No one knows what is going to happen this season. Don’t let them tell you they do.
Mid-January is a strange time to exist as a football fan.
We are not quite far enough into preseason to get truly excited, but neither is it far away to let cricket entirely occupy that space in our minds devoted to sport – which, if you’re like me, is an ever-dynamic setting between 70 to 98 percent at any given time.
Team lists are set, time trials complete, draftees have gone back to being minuscule fish in overwhelmingly big oceans and football reporters pass time by publishing a disturbing number of ‘listicles’ that still somehow, despite his retirement, almost always feature Dane Swan.
But this mid-Jan crisis, sometimes exemplified by all of the same symptoms as the more popular mid-life crisis, feels particularly bizarre. For the first time in recent history, despite what they will tell you, absolutely no one knows what this season is going to look like.
AFL, the most statistic-heavy professional sporting league in the world, can be analysed until those tiny blood vessels in your eyes spontaneously-combust.
But for all the possessions, the contests, inside 50s and hard ball gets, these statistics cannot override the effect that was, and is the Western Bulldogs premiership.
From seventh to winning the big dance, a team resilient in light of the loss of their spiritual leader Robert Murphy, the Doggies have single-handedly made every statistic, season record guide, every expert, and absolutely everything written in The Herald Sun, redundant. Although that last bit may have been the case for a while now.
GWS Giants, coming off an incredible 2016 season, have a list so talent-stacked that other clubs now recruit from their reserves! The Giant’s chances in 2017 really should be dominating the football-obsessed Victorian media. And yet, no one wants to call 2017 yet.
Much maligned St Kilda and Melbourne members now have a spring in their step around the Yarra, having suffered significantly in a way only old clubs can while membership numbers across underdog teams have soared in the off-season. These clubs now believe, if the Bulldogs can do it, why not us?
Suddenly, we remember why we love footy.
While our teams haven’t played finals in years, have an injury list longer than the playing squad, and just don’t get it between the sticks anywhere as much as we would like, we remember the Doggies.
Because maybe, just maybe.
The 23rd of March can’t come soon enough.