With the end of the decade upon us, we’ve been looking at each sport on the Game of Codes podcast to work out where it will be at the end of the next decade. Today, it’s the AFL’s turn.
Round 10 was all about the end. The end of the line for a modern-day legend, the end of a record breaking start, the end of Western Australia’s top-two monopoly, the end of 16-loss Greater Western Sydney seasons.
But if the last game of the round proved that some things seemingly won’t end, Collingwood again had Melbourne’s Queen Birthday measure
1. Football is a bloody good thing
After a couple of weeks of doom and gloom revolving around unsavoury incidents involving race and sackings, footy again proved both its resilience and strength to the community.
On Saturday afternoon Carlton fans, Adelaide fans and indeed fans of the game showed just the right level of appreciation for a great of the game who was about to prematurely enter the untimely world of retirement. Then on Monday, AFL personalities showed the strength of character that has built this game over 150 years by pulling together for one of the football family.
In some ways what happened on-field on Queen’s Birthday didn’t really matter. This was a day, not unlike Ted Whitten’s famous last MCG lap, that will be long remembered after the passing of Neale Daniher. For any Australian footy fan this epitomised the human element of the game we love.
2. AFL sides are mentally tough
Sometimes a weekend of football just reminds you of how mentally strong AFL players and teams can be.
Take North Melbourne’s win against the odds. At almost any other competition around Australia, a team kicking into a howling wind is not going to be able to hold onto a narrow three-quarter-time lead. Not only did North Melbourne hold on, but they kicked four goals (equaling the three quarters before that) kicking into the wind.
Richmond’s mental toughness was shown in both the energy they produced in a stunning eight goal first quarter burst and holding off a pressing Fremantle charge late.
Geelong overcame odds of short breaks and big losses to overrun Essendon after a tight start. After struggling for most of the season to find their running game, Port Adelaide found it when it mattered most 0 in the last quarter against Western Bulldogs.
At every other level in Australia coaches search for that formula to build winning mind set. At the AFL sometimes it proves to be the norm.
3. Dan Hannebery’s season is being criminally underrated
In any other year Hannebery would have built a commanding lead in the AFLCA coaches award and be being discussed as the Brownlow favourite, yet in this season he sits well behind Nat Fyfe. Don’t let Fyfe’s brilliant start take away from Hannebery though, who has become the Sydney midfield’s true blue-chip star in 2015.
At the weekend Hannebery posted a season-high 42 disposals to power Sydney to a commanding win over the Gold Coast. Importantly for Sydney, Hannebery is having a real impact forward of centre, as seven inside 50s and seven score involvements indicates.
After a down season in 2014 Hannebery has really bounced back hard in 2015.
4. Free agency flops
Despite last year being touted as a big year for free agents, with now almost half a season history to go off, the 2014 free agency class is more fail then pass.
In fact it is probably only North Melbourne who can claim to have won out of last year’s free agency window, with both Jarrad Waite and Shaun Higgins having meaningful contributions to wins. Even North though have underachieved after going into the season full of hype.
Nick Malceski is now looming as the poster boy for free-agency flop, and a warning of the perils involved in using this as a channel to build a finals list.
With free-agency talk for 2015 starting to build as teams fade from finals calculations and turn to 2016, just remember free agents can look far more appealing on paper than in club colours.
5. Bring on a floating fixture
GWS are about to play in the biggest match of their short history, yet both the Sunday timeslot and lack of free-to-air coverage mean this game is not going to be the spectacle that it should be.
Surely given the choice the AFL would have loved to have got this game into the prime time of Saturday night and really build this as the potential coming out party for the rapidly emerging Giants? It could have been as simple as flipping the North Melbourne and Sydney game with GWS and Collingwood.
In practical terms it probably is not that simple, but surely in the year of the fans, giving the big games at the best times would be befitting of the 2015 season.
6. Geelong played this weekend too
There was a barrage of social media activity on Friday night when Channel Seven and their commentary team chose to place a heavy focus on the Fremantle comeback. In a gross contradiction 24 hours later, barely a muffle was raised as the Channel Seven commentary team chose to focus almost entirely on Essendon and their troubles against Geelong.
As the coverage went to halftime not one Geelong player or spectator was shown with the focus entirely on one side. Throughout the halftime break and a lot of the coverage, the preference was to focus on the Essendon narrative.
If fans want to complain about one, let’s try and call for some level of consistency in going the same at all clubs and commentary teams.
7. The Chris Judd trade
Of course the retirement of Judd was going to lead to the rehashing of the trade between Carlton and West Coast that saw Judd end his career as a Blue. To make this a straight discussion about Chris Judd against Josh Kennedy is wrong though, as so many other elements went into this trade.
Consider even on the surface level that West Coast drafted Chris Masten and Tony Notte, and that Carlton drafted Dennis Armfield as the perfect example that this trade is more complex then midfielder versus key forward.
Masten has become a workmanlike midfielder, while Notte’s AFL career lasted all of two games. Armfield has gone on to have a solid career for a third-round pick. That is not even taking into account how it was really Judd’s departure that ultimately led to West Coast getting Nic Naitanui a year later, while Carlton, courtesy of a series of mid-table finishes, were never able to capitalise on an additional match-winning player.
Both clubs have always said this is a win-win; and history should always look back on it this way.