Five things we have learned from the second round of the NAB Cup.

1. Israel Folau can have an impact in 2012

He may not have had an influence for an entire half of football, didn’t reach double figure possessions, and was part of a side that lost by the best part of thirteen goals, but Israel Folau showed that he will not be completely out of place at AFL level.

His third quarter showed what he was capable of, using his superior leap to launch his athletic frame at the ball for three contested marks, hitting the scoreboard and setting up for others as well.

Fox Footy commentator Dermot Brereton was at pains to point out that if he was to create the perfect footballer from scratch, Izzie’s build would be his model, so he’s got a head start that Karmichael Hunt lacked.

Folau will be used forward and in the ruck, and his appetite for the contest and willingness to tackle hard will hold him in good stead as he gradually adjusts to the pace and 360 degree nature of Australian Rules football at the elite level.

2. This season is going to be a war of attrition

While this could just as easily reference the growing pre-season injury list at each club, it is also apt in regards to what the most common game style will be in 2012.

Almost every side will be employing the venerated ‘press’, and with greater force than we’ve seen before. The highest premium is being placed on pressuring the ball-carrier, forcing them backwards and deeper into your own attacking zone.

What we’re seeing is 30-plus players in a confined area, bashing and crashing into each other in a game of extreme intensity pinball, applying hard-hitting tackles as each player knows that the coaches are waiting to drop someone for shirking an issue or taking a backward step.

The Collingwood v Melbourne match on Saturday night was the best example of it this week, but it was also highly prevalent in the two Sunday games, and we saw signs of it in round one as well.

Players will be taking courage to a whole new level in 2012, and we will all cheer, cringe and curse like never before.

3, Geelong aren’t going anywhere

Despite only bringing seven players from last year’s premiership side to Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast, the Cats were able to comfortably account for the Suns in a soft 49 point win. Ever since the 2007 premiership, the Cats have been steadfast in attempting to rebuild while at the top, rather than waiting to fall after a few years of success.

At the completion of their first flag of this era, they offloaded four ‘depth’ players to other clubs (Callan, Gardiner, King and Playfair), while adding to the list the likes of Harry Taylor, Tom Lonergan, and the as yet untapped ruckman Dawson Simpson.

After last year’s glory, key premiership players Brad Ottens, Cameron Mooney, Darren Milburn and skipper Cameron Ling retired, but rather than finally stopping them in their tracks, it seems that the Cats merely view this as an opportunity to unleash the next batch off their production line.

Outside of Jimmy Bartel’s game high 26 possessions, the next best were Simon Hogan, Taylor Hunt, and Cameron Guthrie, who have a combined 44 AFL games between them.

Mitch Brown looked good patrolling the forward line with a match high seven marks, Stephen Motlop will play some exciting football this year and let’s not forget that premiership ‘veteran’ of 20 games, Trent West, who will continue to grow this year as the first choice ruckman.

I defy anyone to suggest that Joel Selwood will not be a premiership captain before his time is up, but it just may happen sooner than anyone expects.

4. Mark Neeld has injected some steel in the Melbourne Football Club

Neeld’s first statement as coach of the Demons was that he wanted to be ‘hard to play against’. He followed with the usual talk of hardness at the ball, uncompromising attack, not taking a backward step, etc. But then every new coach speaks from the same page of ‘contested footy’ and the like.

However, the words of the man who learned much of his craft under Mick Malthouse seemed to ring truer than most. There was little doubt that players under him can expect a fierce glare and stern words if they don’t commit at precisely the level he wants, and he won’t be afraid to send the unwilling back to the reserves.

The Dee’s were hard at the contest in their victory against the Pies, and were playing to a level that Collingwood weren’t prepared to match. While they were probably playing at an intensity closer to what they will in the season proper than the opposition, they showed that they will indeed be hard to play against this year.

5. Media overreaction is a fundamental truism

As soon as the news broke that the St Kilda v Essendon game scheduled at Wangaratta was cancelled due to the Bombers’ inability to land after catching two planes, the moral police went on the attack.

Twitter exploded with cries for heads to roll, demands of a federal enquiry, and it was only a matter of time before people wanted Essendon expelled from the league (that last one didn’t really happen, but it wouldn’t be the worst – let’s face it, if you don’t barrack for the Bombers, you hate them).

It is harder and harder for people to accept that sometimes, things just happen.

For some reason, every mistake needs to be torn down, ripped apart and over-analysed until we find out who was to blame, what were the reasons, and the punishment that will be surely delivered. Such is the frenzied appetite for answers over minor incidents, often a public execution would not seem enough.

Yes, we all feel for the people of Wangaratta. Yes, there is a smugness inherent in Essendon flying to a ground that is under three hours drive away. And yes, the Saints should always have been awarded the match points (and subsequently were).

But haven’t we all been guilty of getting caught out by the weather? For most of us, that would be many times.

So let’s just all relax a little, and spend more time focusing on what happens on the ground, rather than worrying about what doesn’t happen off it.

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 (13)

  • March 6th 2012 @ 4:49am
    Paul said | March 6th 2012 @ 4:49am | ! Report

    Excuse me. The day before the Saints – Bombers match, even I, hear in America, had been reading weather forecasts for Wangaratta which included heavy rain, the possibility of flooding and predictions of potential evacuations on Aussie news sites. Now, if I could predict the strong possibility of travel problems in the Wangaratta area, then there has to have been someone in the Bombers organization whose IQ is a larger number than his shoe size and able to prepare alternate transportation, just in case. That alternate travel plans were not made is beyond idiotic and arrogant. There is no excuse. And any slams directed at Essendon for their high-handed arrogance and stupidity were completely deserved!

  • March 6th 2012 @ 8:03am
    D.Large said | March 6th 2012 @ 8:03am | ! Report

    The Essendon reaction or overreaction depending on your opinion is now just part of the news cycle. You can’t complain that seemingly all 876 football media people will have an opinion each more ferocious then the next and still celebrate the fact that we have a dedicated football channel, AFL360 every day, papers and websites like this trying to fill space. It is what it is.

  • Roar Guru

    March 6th 2012 @ 8:36am
    Redb said | March 6th 2012 @ 8:36am | ! Report

    Good article and spot on re the media overdose on Essendon.

  • March 6th 2012 @ 9:25am
    Rob said | March 6th 2012 @ 9:25am | ! Report

    Hard to disagree with any of those lessons.

    The war of attrition is going to play havoc with fantasy leagues this year more so than any other, and the resultant impacts will be much like in the real game, ever increasing in their importance.

    In terms of the media but I think whilst to get the most out of the season you have to accept some of it ultimately there’s so much saturation that it is always going to occur now and the quality media/shows won’t let themselves get down into the muck throwing as much as other outlets.

    Part of me is wondering if the ‘Media reaction’ lesson was just put in so this guy could stick the boots into Essendon and their supporters again!

  • March 6th 2012 @ 9:38am
    Paul T said | March 6th 2012 @ 9:38am | ! Report

    Good read Cam, I agree with you on Geelong. They have lost several big name players however seem to have the depth to cover most of them (Ling being their biggest loss by far). If I am correct they are the first team in 21 years to not have a player from another team on their list (no recycled players), Ottens and Mooney were the last 2. My beloved Demons have started this pre-season well but it has been seen so many times before, Bailey seemed to be a more friendly coach, Neeld’s approach as you stated seems to be a breathe of fresh air at the club and the players know they will not just get games on previous reputations or being a high draft pick.

  • Roar Guru

    March 6th 2012 @ 10:37am
    Lachlan said | March 6th 2012 @ 10:37am | ! Report

    1. Agree
    2. Agree
    3. maybe, it’s hard to tell
    4. Agree
    5. and agree

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