What the hell? Bin the tank talk

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    Did we step into some sort of football twilight zone this week? How else to explain some of the fierce, fervent and dare we say, fake, debates that suddenly seemed to engulf the football industry over the past few days.

    Issues that no-one even knew they cared about, like tanking, draft structure, fixture changes, and entire competition overhaul into conferences have dominated the TV talk shows, radio airwaves and social media, with breathless hot takes and opinions thrown around like confetti.

    But let’s just slow down a bit. Does anyone in the public actually care? Or are they just pretending because they’ve been told to? Where has this all come from?

    It is a panic and frenzy constructed to fix something that isn’t remotely broken, the latest in a long line of media-only issues. They are created to cure mid-season media ADHD, because the game itself, on the ground, is not enough for them, and they’re incapable of anything more than “fingernail-deep analysis” as Ross Lyon likes to call it.

    Some of the conversations belong in the plotline of the next Alice in Wonderland, as journalist after ex-player wanders down the rabbit-hole with their rampant ideas for change.

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    Is so-called tanking even really an issue? A lot of club supporters like the idea of a higher draft pick, but if their side is a poor one, they’re going to get that anyway. Does it really matter if it’s two, three or four?

    Ask delirious Carlton fans in the aftermath of their last-gasp win over Port if they’d be happier sacrificing those emotions for a higher position in a draft taking place six months down the track, to procure a player who may or may not have an impact at the club.

    Ask those Blues supporters if they’d like to be stripped of the hope that Brendon Bolton has injected into every crevice of Princes Park that has followed five wins in six weeks, including a sterling victory over Geelong with two men down. Football is still about grit, tenacity and heart. Emotion as much as business.

    Does anyone doubt that Bolton and list manager Steven Silvagni are going to make good decisions for the future, once they are dealt their draft hand? That they’ll trade and draft with prudence and acumen, with the medium and long-term health of the club front of mind? And that it will be done so with the confidence and buoyancy of a winning culture and indomitable spirit being implemented?

    Essendon and Fremantle are apparently playing for the number one draft pick this week. Will the winner be roundly disgraced and ridiculed? Or is it more likely that fans, players and club officials will celebrate after two months of lonely losses?

    A handful of players may play in their first ever AFL win on the weekend. Do they deserve to have such a special memory sullied over a non-issue?

    Yes, when clubs are out of finals contention they send players off early for end-of-season surgeries if they are required. Yes, they choose younger and inexperienced players to get a look at them under AFL heat.

    This isn’t tanking, and anyone that calls it that is guilty of willful ignorance. It is nothing more than good business, and savvy list management.

    Then we have to listen, bleary-eyed, to talk of draft lotteries. It should involve the bottom four only. Or the bottom six. Maybe bottom ten. It should be weighted this way. It should be structured that way. It should be held after a mid-season fixture re-structure.

    But any change that is going to be weighted towards the bottom team, right? So if a club is going to ‘tank’ to get a certain number one pick in the current system, they’ll still do so when they are mathematically favoured to get it.

    And in the event of a set of teams playing off for the number one pick, a club could still make a business decision to drop from struggling in a middle tier to dominate a lower one.

    I’ve got an idea. It’s radical, but hear me out.

    If you’re the worst team in the league and finish 18th, you should get the number one draft pick. If you’re the second-worst team in the league and finish 17th, you should get the number two draft pick. If you’re the third-worst team in the league and finish 16th, you should – wait for it – get the number three draft pick.

    This would go all the way down until the premiership team gets the number one pick.

    Then, and this is where it gets really tricky, the 18th-ranked team gets to pick again, and so on and so forth.

    Now, that is a fair system. It is reasonable. It is proportional. It is practical.

    The only thing it doesn’t have is enough bells and whistles to satisfy the bored dullards for whom the simple things in life are never enough, intent on pouring energy into fixing things that aren’t broken.

    We’re not even halfway through the home-and-away season. We’re barely a third of the way through the football year. We’re witnessing the most even season of play in recent memory, and some of the most thrilling football too. Eight legitimate premiership chances. Fast play and high scoring.

    There must be better things to talk about than nonsense solutions to non-existent problems.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (83)

    • Roar Guru

      June 3rd 2016 @ 7:07am
      Camo McD said | June 3rd 2016 @ 7:07am | ! Report

      It’s funny that when teams had a chance to gain priority draft picks towards the end of the season, they seemed to always make sure they got them. Discussion probably started because Ross Lyon is cynical even for an AFL coach. If there’s a perception that there is an advantage to losing, I reckon there is a problem. A lottery should have been introduced more than a decade ago.

      ‘So if a club is going to ‘tank’ to get a certain number one pick in the current system, they’ll still do so when they are mathematically favoured to get it.’ Not sure I agree with that. Wouldn’t 16th or 17th be almost as likely to get the 1st pick anyway meaning you could actually both win late season games and still be in strong contention for the #1 pick?

      • Columnist

        June 3rd 2016 @ 9:39am
        Cameron Rose said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        Priority picks were certainly an incentive for shady practices, and they were subsequently abolished. Didn’t work out too well for Melbourne or Richmond though, albeit the Hawks and Pies did very well out of them.

        To me there’s a difference between tanking and taking advantage of a hand you’ve been dealt or a situation you find yourself in. Fremantle is that example this year.

    • June 3rd 2016 @ 8:26am
      jax said | June 3rd 2016 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      Great article Cam. I’m glad that someone is thinking rationally and has their eyes wide open.

      The media is a law unto itself. From their perspective their role is to create discussion, controversy and division. They continuously need, or should I say desire the next headline and if they don’t have one they create them. If an organisation, be it political, sporting etc wants something to happen they only need the media to start covering it and then every Tom, Dick and Harry weighs into the debate and out of thin-air a non-issue becomes the big issue. It’s a farcical treadmill of trash for the most part.

      The AFL and media should be trying to fix the compromised competition that we have where 18 teams play 23 games. By diverting our attention onto non-issues we remain distracted from more important issues. This is applicable to all news, not just sport and this is how the game is played. The really important stuff rarely sees the the light of day.

      Once they’ve made this change, and I suspect that they will – they will ‘need’ to change it again in a few years because weaker teams in the middle tier will be accused by the media of tanking so as to finish in the lower tier.

      • Columnist

        June 3rd 2016 @ 9:45am
        Cameron Rose said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        Thanks Jax.

        I like that breakdown of the media and our current society / sporting landscape.

        That last point is spot on. We can almost guarantee it will happen.

    • Roar Guru

      June 3rd 2016 @ 8:34am
      Paul D said | June 3rd 2016 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      I totally agree, this tank talk has been nothing short of disgraceful.

      Anyone who still thinks tanking is a good idea needs to look at the Demons, stuffed their culture for close to a decade and they’re only now just starting to recover.

      Freo aren’t tanking, they’re just bloody terrible. For a number of reasons. Sides are allowed to be bloody terrible for a number of reasons, even sides that finished near the top of the ladder last season.

      • June 3rd 2016 @ 9:39am
        andyl12 said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        Agree with your first two sentences. Hawthorn and Geelong have been the two dominant teams of the last decade, and between them they only had one No.1 draft pick (which was obtained through trading and not through finishing last). Meanwhile Carlton, Richmond and Melbourne have had umpteen No.1 picks between them and look how many flags it’s won them. Creating a winning culture is the most important thing a club can do- without that you’ll lose more good players than you gain.

        Re your third sentence, I’m still not sold either way on what Freo are doing. Some Freo fans on this website seem to want the club tanking (whereas no Hawthorn fan would ever have wanted their club to do it), and some of Lyon’s tactics this year give the impression of a coach that doesn’t want to win. But on the other hand, Freo were always going to fall to some extent this year- their form for the last two months of 2015 was that of a side barely hanging on.

        • Columnist

          June 3rd 2016 @ 9:48am
          Cameron Rose said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:48am | ! Report

          Good comparison of those sides with number one draft picks against those that haven’t, even if the Cats did benefit from father-son, which I’m in favour of, by the way. Anything that can solidify a clubs heritage and links to the past is a good thing.

          I think Ross wants to win, but he wants to win with players doing the right thing, and doing it his way. You only had to see him emotion at quarter-time against St Kilda and the response from the players. They want to win alright.

        • June 3rd 2016 @ 9:53am
          johno said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:53am | ! Report

          you mean no Hawthorn fan would want their club to do what they did in 2004 again in order to get priority draft picks even though they only just missed finals the year before …..

          • June 3rd 2016 @ 10:06am
            andyl12 said | June 3rd 2016 @ 10:06am | ! Report

            Johno- name one game in 2004 where you think we tanked.

            • Roar Guru

              June 3rd 2016 @ 10:36am
              Paul D said | June 3rd 2016 @ 10:36am | ! Report

              You tried your best in the second last round, but unfortunately you were up against the masters of tanking, Richmond FC. Had to console yourselves with second last, instead of dead last.

              Not that it mattered, because after priorities were all said and done, every man and his dog knows Richmond used the first pick to draft Richard Tambling and the Hawks then picked up Buddy Franklin.

            • June 3rd 2016 @ 10:40am
              johno said | June 3rd 2016 @ 10:40am | ! Report

              Just saying that in 2004 pre-season the Hawks were fancies to make the top 4, Schwab foolishly came out and said they were aiming for the premiership. then won only 1 game from rounds 2 – 18 (surprisingly the only win was the AFL sponsored one against Freo in Tassie). That was a massive fall from 2003.

              The similarities between that season and Freo’s current are strong. Lost your Brownlow medalist for the season due to injury, a few senior players staying on a year too far (according to some punters) and a lot of good young players were in their second season – Hodge, Mitchell.

              Talk of Freo tanking and their fans wanting them to tank is similar to saying that’s what the Hawks did in 2004 once the season got away from them

              • June 3rd 2016 @ 1:32pm
                andyl12 said | June 3rd 2016 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

                “the AFL sponsored one against Freo in Tassie”

                Comments like that make you hard to take you seriously, but I’ll reply anyway.

                Regardless of where we’d finished in 2003, our problems in 2004 were largely the result of Schwab being a soft coach who granted his players too much latitude. He commanded no authority and knew no way of punishing the players when they lost. By 2004 the rot had set in (nobody ever believed his pre-season claim that we’d win the flag) and, given that numerous other Hawthorn greats were eager for a new coaching role, the players were no longer playing for Schwab.

                Schwab left with 5 rounds to go and a caretaker took over, achieving mostly respectable results that showed the players were in no mood to tank. But the real irony came after that- Wallace and Eade both overlooked Hawthorn because they thought other clubs were more stable and had better lists, then we ended up with Clarkson and everyone saw that as proof we were a rabble.

                The rest, as they say, is history.

        • June 3rd 2016 @ 10:15am
          Don Freo said | June 3rd 2016 @ 10:15am | ! Report

          Not one Freo fan has stated a desire to tank. Care to repost one, Andy?

          • June 3rd 2016 @ 1:40pm
            michael RVC said | June 3rd 2016 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

            Andy, you’ve come up with a rationalisation/set of excuses, but as Johno says, Hawthorn of 2004 looks a lot like Freo of 2016. Sometime after this season, someone will come up with a rational explanation for Freo’s result, no difference. If you say Hawks never thought about tanking in 2004, fair enough, but it just sounds “holier than thu” to me. I could suggest you’re just be a negative opportunist by infering that Freo are.

            • June 3rd 2016 @ 1:56pm
              andyl12 said | June 3rd 2016 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

              I didn’t infer that Freo were tanking, I said I didn’t know for sure one way or the other.

              There is a difference, you know.

              • June 3rd 2016 @ 3:19pm
                jax said | June 3rd 2016 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

                Take a closer look at them then Andy. Most people can see that they aren’t tanking. Just look at their first game against the Dogs and the next few games after that.

                Did they start the season and have Pac go around again to tank?

      • June 3rd 2016 @ 9:48am
        mdso said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:48am | ! Report

        Take the five or six good players out of any AFL team and see how they fare. Then, try being Essendon’s coach with 12 or Ross Lyon.

        Freo have a number of injuries to good players and trying to shuffle a winnable team every week is a battle with all players fit and relevant.

        The media in Victoria would have to be the most insipid, uncreative, writer’s and make-up artists going around. They are so far up the AFL’s backside, they hardly ever see the light of day, so its no wonder they have so little talent.

        • June 3rd 2016 @ 9:51am
          andyl12 said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:51am | ! Report

          Hawthorn had more injuries and 2014 and won the flag. No ten-game losing streak can ever be put totally down to injuries.

          I’m sure any WA journo would agree with that.

          • June 3rd 2016 @ 9:58am
            jax said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:58am | ! Report

            It isn’t just injuries. They lost Kirk, moved Sumich into a development role, brought in Guerra and Hale, changed the game plan and probably did a few other things we don’t know about as well.

            • June 3rd 2016 @ 1:26pm
              andyl12 said | June 3rd 2016 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

              Thanks Jax, hopefully MDSO agrees.

            • June 3rd 2016 @ 4:30pm
              anon said | June 3rd 2016 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

              Isn’t Lyon paid $1 million per season and had his contract extended until 2020 to get those things right? The fact that an experience, 10 year senior coach in the AFL has made such a ham-fisted attempt at “evolving” the team’s overall strategy and game plan shows he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

              • June 4th 2016 @ 1:45am
                jax said | June 4th 2016 @ 1:45am | ! Report

                You might be right. I’m not defending him. I wouldn’t have signed until the 2020. Last year I said they should have gone after Woosha on the quiet and if he accepted sack Lyon.

          • June 3rd 2016 @ 10:16am
            Don Freo said | June 3rd 2016 @ 10:16am | ! Report

            They didn’t.

        • June 3rd 2016 @ 4:32pm
          anon said | June 3rd 2016 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

          Round 1: Near full strength team could only manage 1 goal in the first half against the Bulldogs.

          Round 2″ Full strength team against a horrible Gold Coast side at Subiaco, found themselves down 5 goals at half time with no answer to Gold Coast’s onslaught.

    • June 3rd 2016 @ 8:48am
      Pumping Dougie said | June 3rd 2016 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      This tanking issue was always going to return and blight media discussions once the compromised drafts for the expansion teams ended.

      For that reason alone (i.e. ‘Perception’) it needs to be remedied.

      Ross Lyon’s tactical, smug, unapologetic, approach (I’ve got a 5 year contract) is exacerbating the problem. This is the earliest season ever that we’ve seen a team put the queue in the rack. It’s unhealthy for the game’s image.

      Guaranteed Worsfold will be hoping to win this week and Lyon won’t care either way.

      Yes the football and top 8 evenness is excellent this year (I understand your disdain for this topic grabbing media attention) and yes, hopefully clubs have learnt that to go down the Carlton-Melbourne path of tanking ingrains an unhealthy club culture, but Lyon’s blatant “I don’t care about this year” as early as round 5, coming from last year’s top home-and-away side, is rubbing the issue of tanking right in the AFL’s face.

      To ignore it is to ignore the elephant on the oval.

      • Roar Guru

        June 3rd 2016 @ 9:33am
        Paul D said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        Rushing through changes to the draft because Ross Lyon looks smug and unapologetic is no different to changing the shot clock because Mason Wood stood with his hands on his hips. Purely aesthetic objections.

        What do you want Ross to do? Look more disappointed on camera? Show more visible anguish?

        • Columnist

          June 3rd 2016 @ 9:51am
          Cameron Rose said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:51am | ! Report

          I don’t agree with your assessment of Ross Lyon, Dougie. I love the way he handles himself, particularly in the aftermath of losses, and as this season has gone on. He doesn’t buy into the media bulldust, he doesn’t play their game, and now they’re trying to come for him.

          I personally don’t believe there is a perception problem, I think it’s a media-fuelled storm that no-one would be talking about if it wasn’t for them.

          We’re always going to have teams that fall badly from one year to the next, we’re always going to have teams that rise suddenly from one year to the next. We’re always going to have teams down the bottom playing bad football. It’s as simple as that.

          • June 3rd 2016 @ 11:10am
            Balthazar said | June 3rd 2016 @ 11:10am | ! Report

            Ross doesn’t suffer fools gladly, rightly or wrongly. There’s a lot of journalists engaging in schadenfreude ATM (particularly in the West) and I think they’re getting angrier and angrier because he still won’t indulge them. It’s amusing – like the frothing at the mouth of certain posters on here who I can only assume had multiple dogs run over by Ross as he drove to Seaford.
            Freo isn’t tanking, the coach is using the year to experiment a bit (as you say, using the hand he has been dealt). Some of them are working e.g. the fluke that Crozier might actually be a better half back than a forward. Some aren’t and some kids can’t run out a game.
            Next year, I expect them to perform better, with their A graders back from injury and a significant changing of the guard with the list. And the same idiots will use that as some form of “proof” of tanking.

            • Roar Guru

              June 3rd 2016 @ 11:40am
              Paul D said | June 3rd 2016 @ 11:40am | ! Report

              “like the frothing at the mouth of certain posters on here who I can only assume had multiple dogs run over by Ross as he drove to Seaford.”

              Given the visceral hatred some posters here seem to have – hello anon – I had a mental image of dead dogs heaped up in mountains like so many kangaroos on a country highway.

              Great line, and great summation.

            • June 3rd 2016 @ 4:26pm
              anon said | June 3rd 2016 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

              “Freo isn’t tanking, the coach is using the year to experiment a bit (as you say, using the hand he has been dealt). Some of them are working e.g. the fluke that Crozier might actually be a better half back than a forward. Some aren’t and some kids can’t run out a game.”

              Freo aren’t 0-10 because of experimenting. He drops his c-graders like Dawson, Sutcliffe, Clarke, for a week then brings them back for the next game. He’s not actually committing to playing young players. Last week’s team still contained two-thirds of the guys playing regularly last season. That’s despite all the injuries.

              The fact is when Freo had a near full strength team in round 1 they were uncompetitive against the Bulldogs. Only 1 goal by half time. When Freo had a FULL STRENGTH team at Subiaco against the horrible Gold Coast that can’t travel, Freo still found themselves down 5 goals at half time with seemingly no answer to the Gold Coast onslaught.

              Lyon’s team is simply plain awful, whether full strength or not.

              • June 3rd 2016 @ 6:03pm
                Don Freo said | June 3rd 2016 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

                “Last week’s team still contained two-thirds of the guys playing regularly last season. That’s despite all the injuries.”

                So, anon, you’d suggest he plays the injured players instead?

      • June 3rd 2016 @ 4:15pm
        Batman said | June 3rd 2016 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

        I agree, it is an issue and Lyons disregard for this season has exacerbated the problem.
        Players DONOT tank but clubs DO.

        “It is nothing more than good business” This belief is not acceptable as AFL fans deserve to see all teams competing at their best, not preparing for next year. This is why tanking is outlawed although Clubs are clever enough to avoid being caught.

        While the lottery doesn’t solve all issues the fundamental problem with the draft is that it rewards failure so improvements are a good idea.

        • Columnist

          June 4th 2016 @ 9:30am
          Cameron Rose said | June 4th 2016 @ 9:30am | ! Report

          I believe AFL fans do see all teams competing at their best, in terms of the 22 that take the field. That’s all you can ask.

          The strategy around picking that 22 is good business for a side down the bottom in the second half of the season. It’s not as if Freo are going to play Walters, Neale, Mundy, etc in the WAFL. Lyon will play with the side around the margins to see who can take the club forward, hopefully for a quick rise up the ladder.

    • June 3rd 2016 @ 8:57am
      John said | June 3rd 2016 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      The real issue is that these days there are so many people employed in the media to comment on AFL, however rarely do we get any new fresh stories.

      All these media journalists trying to remain relevant. So every year we get the same stories rehashed tanking being a favourite.

      • Columnist

        June 3rd 2016 @ 9:52am
        Cameron Rose said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        It’s a good call John.

      • June 3rd 2016 @ 9:56am
        johno said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        Yep – pretty soon we’ll have the “I can’t believe Freo made these trades back in the day ….OMG how did they not draft McLeod, Farmer, Matthew Lloyd….”

        rinse and repeat come middle of the year when suddenly 6-8 teams become irrelevant for the finals race.

        Followed by the “Sack Hardwick, Lyon, Leppitsch, Buckley and Eade” artciles (change the names for the clubs down the bottom each season). Ken Hinkley’s got one more year of missing finals before his name will get added

      • June 3rd 2016 @ 10:28am
        Don Freo said | June 3rd 2016 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        It does highlight what a good panel chair Garry Lyon was. He would pull the rug from under Hutchy and Caro…and, to a lesser extent Barrett…when they got into sillyville but now they feed off each other.

        In between the dross, there are some good ones. Hamish and Brayshaw are good too with moving it on. It is the print journos, when they get a gig on radio or TV, that manufacture these things. They turn footy into a cartoon.

        I share your sentiments throughout this article, Cam. Love your disdainful tone.

        • Columnist

          June 3rd 2016 @ 12:43pm
          Cameron Rose said | June 3rd 2016 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

          Thanks Don, and you make a good point about the print journo’s, especially when they get some oxygen elsewhere.

    • Columnist

      June 3rd 2016 @ 9:13am
      Ryan Buckland said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:13am | ! Report


      This week has been a News Ltd special; they’ve pushed all of these stories. You’re Lyon quote nailed it: it’s too hard to write about football this year because things are so up in the air, so it’s off to the bells and whistles with them.

      I induldge in it, because I think it’s fun to talk about what things would mean. But the guys whom coverage of the game is their full-time job and vocation, you’d like to think they’d talk about what’s happening on field.

      The counter to that is they are money-making enterprises, and what makes money is outrage and confection.

      • June 3rd 2016 @ 9:35am
        Brinnx said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        good call

      • Columnist

        June 3rd 2016 @ 9:54am
        Cameron Rose said | June 3rd 2016 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        Nice commentary Ryan, and I’m sure we’ve got plenty of ammo to discuss on our pod this week. Sunday night we’re recording I think?

        I love what you’ve written there about the bells and whistles. The media’s inability to properly analyze the game has left them grasping for straws. What can they talk about if not contested possession and tackle counts.

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