five from their past eight. Their remaining five games are against GWS, Richmond, Melbourne, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. If they can maintain their current form, they could win up to four of those games and still be a slim chance to make the 8, although they do have a percentage that isn’t great. Now, just imagine where they’d be right now if the crazy events of the previous round didn’t take the game away from them. All the footy scribes would be really starting to believe the Dockers could still be a part of the finals series.

It will be interesting if it comes down to that kick resulting in them failing to gain a spot in the 8. I know there’s a lot of games ahead and plenty needs to go right, but they’ve certainly proven themselves to be much better than their 0-4 start to the season suggested.

Matty Taberner has been a key to their success. In him, they have a focal point and he has managed to score goals in every game he’s played this season. Andrew Brayshaw continues to improve, and Walters and Fyfe still have a few more years in them. The future isn’t all that bad at Fremantle.

As for Sydney, well we all know they’ve been decimated with injuries to so many key players, so this year is all but a write-off. I expect to see some new faces getting their chance in the remaining five weeks. Lance Franklin has announced he will not take part in 2020, but I guess we all knew that much already. It will be interesting to see if he can make it back in 2021.

 

  1. The Crows tried hard for Tex’s 200th Adelaide took the game up to Geelong.

At the final break, they trailed by just nine points, although there were signs that the Cats would run away with it. And that’s pretty much what happened. It was by no means an avalanche, but the three goal to no goal final term gave the Cats a comfortable 28-point victory against a much more determined Crows outfit.

Cam Guthrie continued his stellar season with another best afield performance, but the one genuine positive for me as a neutral observer was to see Jack Steven have what was his best game so far in the hoops. He managed 24 possessions and looked somewhere near back to the level of football we know he is capable of. In many ways, it’s a terrific comeback story, and hopefully he feels that he is cementing his side in the Geelong team and can look forward to playing finals footy and enjoying himself.

For the Crows, yet another loss in what seems like a winless season unfolding with just four games remaining. They get the week off then face Hawthorn. Some may see that as an opportunity, but the Hawks will have other ideas. They then take on the Giants at home, the Blues at Metricon and then finally the Tigers. Is there a win there? It’s hard to see. I guess we’re all tired of the continued speculation over Taylor Walker’s future, but the fact is in his 200th game, he only managed three possessions and battled hard but just couldn’t really get near it. I’m sure he’ll get four weeks to make one last push to find some form and a new contract.

 

  1. What is going on with Brisbane’s kicking for goal?

So often this year, the Lions have been very inaccurate in front of goal. In fact, they’re the worst performing team in the competition in terms of goals versus behinds scored at 124.159. With shots on goal they’re going at just 43.8% where the average is usually up around 60%. And out of 13 games this year, they’ve managed more goals than behinds on just five occasions.

We all know how contagious it seems to be. Even their sharp-shooters like Charlie Cameron and Eric Hipwood have got the wobbles in front of goal. On the back of five majors against the Doggies just a fortnight ago, Hipwood managed just three behinds and missed one altogether against the Saints on Sunday. It’s becoming a problem that quality sides will exploit during the finals. In fact, against the Saints, despite having seven more shots on goal, the Lions only managed to sneak home by just two points. A lot of soul-searching would’ve been the result had the game gone the other way.

Brisbane now find themselves in second place on percentage only behind the Power with a timely break in Round 14. They then face Collingwood, Gold Coast, Sydney and the Blues. The minor premiership isn’t out of the question, provided they can find their kicking boots.

The Saints will be ruing this loss. They now find themselves in a slightly precarious position with games to come against Melbourne, Hawthorn, West Coast and GWS. A loss to Melbourne would be a disaster. But I do think they are playing well enough to beat the Demons, but that also depends on which Demon team shows up. Seb Ross managed to keep Lachie Neale to just 19 possessions on Sunday. It may be one of those rare games he doesn’t poll any umpires’ votes.

 

  1. Jeremy McGovern is a machine

I think Adam Simpson summed it up best when he said at the end of the game that “Nic set it up for us, Gov saved it.” And that he did.

He was solid in defence the whole game, but in that last quarter when the fast-finishing Giants kept attacking relentlessly, he singlehandedly barricaded entry after entry with sublime intercept marks and spoils. At one stage the Eagles, led by as much as 37 points in the final term. The Giants scored the final four goals of the match and drew within two goals with two minutes still remaining. All the momentum was with them, but countless forward entries late in the game were countered by McGovern who proved to be the difference in the end.

The Giants will be buoyed by their finish. It was some of the best football they’ve played all year and it should hold them in good stead for the remainder of the season. That said, they are languishing in 11th place, but one gets the feeling they may finish with a late flurry.

West Coast had the game on their terms for most of the game, save for a few heart-flutters late. They’re still very much in prime position for a Top 4 finish, although the coming game against the Tigers will show us where both sides are at and will have a major say in how that top part of the ladder will end up. Darling is in great form at the moment. What makes the Eagles so hard to defend against is that you need two top-line big-bodied defenders to take on both of these guys. Not many sides can boast stocks that can truly address this problem. And with McGovern down back, you need to almost have a big defensive forward just to stop his dominance as well. I’m still leaning towards the Eagles for the big one right now, but I still don’t know if they actually dislike playing in Queensland or not. So where the finals are played may be a big factor.

 

  1. Scott Pendlebury is still a match-winner.

With the game in the balance at half-time, as great leaders do, in a dominant third quarter effort with 11 disposals, Pendles was able to steady the ship and set up a very important win against a gallant yet undermanned Kangaroos outfit.

It never ceases to amaze me how much time he seems to have when in possession of the ball. I’m pretty sure one time I saw him order a coffee then check out something on Facebook before he decided to move the ball on. And at 32 years of age, there are no signs that he is in decline, other than his recent injury. Fingers crossed his body can hold up, because if so, he should be around past his 35th birthday, for mine.

The Pies now take on the Blues minus Steele Sidebottom who was also very good on Monday night. The Blues won’t mind that at all, although the return of Levi Greenwood may make life a bit tough if they put him on Cripps. It’s a huge game next week. There’s a fair chance the winner plays finals and the loser might miss. It’s a big call, but the Pies still have to play Brisbane and Port in the run home.

For the Roos, they’ll look back on season 2020 with some disappointment and rue their horrid run with injury. Having five or six of your most experienced players out of your side would hurt most clubs, especially a club like North Melbourne who probably don’t have the luxury of depth some other teams enjoy. I don’t think Rhys Shaw should be judged too harshly on this season, but they really need to bring in some clever recruiting. They’ll need to improve on recent trades such as Polec, Pittard and Hall. These guys are not terrible footballers, but they were brought in on some pretty serious money for players that are solid but not elite. They were decisions I questioned at the time, and on current output, I don’t believe I was wrong to have my doubts.

 

  1. Supporters on Twitter have lost their minds.

People say Donald Trump should be taken off Twitter. I’m starting to think maybe Essendon supporters might need to be banned. Look, I know it’s not all Bombers fans, and I certainly know they’re not the only ones, but seriously, earlier this year you had some Bombers fan going after Eddie Betts with racial slurs. The latest players to be on the receiving end of threatening comments are Dylan Grimes and Tom Lynch. Dylan raised the ire of fans for what appeared to be a staged dive which resulted in a crucial free-kick that would’ve been a goal otherwise.

Meanwhile, Tom Lynch seems to be the new designated bad boy of the AFL and is copping it on a weekly basis. When is this madness going to end? Here’s a bit of a thought out of left field for you. Anyone who uses social media daily knows the level of angst lockdowns has caused in Victoria. The division between Dan Andrews’ detractors and his loyal supporter base is huge, and lifelong friendships have ended over the topic. I’ve never seen this level of vitriol being thrown back and forth, so it’s no wonder that football fans are venting their frustrations in unprecedented fashion. This, by no means, excuses it. I’m just putting out a bit of a theory as to why it’s happening, although some will probably say it has happened in the past. I’m just not sure it’s been quite this severe.

Whatever the case, where possible, if any of these people can be identified, they should be prosecuted. IP addresses can be obtained on fake accounts, so at the very least, those perpetrating these insane acts need to be put on notice that finding them isn’t totally out of the question, although the tech-savvy ones will know how to use a Russian VPN or similar. What I’d like to see happen, though, is if one is in fact located, Tom Lynch, or whoever the recipient of the hate message may be, should be allowed to visit them personally in their mother’s basement and be left alone with them for ten minutes to see how serious any threats of violence against them were. I imagine having a 200cm toned athlete next to some out of shape loner might have the desired effect and their days of sending such tweets will come to an abrupt end.