Wandering down AFL’s expectation lane

Gordon P Smith Roar Guru

By Gordon P Smith, Gordon P Smith is a Roar Guru

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    Four weeks into the season and the stratification is already happening. Let’s take a stroll down Expectation Lane, where as many as 16 teams can be happy a month into the home-and-away.

    West Coast made quick work of Lance Franklin’s ribs and his shot at eight ton on Thursday.

    The Eagles made a lot of people who compete in tipping contests very happy, coming up with a victory margin right about in the expected ballpark for playing an 0-3 grand finalist.

    Meanwhile, Sydney is one of just two teams undeniably unable to put lipstick on this pig of a start to their season. Between March and August, the Swans lost just five out of 22 games in taking the minor premiership. Since the grand final, they’ve lost five in a row.

    Franklin’s 250th came and went with a whimper, held goalless by the Magpies (it could’ve been worse – ask Travis Cloke how he’s feeling after his 250th this weekend, or Lindsay Thomas after his kick at the death missed on the occasion of his 200th). But he’ll reach 800 soon enough, and become only the 12th man ever to do so in AFL/VFL history.

    My footy experience extends just 15 years, plus lots of archive digging, so I won’t sit here and tell you about the wonders of Gary Ablett Sr or Tony Lockett with ball in hand. What I can say definitively is that there’s never been a goal-kicking superstar who’s looked like Buddy Franklin. He has, as Liam Neeson might say, “a very particular set of skills”, skills that allow him to do what no one I’ve ever seen can do with a football in hand.

    I’m hopeful he holds up another few years, hits 1000 goals and establishes a number that will make future folks like me go back into the archives to marvel at his talent.

    Swans' Lance Franklin kicks the ball

    Good Friday footy is here to stay, and if it’s given to anybody except the Bulldogs and Kangaroos, that will be a travesty.

    All the other Victorian clubs have a special event or three, and the eight interstate clubs have each other for the Showdown or Q Clash or whatever. Leave them this bone, AFL! They absolutely earned it Friday night!

    The other team which cannot in any way, shape, or form claim that 2017 has been a success is no mystery. If there were a 19th place, Hawthorn would be in it right now – they trail even the other winless teams by expansion-like percentages. There are far too many people overanalysing their flaws this week, so I won’t join them other than to say they got too old too fast. So did Sydney, but the average age of the Swans’ list is 24 and in the youngest quartile. The Hawks are the oldest team in the competition.

    We all knew that; many of us (ahem) had them dropping out of the eight this season. But nobody predicted this. That list has to change for the younger this week, not next season, or they may not win a game for a long time.

    As for the other 16 teams? North can claim success: competitive losses to four current top-six teams when you jettisoned all your older talent? Right now, the Hawks would trade places in a heartbeat. The ladder divides up neatly into six groups of three, and we’ve examined the bottom three already.

    Next tier up, at 1-3, Carlton and Brisbane have punched above their weight already, while Collingwood could rocket up the ladder if they had anyone playing in front of their 50 with, say, 250 games of solid goal-kicking experience…They can’t panic yet (Magpie army will anyway).

    Six teams are at 2-2: three who have won their last two (Gold Coast, St Kilda, and Fremantle) who can legit consider themselves on the way up, and three (Port, Essendon, and Melbourne) whose first two wins were impressive enough not to have the shine removed by the last two weeks’ defeats.

    Then you have the six teams atop the ladder, all of whom would have to be anointed as favourites: Adelaide, Richmond, Geelong (all 4-0 against varying levels of difficulty) and Greater Western Sydney, West Coast, and Western Bulldogs, all with one loss to an undefeated team at home (except the Dogs, who as premiers I allow a stumble out of the blocks).

    My ELO-style rating system has the Crows and Giants at 82.1 and 81.3, a full eight points ahead of Geelong in third, and I’d say those are indeed the two best teams right now.

    Weekly wanderings
    I was proud of my sport and the way they stood up for our indigenous players last week against what I pray are the actions of some lone bigots. I hope that we, as a code, have learnt our lesson from the ramifications of taking the vilification of men like Adam Goodes too lightly.

    I am certain Goodes retired a season or so before he really wanted to because he refused to subject himself to the abhorrent behaviour of subhumans who thought rights beyond reason were granted to them with the purchase of a ducat.

    Adam Goodes Australian of the year 2014.

    Eddie Betts admitted on 5AA last week that “stuff like this wrecks it”, even when he’s firing on all cylinders and should be loving every minute of his success. He and Paddy Ryder had done no harm to anyone except each other’s team aspirations, which was their job.

    Do you want to help your team? Cheer.

    What can I say about what it’s like to be insulted like people of colour are in both Australia and in the United States, where I live? Nothing. I’m not a person of color. I’m a pale person, probably like many of you reading this.

    So, like you, what I have to do – all I can do – is support them when it happens, call out racism when I see and hear it, like the footy family did this week, and keep doing it until we eliminate it or we’re gone from the planet. Whichever comes first.

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    The Crowd Says (23)

    • Roar Guru

      April 19th 2017 @ 6:37am
      Gordon P Smith said | April 19th 2017 @ 6:37am | ! Report

      I want to give a public shout-out to the Roar’s AFL editor Daniel Jeffrey.
      I submitted my weekly “Wanderings” column on Monday this week as usual, and I completely messed up the format of the article. It would’ve been easy for him to just trash the article and move on – there never seems to be a shortage of great material on The Roar. But he didn’t. He quickly shot me a note explaining the problem, and gave me the chance to repair the material and re-submit it for your entertainment. I’ve worked with enough editors over the years to appreciate what Daniel does for me and undoubtedly all the other writers on both sides of the aisle here at The Roar, and I wanted y’all to know about and appreciate his great work.

    • April 19th 2017 @ 7:49am
      me too said | April 19th 2017 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      All other Victorian clubs have a marquee event? Um, how about one of the original founding clubs – St Kilda? Been screwed over their entire history. They enjoy a few crowd records in home and away and finals at the Stadium they are forced to play in, yet have never been considered for a big game. Played in four grand finals in the afl ere – more than north, dogs, melbourne, or richmond. Overlooked again, because they are in the unfortunate position of not being considered big enough to justify one, or small enough to need one to survive.

      • April 19th 2017 @ 8:25am
        GJ said | April 19th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

        27 wooden spoons might have something to do with it

      • Roar Guru

        April 19th 2017 @ 9:42am
        Paul D said | April 19th 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

        St Kilda is to AFL what Tasmania is to Australia

        • Roar Guru

          April 19th 2017 @ 10:14am
          JamesH said | April 19th 2017 @ 10:14am | ! Report

          A beautiful, pristine haven with a relaxed lifestyle and friendly people? 😉

          me too, the Saints have Maddy’s Match vs Richmond, plus they had the NZ experiment. It’s not much but it’s more than North and the Dogs have had.

          • Roar Guru

            April 19th 2017 @ 10:21am
            Paul D said | April 19th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

            Easy to be relaxed when you’re not working

            • Roar Guru

              April 19th 2017 @ 11:19am
              AdelaideDocker said | April 19th 2017 @ 11:19am | ! Report

              Nah that’s South Australia dude, Tasmania isn’t that bad with unemployment 😉

              Oh, actually, apparently it’s your state …. QLD somehow has worse unemployment that SA. Who knew.

              • Roar Guru

                April 19th 2017 @ 11:25am
                Paul D said | April 19th 2017 @ 11:25am | ! Report

                There’s lies, damn lies and statistics.

                The state with the most number of unemployed people is actually NSW

              • Roar Guru

                April 19th 2017 @ 11:56am
                AdelaideDocker said | April 19th 2017 @ 11:56am | ! Report

                I was referring to statistics, haha.

                If we’re talking total numbers, then yeah it’s obviously NSW.

            • Roar Guru

              April 20th 2017 @ 12:39pm
              JamesH said | April 20th 2017 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

              I thought that would be a reason to be stressed, not relaxed.

          • Roar Rookie

            April 20th 2017 @ 2:57pm
            Tom said | April 20th 2017 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

            Don’t forget the Pride Match…

      • April 19th 2017 @ 11:21am
        Perry Bridge said | April 19th 2017 @ 11:21am | ! Report

        #me too

        “Played in four grand finals in the afl ere(sic)”

        I figure you come to that conclusion by counting the drawn Grand Final in 2010. 4 GFs, for 1 draw and 3 losses. NthMlb 3 GFs for 2 wins, 1 loss. How many prelim finals in that time??

        Clubs like North, St Kilda and the Doggies always have a big battle for relevance.

        St Kilda has to make a stand on something – they’ve dallied with Tasmania, they’ve dallied with New Zealand and they’ve jumped from Moorabbin to Seaford and now perhaps back to Moorabbin. The club needs to dig in somewhere.

        A club like North took up the Friday night option from the mid 1980s and for almost 15 years were the main fixture on Friday nights. North never opted to give up Friday nights nor the MCG – they got shafted – fixtured into Docklands and fixtured out of Friday nights (when everyone else realised it had become the big ticket TV night).

        Granted North dallied in Canberra, Sydney and the Gold Coast and whilst a change of Govt scuppered their Ballarat aspirations (now taken up by the Doggies) – North are playing a vital role in Tasmania (hey, Sainters – remember that place??).

        Geographically – the logical sides for a RCH Good Friday game are North and Carlton – but I’m happy enough to see the Doggies in there. Perhaps the Sainters need to arrange a Good Friday eve Saints vs Demons game.

        • April 19th 2017 @ 5:05pm
          me too said | April 19th 2017 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

          no argument about North deserving Good Friday. I think the season opener should be a replay of the first AFL season opener in 1987 – St Kilda v Collingwood! Richmond didn’t join the VFL until 1908.
          Queens Birthday Collingwood v Melbourne. Deamtime Carlton v Richmond, Anzac Day Geelong v Essendon as geelong sacrificed most in ww1, whilst collingwood were one of four to ignore the armies request to suspend competition.

        • April 19th 2017 @ 6:02pm
          Swanny said | April 19th 2017 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

          North pioneered the Friday night and absolutely deserve this game . I see a great modern rivalry developing against the Bulldogs and north .

          Maybe the saints could have a good Friday game against Sydney at the scg where it would get a great crowd

    • Roar Guru

      April 19th 2017 @ 10:12am
      JamesH said | April 19th 2017 @ 10:12am | ! Report

      Nice work Gordon, I really enjoy your writing style.

      This season is taking a very interesting shape and there are still about 13-14 teams who should genuinely be aiming for finals footy, including Sydney. It wouldn’t shock me if they scraped in come September.

    • April 19th 2017 @ 3:55pm
      JK Legend said | April 19th 2017 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

      Racism is no good for anyone and rightly so. However, although Goodes copped racism rants by moronic fans , it must be said he also contributed to his own failures through constant winging , complaining and moaning and always oh woa it’s poor me syndrome, and he made every single problem or incident into a racist issue. Tell it like it was and not poor Goodes lets all feel sorry for him.

      • April 19th 2017 @ 10:59pm
        GJ said | April 19th 2017 @ 10:59pm | ! Report

        Hi JK Legend. If you don’t mind I am going to give your post a bit of an edit.

        “Racism is no good for anyone and rightly so. Goodes copped racist rants from moronic fans.”

        There you go ..

      • April 20th 2017 @ 1:20am
        FrozenNorth said | April 20th 2017 @ 1:20am | ! Report

        I am cente/centre right so hardly some bleeding heart but almost everything you’ve said there is abhorrent. Shame on you.

      • Roar Guru

        April 20th 2017 @ 12:46pm
        JamesH said | April 20th 2017 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

        “constant winging , complaining and moaning and always oh woa it’s poor me syndrome”

        Rubbish. Goodes didn’t do much of this (if any) at all. It’s a myth perpetuated by people who want to justify their dislike of him. For the most part, Goodes stayed pretty silent and shunned the media after the booing stuff blew up.

    • Roar Guru

      April 20th 2017 @ 12:49am
      Gordon P Smith said | April 20th 2017 @ 12:49am | ! Report

      JK, your point is absolutely valid, and I only left it out because I didn’t think it was relevant to the current situation. Regardless of our opinion of his actions, it’s undeniable that he positioned himself in a place where he was going to cop some blowback. We all agree on your “although” point, which is all I was going for here.

      And I don’t know WHY I didn’t think of St. Kilda! It’s a NATURAL! The Saints on Good Friday? Perfect! Either give them a standalone game against someone else who could use another marquee matchup, or rotate them in with Western and North. (I’d prefer the first.)

    • April 20th 2017 @ 9:42am
      GJ said | April 20th 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      Hi Gordon, with you being from the US I would have thought that you would have a little more awareness of the nuances of the racist problem in sport and society in general. I am more than a little surprised that you condone JKL’s post.

      • Roar Guru

        April 22nd 2017 @ 1:22am
        Gordon P Smith said | April 22nd 2017 @ 1:22am | ! Report

        I didn’t mean to condone the POST. What needed to be acknowledged, however, is that Goodes was heroic enough to make himself a target of attacks because he stood up for what he believed. Obviously society as a whole condoned and agreed with his position, as shown both through his recognition as Australian Of The Year and the entire sport’s trend towards an intolerance of racist verbal attacks.

        But by making himself that target, Goodes must have known that he would then bring about MORE attacks from people who thought either that his defenses were inappropriate in some way (and there were too many debates about using tribal dance moves to celebrate goals to ignore that possibility in some cases) or simply that he was what in the history of my country the racists would call an “uppity n****r”.

        What I failed to do was address the phrase “constant winging , complaining and moaning and always oh woa it’s poor me syndrome” in JK’s post. Without knowing anything else about JK, it’s hard for me to know whether he’s using that to address the first or the second reason I listed, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. To anyone who disagreed with THAT decision, I apologize, but as a Christian I can’t condemn what I don’t truly know. And the point that because he nobly chose to stand up for the indigenous so publicly, Goodes inflamed passions against him in a way that Betts or Ryder don’t is hard to dispute, even though as I said it was irrelevant to my original post.

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