Supporters coming to terms with even-stevens season
Richmond take on Geelong at Simonds Stadium (Slattery Images)
It has been a beguiling and exciting first half to the season. It’s being called the season of upsets but the supporters are starting to realise there is no such thing.
There has been a welcome shift in the power balance, as teams have continued to improve from last year (West Coast, Essendon), sides thought to be fading away have been reinvigorated (Sydney and St Kilda), others have come from nowhere to assert themselves (Adelaide, Richmond), and previously dominant teams are perhaps beginning the gentle slide (Geelong, Hawthorn).
Hence, only three games separate first and tenth positions on the ladder.
For avid supporters the chaotic first eleven rounds have been an emotional roller coaster. Time and again a side has either confirmed its premiership favouritism or looked to have made the step from also-ran to genuine contender only to have its hopes ripped apart shortly afterwards.
Hawthorn was looking pretty after defeating grand finalist Collingwood in the first round but has since lost to Geelong, West Coast, Sydney and Richmond. Carlton annihilated the Pies but has now lost six of its past nine matches.
Essendon – who had been superb, dropping only one game in the first nine weeks – went down to lowly Melbourne in the rain, and then lost to Sydney.
Last week it was Richmond’s turn. Richmond hasn’t won a premiership for 33 years. It’s been so long now you couldn’t blame the supporters for thinking it won’t be a dominant force again in their lifetime.
But then it thrashed Hawthorn and followed that up with a tough victory against St Kilda.
The roar from the Richmond faithful singing the famous song caused Mick Malthouse to quiver with nostalgia: “And I’ve got to say I’ve got a few goosebumps up the back of my spine. I just love to see the Tigers supporters. They’ve been down for so long and they’ve stuck.
They’re just lapping this up”.
The next week those same supporters were seen snarling at the umpires when it became apparent they were going to lose to the MCG easy-beats, Fremantle.
After the siren a forlorn group of them was staring from the wet terraces as a lone Dockers supporter jumped for joy in the rain.
The Roar’s unofficial AFL historian, The Cattery, recently commented on the use of a clock face as a metaphor for the developmental cycle of a successful team, with the hour representing the beginning and the half-hour the time for reaping premiership rewards.
For the first time, for quite some time, it appears there are a number of teams milling about near the bottom of the clock.
Despite the invigorating eveness of the competition there does exist at present one exception: Collingwood. Now while I don’t believe they are as good as they were in the previous two seasons they have won eight straight which is an unbelievable achievement in such a chaotic season, especially considering the club’s long list of injuries.
They haven’t blown too many teams away – as evidenced by their relatively low percentage – but have relied on an assuredness under pressure and great player depth to keep winning.
I still believe the 2012 Premier will be one of the Big Four: Collingwood, Hawthorn, West Coast and Geelong.
Next year, though, we might finally see the arrival of some new premiership contenders.