Top and bottom of the ladder still up for grabs

Vince Rugari Columnist

48 Have your say

    After the ecstatic highs of the opening round, this past weekend was turning out to be one big, fat anti-climax. Until late on Sunday afternoon, that is.

    Hawthorn and Geelong’s arm wrestle at the MCG was one for the ages, and it proved once again that you should never write off a champion.

    Widely tipped as a flag favourite this year, the Hawks looked home and hosed. After three and a half quarters of dominance, the fat lady would have been belting out the classics if Lance Franklin or Jarrad Roughead had found the target in the final quarter.

    Nine times out of ten they would have split the middle, but this wasn’t to be. Sensing an opportunity, the reigning premiers climbed off the canvas, dusted themselves off and landed what could be a killer psychological blow. Four of them, to be precise.

    The look on Alastair Clarkson’s face after the siren said it all. Geelong have a strong mental hold over Hawthorn and that needs to be broken if the Hawks are any chance in the finals.

    Could this be the loss they needed to spur them on? Probably not given their recent head-to-head record – eight consecutive defeats since the 2008 decider.

    Regardless, they will still be there at the pointy end of the season – but when they get there, they’ll find a number of other clubs alongside the Cats who’ll feel just as deserving of glory.

    If the last three weeks has told us anything, it’s that the race for the flag is wide open. Geelong and Hawthorn are surefire contenders, but Carlton, Collingwood and West Coast are all making the noises.

    In their 91-point win over Brisbane the Blues showed off their credentials in emphatic style. On paper, a midfield of Judd, Murphy, Gibbs, Simpson, Curnow and the rest reads like a premiership engine room.

    But their most bitter rivals, Collingwood, are also up and about. They meet in a blockbuster showdown on Friday that shapes as must-see viewing for fans of all clubs.

    The Pies are not yet at their strongest but like Geelong, there are too many winners on their list for them to fall away from the pack.
    Then there’s last year’s surprise packet. West Coast went from bottom in 2010 to within one game of the grand final last season, and so far this term they’ve done enough to suggest that was no fluke.

    Who’s the best out of the lot? Who knows. There’s a reason Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong and Hawthorn are joint premiership favourites, with the Eagles close behind. Not even the bookies know who to back.

    At the same time, it seems just as difficult to predict who will take home the most unwanted of gifts, the wooden spoon.

    There are two obvious candidates, and they are obvious candidates for a reason. Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney are both so far off the pace it’s not funny.

    Nobody really expected the Giants to give it a shake this year, so Easter Sunday’s brutal loss to North Melbourne came as no surprise.

    GWS earned wide praise for their performance in their inaugural match against Sydney but are still nowhere near being competitive.

    The fact that the Suns don’t look much better than them should be a matter of concern for AFL House. If anything, they are worse than GWS. They are supposed to be 12 months more advanced but the overwhelming verdict from their first two games is that they are too easily intimidated.

    Two spankings, two disgraceful first-quarter brainfades. Gold Coast simply can’t win the contested ball and the freak Gary Ablett – surely now the best player in the league – can’t do everything on his own.

    On the back of a fighting win over St Kilda and a gallant loss to Essendon, Port Adelaide – who are still trying to ditch their reputation as the joke team of the AFL – seem certain to break away from GWS and the Coast.

    Melbourne appear most likely to take their place in the doldrums and join the boys from Blacktown and the upstarts from the tourist strip in a triple threat match for the dreaded booby prize.

    If you don’t mind though, my eyes will be glued to the other end of the table.

    Vince Rugari
    Vince Rugari

    Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard of the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. A Port Adelaide fan by birth, he now is a sports reporter for Australian Associate Press

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    The Crowd Says (48)

    • April 10th 2012 @ 10:36am
      Macca said | April 10th 2012 @ 10:36am | ! Report

      Just wondering where the analysis of the GWS game is? Do we only get to hear about brave 10 goal losses and not the brilliance of a 20 plus goal thumping?

    • April 10th 2012 @ 11:51am
      Matt F said | April 10th 2012 @ 11:51am | ! Report

      I’m yet to be convinced about Carlton…..yet. The compromised drafts have meant that the gap between the top clubs, the middle clubs, and the spoon contenders is bigger then it’s been for quite a while so we need to see how they go against another Top 4 side before making any real claims yet. I’m not saying they’re not a contender, just that I want to see a real test. Thankfully they’ve got one this week against Collingwood!

      I’m pretty sure that Channel 7 just saved themselevs some money yesterday and showed us a replay of one of the other Hawks/Cats clashes over the past 3 years! The Cats clearly have a mental edge over the Hawks now. Maybe Jeff Kennet just mixed up the two teams in his comment a few years ago 🙂 and you could see as soon as the Cats scored a goal or two in the last quarter the Hawks heads dropped. Having said that, if you’d offered the Hawks 1-1 after the first two rounds, before the season they probably would have taken it.

      Did we really expect anything else from GC or GWS? A team full of kids will never be able to compete week in week out against men. GWS played out of their skins in round one, against a Swans side who were also way below par, and they still lost by 10 goals. I wasn’t too surprised that, when they drop off a bit, and their opposition brings their A-game, that they got spanked. I can see both clubs suffering these types of results for at least 3 seasons. Sure they should be ultra competitive in 5+ seasons but having a high number of draft picks is no guarantee of success (although no club has ever had as many before.) The real question is, just how bad would GC be without Ablett?

      • April 10th 2012 @ 12:03pm
        Macca said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

        Matt F – I know I didn’t expect anymore from the GWS or the SUns but plenty did, the rubbish about how good they were after being beaten by 10 goals was extraordinary.

        As for the blues, Friday night will give a much better indication but as a biased blues supporter I think they will go pretty well, Jamison & Henderson with help from laidler should hold Dawes (very overrated) and Cloke, Carltons rucks should have an advantage and the midfield won’t be a loss for the blues, it all comes down to if the blues forwards can perform and without Tarrant that jb got easier.

        As for channel 7 is it just me or do they find the most ridiculous camera angles, change the so oftern you don’t know which way the teams are going and shrinking the screen to ask inane questions on twitter is just ridiculous, plus they go on & on about who important the cnetre square clearances are but continue to show replays over the bounce.

        • Roar Guru

          April 10th 2012 @ 12:09pm
          The Cattery said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

          Well…10 goals is a lot better than 22 goals…

          • April 10th 2012 @ 1:07pm
            Macca said | April 10th 2012 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

            Yeah it is but is it at all good?

            your argument is like saying drowning is better than a heat attack.

            • Roar Guru

              April 10th 2012 @ 1:55pm
              The Cattery said | April 10th 2012 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

              …or almost drowning is better than completely drowning

              • April 10th 2012 @ 2:03pm
                Macca said | April 10th 2012 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

                They got beaten by 10 goals by a side that doesn’t smash anyone and at a venue that the swans don’t really like and you think that is almost drowning?

                If Collingwood, the blues Hawks or Cats beat them by 20 goals will that be almost drowning?

                You can polish a turd all you like but it remains a turd.

              • Roar Guru

                April 10th 2012 @ 2:10pm
                The Cattery said | April 10th 2012 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

                The top 5 teams are odds on favourites to beat the Giants by 20+ goals, including the Eagles this weekend – if the Giants keep the margin to 10 goals or less, then I’d say yes, that’s a good effort for a bunch of teenagers.

                At this point, all you can do is watch out for the emerging players – even on Sunday, as easy a win as North had, the opening 10 minutes of the 3rd qtr by the Giants was pretty good, worth watching.

                You’ve been around footy long enough to know you’ll get that with young teams, 10 minutes here and there, and they gradually have to build it to a full quarter, and then more than one quarter, etc.

                But I agree it’s a worry if the Suns are going to get smacked by 15 goals all season long – they pretty much look no better than last season – that’s a genuine worry.

                And yes, your two favourite players were hopeless on the weekend.

              • April 10th 2012 @ 2:18pm
                Macca said | April 10th 2012 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

                A side that will battle to make the 8 just beat them by 20 plus goals and had the record number of forward 50 entries and the swans aren’t a top 5 side, they will be 7th or 8th at best and don’t have the offensive strength or game plan to beat a side by 20 goals.

                I know they are young blokes and I know they will play in patches that is why I find the positive talk of them being great after a 10 goal loss absurd, and the talk of them being better than the Suns ludicrous.

                They suns are going to be easily beaten all year becuase the bulk of their side are still 19 and being asked to play leading roles and GWS will lose very big next year because if you thnk about it Brogan, McDonald, Power & Cornes are all on their last legs and GWS don’t have anAblett to get 40 plus possessions each week.

              • April 10th 2012 @ 2:30pm
                Nathan of Perth said | April 10th 2012 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

                Just checked the betting lines on the Eagles Giants game – they’ve suspended betting on the Eagles …

              • April 10th 2012 @ 4:34pm
                Matt F said | April 10th 2012 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

                They’re obviously trying to find a way to set the Eagles odds at less then $1.01 🙂

            • April 11th 2012 @ 2:20am
              amazonfan said | April 11th 2012 @ 2:20am | ! Report

              I would prefer to suffer a heart attack than to drown.

              Anyway, I think the reality is that considering that such losses were inevitable, we need to find some hope in them. Otherwise, not only will it be a long couple of years, but the players and the supporter base will be extremely discouraged.

              • April 11th 2012 @ 9:06am
                Macca said | April 11th 2012 @ 9:06am | ! Report

                Why do we “need” to find hope, why not just view the results for what they are rather than delude ourselves?

                It was always going to be a long couple of years, if the players and supporters thought anyhting else they were extrememly foolish.

        • April 11th 2012 @ 10:54pm
          Bevan Otway said | April 11th 2012 @ 10:54pm | ! Report

          Excuse me, I am a first time reader of this site and well as a expert, Vince you should re evaluate that, Tag you have as the game your referred to occurred on Monday (Hawks and Cats) as I said a expert would at least be able to read a calendar,

      • Roar Guru

        April 10th 2012 @ 12:09pm
        Redb said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

        I hate Carlton as much as the next fan but they are the real deal this year and will beat Collingwood on Friday night.

        • April 10th 2012 @ 12:21pm
          Matt F said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

          They very well could. I’m leaning towards tipping them myself. I certainly won’t be ruling Carlton out of my list of contenders I just want to see them beat a genuine contender before jumping up and down about them. Big wins over Richmond and Brisbane one thing, but neither of those are going to be anywhere the Top 4, and probably not even the Top 8.

          • Roar Guru

            April 10th 2012 @ 2:26pm
            Redb said | April 10th 2012 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

            I dont think the Tigers or Lions are easy beats. Carlton are ruthless this year, Collingwood look fragile to me.

            • April 10th 2012 @ 2:33pm
              Macca said | April 10th 2012 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

              Collingwood last season and so far this year have played a lot of ordinary footy with a fifteen minute burst of 5-10 goals to get the win.

              And neither side may be easy beats but they aren’t going to cause the top 5 much concern either.

              • Roar Guru

                April 10th 2012 @ 4:38pm
                Redb said | April 10th 2012 @ 4:38pm | ! Report

                No they are not. However the Lions were competitive in the first half then got blown away by 90 points – that is ruthless premiership like football from a team that is hungry and on the up.

                I’m framing Geelong, Carlton or West Coast for Grand Finalists, but its a long season. Collingwood and Hawthorn are clearly going to be thereabouts come September. Maybe Adelaide, Fremantle, Essendon, Nth Melb and Sydney to fill out the 8.

                Saints, Tigers, Bulldogs, Lions and Port in the next tier.

                Suns, Giants & Dees rock bottom.

              • April 10th 2012 @ 4:51pm
                Macca said | April 10th 2012 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

                The Lions kicked 6 or 7 goals in the first quarter but didn’t take a mark inside 50, they were fighting hard but they couldn’t keep holding back the tide forever

            • April 10th 2012 @ 4:32pm
              Matt F said | April 10th 2012 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

              They’re not easy beats in the sense that everybody in the competition will demolish them. That belongs to GC and GWS (maybe even Melbourne.) However the gap between the top 5 clubs and the rest is massive. I would expect the top 4-5 teaqms to dispatch Richmond and Bribane quite comfortably this season. Maybe not by 90 points but I don’t seeeither of those two teams really troubling the top few sides (if the top sides are near 100%)

              Carltons win over Brisbane was fantastic, and I give them every chance against Collingwood on Friday. I’d just like to see them really produce the goods against another contender before jumping on the bandwagon, so to speak. They were clearly behind Geelong, Collingwood and Hawthorn last year and a bit behind WC as well. It’s not until they actually play those teams that we’ll know for sure if they’ve really closed the gap.

        • Roar Guru

          April 10th 2012 @ 1:56pm
          The Cattery said | April 10th 2012 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

          Carlton is one of the few teams to boast a midfield that can match that of the pies. Murphy had an incredible 20 contested possessions on the weekend.

          • April 10th 2012 @ 2:06pm
            Macca said | April 10th 2012 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

            I think the pies midfield is a bit over rated to be honest, Pendlebury is all class, Swan isn’t as damaging as he is made out to be and shouldn’t have got within a bulls roar of the brownlow last year, Ball is a blue collar worker and Thomas sits out and waits for Swans 20m kicks.

            Hawthorn, Geelong & Carlton all have better midfields.

            • Roar Guru

              April 10th 2012 @ 2:12pm
              The Cattery said | April 10th 2012 @ 2:12pm | ! Report

              Agree with Geelong and Carlton, but with Hawthorn, hmmm, touch and go.

              • April 10th 2012 @ 2:23pm
                Macca said | April 10th 2012 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

                Lewis, Hodge, Mitchell, Sewell, Rioli, Franklin, Burgoyne & Smith would stack up against the pies very well.
                Who do the pies have outside of Swan Pendlebury Thomas Ball & Wellingham, who is their stopper?

            • Roar Guru

              April 10th 2012 @ 4:40pm
              Redb said | April 10th 2012 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

              Dont forget West Coast’s midfield especially a wee bloke called Nic Naitinui.

              • April 10th 2012 @ 4:52pm
                Macca said | April 10th 2012 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

                Yeah I was going to include the eagles but honestly I don’t see enough of them to think of who they have in there. they definitely have a massive advantage in the ruck and if Gaff, Selwood & Masten keep improving they might well be better than the pies if you count rucks as midfielders.

              • April 10th 2012 @ 6:12pm
                Nathan of Perth said | April 10th 2012 @ 6:12pm | ! Report

                And Shuuuuuuuuuey

    • April 10th 2012 @ 11:54am
      Chris said | April 10th 2012 @ 11:54am | ! Report

      And on the evidence so far, Melbourne aren’t much better than the Suns and Giants.

      But really, we need to wait unitl round five or six to get a real understanding about where most teams are this season.

    • Roar Guru

      April 10th 2012 @ 12:04pm
      Redb said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

      How lucky are North Melbourne, gifted two games each against the Suns & Giants. Thats 2 wins above anyone else in the middle rung.

      • April 10th 2012 @ 12:22pm
        Matt F said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

        Adelaide have this luxury as well I think

    • Roar Guru

      April 10th 2012 @ 12:16pm
      The_Wookie said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

      Just 6000 short of a record attendance for round 2 (set in 2010) but ahead of 2011 with 311,000 through the gate. Ratings came in at 4,041,000 a record for round 2, and would have beaten any other round except last week. Foxfooty remained the top subscrption TV channell for the second week running. The AFl is going quite well at that level this year.

      • April 10th 2012 @ 1:48pm
        TW said | April 10th 2012 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

        Talking about the media for our game – Here is a very interesting interview by the ABC on the topic of the newly formed AFL Media company and a video interview of the Herald Sun charging dollars for AFL news.
        I watched this last night and was intrigued by how the AFL is moving to control its own media destiny more and more.

        • Roar Guru

          April 10th 2012 @ 2:06pm
          The Cattery said | April 10th 2012 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

          thanks for the link – I had heard about the media watch program, but hadn’t caught it yet, fascinating stuff.

          The HS is the first tabloid in the world to attempt to put its online content behind a paywall – pretty much on the back of footy, and the Supercoach game in particular – unbelievable stuff!!

        • Columnist

          April 10th 2012 @ 2:07pm
          Vince Rugari said | April 10th 2012 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

          This was fantastic to watch last night

      • Roar Guru

        April 10th 2012 @ 2:24pm
        Redb said | April 10th 2012 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

        Hawks v Cats rated 334K on Foxtel. I think a shortened version NAB Cup game rated higher @376K (suns v swans in 2011) but that is easily the highest Foxtel rating for a full strength home & away AFL game.

        Just goes to show what happens when the better games hit Foxtel. Not a stretch to say some RL states viewers amongst that number. 267K watched Coll v Haw a week ago on Friday night.

        • Roar Guru

          April 10th 2012 @ 2:48pm
          The_Wookie said | April 10th 2012 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

          91k for Pies v Tigers was a bit of a surprise

        • Roar Guru

          April 10th 2012 @ 3:43pm
          Redb said | April 10th 2012 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

          Re pies v tigers , two games on at once diltued the audience and a fairly flat game from all accounts. Sat night is generally not a great rating night expecially when a fair proportion are out of town due to Easter.

          • April 10th 2012 @ 4:37pm
            Matt F said | April 10th 2012 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

            Yeah it was on at the same time as Crows/Dogs so combining the two of them would be the best way to show how many people were watching AFL at the time.

            • Roar Guru

              April 10th 2012 @ 4:42pm
              Redb said | April 10th 2012 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

              and it was on Fox Sports 1, not Fox Footy from memory. Ch 7’s coverage was also on well before the game on Sat night, i found myself sticking to them for awhile.

        • April 10th 2012 @ 3:45pm
          Jaceman said | April 10th 2012 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

          What were the FTA numbers for those games or are they out tomorrow?? 91K for the pies v Tigers – was it on FTA in Melbourne as well…

          • April 10th 2012 @ 5:05pm
            Matt F said | April 10th 2012 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

            FTA ratings for Saturday Night were 385k in Melbourne, which was for Pies/Tigers, 115k in Adelaide and 160k in Perth. I’m assuming that Adelaide and perth would have seen the Crows and Eagles games respectively instead.

            Can’t find FTA figures for Cats/Hawks. It’s not in the Top 20 which is up to what the list I look at covers. It would have been less then 639k nationally, though in Sydney and Brisbane it was shown on 7mate so it’s technically considered to be a seperate program in those cities.

      • April 10th 2012 @ 3:20pm
        stabpass said | April 10th 2012 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

        Get some more close games, and the records will tumble, this must be the AFL’s biggest concern, maybe these expansion clubs may have been better with the likes of some more seasoned WAFL,SANFL,VFL type players.

        • April 10th 2012 @ 4:57pm
          TW said | April 10th 2012 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

          Just read an article in todays Oz that Gold Coast relying heavily on the return of Bock etc for their next game. However the headline indicated that Bluey McKenna`s job not looking real secure – The thing is how much improvement should GC be expected to produce in 2nd year.
          Our Eagles household reckon that Scotty Waters is a better Coach than Bluey McKenna.

          • April 10th 2012 @ 5:03pm
            Macca said | April 10th 2012 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

            Mckenna just doesn’t have the cattle, but the expansive game plan he is playing will bring rewards quicker than the GWS defensive style.

      • April 10th 2012 @ 5:44pm
        Cameron said | April 10th 2012 @ 5:44pm | ! Report


        Aggregate records are going to be set on a regular basis this year because there are now 9 games. The real interest will be how steady average crowds will be.

        • April 10th 2012 @ 8:11pm
          clipper said | April 10th 2012 @ 8:11pm | ! Report

          Don’t forget that this includes the Giants who will be lucky to draw 10k to most of their games, so I don’t think that will have much sway on the aggregate, although it will certainly drag the average down, so should be taken into account.

    • April 11th 2012 @ 5:54am
      Ironmonger said | April 11th 2012 @ 5:54am | ! Report

      What about Swannies in the mix for premiers. Dusted off Freo who beat Cats, and did it without Mummy in the ruck v Sandilands.
      Sam Reid early tip for Coleman medal too…

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