Collingwood star Jordan De Goey is on track to take on the Western Bulldogs in Round 1 but teammate Taylor Adams is still facing a race against time to overcome a hamstring injury.
Footy is firmly back in the focus of most red-blooded sporting supporters in Australia.
So naturally we must look back at what occurred in 2020 for inspiration, divine tipping – and SuperCoach – insight, or to simply fill the gaping void that is the interval between the end of the Big Bash, the (delayed) Australian Open, and the resumption of the AFL season.
So here – in chronological order – are a handful of the most disrespectful goals of the 2020 season.
They have been selected for their sheer arrogance, their toppling of footballing icons, or simply for the reactions caused by their feats. May the braggadocious behavior of these blessed few footballers never abate.
Zak Butters (Round 2 vs. Adelaide)
The arrogance of youth can be breathtaking. To doom an entire club to 13 winless rounds of misery with one fell swoop is a hell of a thing to do.
Especially when you’re 19 years old. Now, in case you don’t remember, Adelaide lost Round 1 of the 2020 season by just three points, their comeback falling just frantically short against Sydney.
Arch-rivals Port Adelaide awaited in Showdown 48 following the two-month COVID-enforced layoff. With six minutes remaining in the second quarter the margin was just 15 points.
A hurried kick inside 50 by Todd Marshall saw Zak Butters and Rory Atkins face off in a contest. Butters out-bodied Atkins, bouncing closer to the Sherrin than his opponent. Whilst maintaining speed, he took half a glance at the pigskin, contemplated taking possession – as any normal individual would – before committing a cold-blooded murder of (the) Crows.
Make no mistake, Butters could have taken grasp of the ball and still easily kicked the goal. But why bother when you can simply hack at the oval-shaped thing roughly half a metre in front of you and blast it through the goals from 25 metres out? Not many caught it in real-time, but there’s little doubt this was the beginning of the end for Adelaide.
Izak Rankine (Round 6 vs. Melbourne)
To put it bluntly, there was a fair bit of hype around Izak Rankine. As it turned out, this hype was fairly well justified. Melbourne found this out the hard way in Round 6.
The contest had barely started when Rankine made his first mark on the game. At a goal apiece early in proceedings, Christian Salem fumbled the ball under pressure following a scrubby kick inside 50.
Rankine pounced. Tapping the ball just out of reach of Michael Hibberd, he came face to face with James Harmes – a renowned tackling machine. Harmes barely had time to register the fast footwork of the Suns young gun before he was gone. It was like the tape skipped a beat.
He was there, firmly in Harmes’ sights, then he disappeared. This was Penn and Teller worthy deception. Not content with one piece of magic he screwed a snap over his left shoulder from thirty-five metres out which went through half-post height.
(In case you forgot, he then followed this up in the third quarter with a punt off the ground surrounded by Demons players. This is – as far as I can tell – the footballing equivalent of draining two half-court three pointers in your first NBA appearance, or drilling a bicycle kick on debut in the Premier League. It just isn’t right. But it oh so gloriously is).
Lachie Neale (Round 6 vs. Geelong)
I know what you’re thinking. That there’s nothing overly ostentatious about this goal. Receiving a quick handball from a congested forward 50 stoppage – a throw-in expertly palmed to by Oscar McInerney to Dayne Zorko – Neale accelerated towards the pocket before perfectly dribbling a snap through the goals. So far, so normal.
Well, normal-ish. But if you take a closer look at who’s doggedly on the heels of Neale a stark picture begins to emerge. Bald, brilliant, Brownlow-fuelled, and born of higher AFL-ing powers.
Gary Ablett Jr. A man who has made a mockery of most of the league since before some readers of this article were born. And all he could do was valiantly pursue – and then watch – as the league’s next big thing alpha’d the bejesus out of him on the big stage.
Tom Papley (Round 8 vs Hawthorn)
I’ve had the privilege of seeing Tom Papley’s explosive speed first-hand. It was the final over of a local cricket final, and the home side (who Papley was supporting) were on the brink of a famous victory.
At one stage requiring 12 an over late in the run-chase, with just two balls remaining six runs were required. Three other flags had been secured that day by the club.
All that was left was one monstrous hit over cow corner to seal the perfect day. Before the ball even had the chance to crash into the advertising boards ringing the ground, Papley was halfway to the celebrating batsmen. A cavalcade of fellow supporters followed, but the superstar Swan had them easily covered.
Lo and behold, against Hawthorn Papley displayed similar zeal. Proving far too strong for Blake Hardwick in a marking contest, he finagled a two-metre gap on his opponent.
In the blink of an eye, it was ten. He took a couple of the mankiest bounces you’ll ever see as he blitzed through the forward fifty before booting the goal. Sicily and Ben Stratton tried their best to close the gap. They had a better chance of laying a hand on the sun.
Tim Membrey (Round 8 vs. Port Adelaide)
There’s something truly earth-shatteringly savage about a bloke attempting to Daniel LaRusso a ball a metre away from the goal-line, successfully pulling off such a feat, and not even realising he’d done it.
(On a side note, at least in this version of the Karate Kid the final kick was legal. As I’ve said before, Johnny Lawrence from Cobra Kai was robbed.)
Now, watching in real-time it appeared that Tom Jonas’ defending fundamentals had emerged victorious. Calmly maintaining composure, standing tall, and wisely conceding a behind amidst the chaos of Tim Membrey’s perpendicular assault on the Sherrin, arms and legs flung asunder.
Indeed, when the behind was initially signalled Membrey ran off seeming unperturbed about the result of his audacious attempt. Admittedly this may have had more to do with his devotion to channeling Damian Lillard than actual knowledge of the outcome of his endeavours.
Regardless, as it turned out, all Jonas had done was to punch the ball over the line via Membrey’s flailing foot. It probably won’t surprise you – based on this divine intervention of a goal – that St. Kilda won this game.