Gary Lyon has declared on SEN that Collingwood is the team to beat in 2019.
His principal reasons for this conclusion are the acquisition of Dayne Beams and an up-and-coming list boasting depth across all lines.
There is, however one factor he has glossed over: in 2019 Collingwood play 18 games in Melbourne, 14 of which are at the MCG.
Fair enough I suppose, the collective chagrin around Collingwood’s annual travel regimen seems to have been replaced by an indefatigable belief that equalisation in AFL fixturing is a fantasy and to continue to argue this point is a waste of time.
In the same breath he has discounted West Coast on the basis that winning back-to-back premierships is just too “damn hard”. Yes, that’s right, it’s just too damn hard!
Robert Walls was castigated last year for shrugging his shoulders and prophesising that West Coast would claim the wooden spoon. Then, leading into the finals Tony Jones embarrassed himself by declaring that a West Coast appearance in the finals would be a waste.
In recent days Chris Pelchen has speculated that West Coast will slide to seventh in the pecking order. One can only guess where he would have had them finishing if they had lost the Grand Final. Are our east coast pundits a little biased?
Anyway, I digress, getting back to Lyon.
The 2018 grand final edition of On the Couch had Lyon asking Adam Simpson why he (Lyon) and others didn’t rate West Coast and why they hadn’t positioned them as a legitimate contender.
That’s tantamount to making a decision and then asking an unrelated party why you made such a decision. Simpson incisively and urbanely directed the question back at Lyon, “you tell me, he said”. Lyon’s confident demeanour momentarily fractured, evidenced by an uncomfortable squirm and a stilted smile.
Here we are five months on and despite West Coast dismembering Richmond and beating Collingwood in all three encounters in 2018, Lyon is so enamoured by Collingwood that West Coast are almost incidental.
No one would argue that wining back to back premierships is hard, just winning one is hard! But to preface your argument on the back of this depreciates the character and commitment of the West Coast coaching group and the players. It’s also sadly lacking any form of qualitative reasoning.
As a precursor to the 2018 season Lyon had Collingwood finishing 12th and West Coast finishing ninth which meant that Lyon didn’t rate either of these teams heading into 2018. In 2019 we now have Lyon excited about Collingwood while at the same time theorising that West Coast’s 2018 success is likely to be more of a negative than a positive, using history to support his case. I wonder if his view would have been the same if Collingwood had prevailed?
As I said earlier, winning a premiership is always damn hard but I can’t see any reason why a team shouldn’t be able to back it up if they’re good enough, Adelaide, Brisbane and Hawthorn managed to do it in recent times.
Notwithstanding injuries and pronounced changes to a teams playing list, there’s no logical reason why success in a previous year should adversely impact the current year, they’re mutually exclusive events.
West Coast seem to be well placed in relation to both of these factors. Even though they have lost Scott Lycett to Port Adelaide and Lecras to retirement, they have capable replacements ready to go and will regain the services of Gaff, Natanui and Sheppard in 2019, all of which missed the 2018 Grand Final.
I might be hedging my bets but I regard Collingwood as one of at least 6 teams that may well be in a group being described as “the team to beat” in the early stages of the qualifying rounds.
Including West Coast amongst those six teams appears to be a given. Should they manage to go back to back, Lyon will again need to seek out Adam Simpson to find out how they did it and why no one saw it coming – well, those on the east coast at least.