I’m all for optimism. Gee, in sport you need to own it. Seasons can be long and torturous for many football supporters, and if it wasn’t for positive thinking and optimism, well the future could look as bleak as it realistically may be.
Football coaches have to be optimistic creatures.
Imagine a coach turning up to a press conference after his side has been pumped and saying, “Well, how bad are we? We may as well stop playing now because we are going to get smashed like this when we play against a decent team, week in and week out.”
Well they wouldn’t would they? And young Jimmy Hird played it straight out of the coach’s playbook on Saturday night after his Bombers were woeful.
“The way we’re kicking the ball is not what we would like,” Hird said after the 69-point loss to Geelong. But wait, there’s more.
“We can’t cut their feet off and put new ones on. If we could we might have tonight, but we can’t.
“We didn’t kick the ball well, we didn’t handle the pressure of Geelong and when there wasn’t pressure we didn’t execute our skills.
“I don’t think it’s crisis time.
“We can turn it around. You can turn it around with a bit of hard work…
“It’s a thoroughly disappointing performance tonight, but it’s not the end of the world in that we have another game in seven days’ time.”
He’s right. A week is a long time in football. But that won’t erase the memories and pain which Essendon members and fans suffered on Saturday night.
And will a week help their aspirations of a top-eight finish?
Let’s see what 2015 has brought them: somehow they managed an upset two-point win over Hawthorn, plus a win by a similar margin over St Kilda, a 21-point beating of the easybeats Carlton, and a decent win over Brisbane.
Their previous five losses were, some would say, respectable against good opposition. Not a genuine thrashing among them. But regardless, they were losses and then the belting on Saturday against the Cats.
Next comes a clash in Perth against the West Coast Eagles, a team bullying sides at the old Subiaco, followed by a date with revenge against the Hawks at the MCG.
They are only two wins out of the eight right now, but if they drop these next two games, to be 4-8 at that point might not be a good thing for their finals’ ambitions.
Last year the Tigers stunned so many when they 3-9 after 12 matches, lost the next, then won their last nine to make the finals in eighth position.
The only other time since the top eight began back in 1994, where a team has come from having lost eight of their first 12 matches to reach the finals, was way back in 1995 when the Brisbane Bears were 4-8, before winning six of their last 10 to squeak into the final eight with a ‘losing’ record of 10-12.
The only other occasions when a team has only won four of their first 12 but gone on to make the finals was in 1995, when the Western Bulldogs went for 4-1-7 before finishing on 11-1-10 for seventh, and then again in 2011 when the Saints were also 4-1-7 and won eight of their last 10 to make September action.
The optimist in me says it certainly can happen. The realist says it’s going to be awful difficult, but that’s if the Dons do lose those matches to the Eagles and the Hawks. The optimist says they won’t. The realist? Well if they play with the effort and spirit they did on Saturday, they won’t be winning.
And that was the thing – skill errors, you can’t excuse but they at least explain a few things, but the one instance which stands out for me was late in the game with the score at 102-28, and Andrew Mackie bombed one in from outside the 50m. It went over the heads of the pack and was read best by Stevie Johnson.
He gathered, nobody laid a hand on him, and he easily slotted a goal as one Essendon defender looked as if he was totally uninterested in trying to smoother or touch the ball as it sailed by him for a goal. Said a lot to me about attitude.
Anyway, as Jimmy said, there’s always next week Essendon fans.
One thing is pretty certain – it’s unlikely Jimmy’s head will be on the chopping block, regardless of what happens in the next two weeks, or 12 weeks.
Am I now being an optimist, or a realist?