At The Trough Rd 8

Filed in AFL, From The Couch, NRL by on May 17, 2011

The world has changed. People are so hell bent on pleasing everyone that we have morphed into a society of yes-men and emotional robots afraid to have our opinions heard, with one notable exception – the footy fan, holding true to the traditions that made this country great.

Football gives us all the chance to wear our hearts on our sleeves. For at least two hours each week we all become emotional wrecks, riding every bounce of the ball until the final siren. We’ll barrack for a bunch of muppets who we know have no chance of winning, just because they are our team. Sitting in a freezing cold lounge room, heinous brown and gold scarf on, wide eyed with anticipation. Half time brings the obligatory visit from the Police as the neighbours fear a murder is in progress because Roughead missed another set shot from 20 out and someone lost it. The feeling in time-on when there is less than a kick in it and your team wins a crucial contest, then turns it over…then wins it back!!! The relief when you get across the line, the heartbreak when you don’t. It’s a rollercoaster, one I’m happy to ride as often as I can.

My old mate Nick ‘Punter’ Tedeschi, revered author of From the Couch and other winning publications, suggested that a healthy love for sport and a general desire to make myself heard should manifest itself on a weekly basis, here. So was born…At the Trough. Where I’ll take apart the AFL season a week at a time and focus on the spectacle that is our great game.


Every Game Live:

Conjecture raged for months. Will the new rights deal hit the billion dollar mark? Well…they smashed it. The multi partisan deal between Channel Seven, Foxtel and Telstra worth $1.25 billion over five years is an incredible result for the code.

Foxtel were the driving force behind the deal and having kicked in over $600 million of the total package, there are big changes in the wind. Foxtel has an obligation to show all nine matches live and so will create a designated AFL channel. There has been plenty of chat suggesting that Foxtel charges will go through the roof as a result, but it is doubtful that they will price themselves out after going to all the effort of arranging the new deal. They’ll definitely get my money.

The biggest change to Seven’s telecast will be the live broadcasting of Friday night football every week. Having Friday Night footy on delay has been a source of plenty of angst over the years, but it seems they have finally put it to bed. The AFL has agreed to push the first bounce back slightly to accommodate Channel Seven, but has done so on the back of contractual obligations stating that the network must show each match live. Seven have the option to on-sell any of the other three live matches it must broadcast each week to Ten or Nine, but is unlikely to do so unless there is a substantial profit in it.

Telstra have exclusive internet rights and will stream every game live through the Next G network to Telstra mobiles. Good news for those with Telstra alliances, but I can’t see it having a bearing on the Telecom giants phone sales.

With the next installment of the Players Collective Bargaining Agreement due shortly and the AFLPA pushing for 27 percent of total revenue to be passed to the players, we can expect an increase to the salary cap above the current 3 percent annual increase. The players stand accused of being mercenary in these negotiations, but they are the stars of the show and should be paid accordingly. First and second year player contracts will be increased by 10-15 percent, as will rookie contracts. Contributions to the AFLPA Player Retirement Account will double to $70 million over the next five years and spending on player welfare will also increase dramatically. Total player payments will increase by 30-35 percent over the next five years, giving us a salary cap of just under $11 million in 2017 and pushing average player payments to around $275,000 p.a.

Oh Where the Saints???

Oh how the mighty have fallen. It’s easy to lay the boot in when someone’s on the deck but to be honest, if you lashed the slipper at St Kilda right now you’d be lucky to get low enough to graze the halo. Three Grand Finals for zero wins in two years must break your heart, but with each new season comes new challenges, a fresh desire and a will to succeed. The playing group has not been re-invigorated over the off-season and the blame for this must fall on the leadership group. Normally it would fall at the feet of the coach, but due to the extraordinary circumstances in the off-season (predominantly surrounding a pathological St Kilda School girl and a seemingly spice addled player agent), we’ll give Ross Lyon some latitude. After all, he can’t kick a goal for Riewoldt, can’t shake Goddard’s tag and can’t win the hard ball in Lenny’s absence. (Late Mail – Lyon revealed “On the Couch” that he didn’t tag Chris Judd – either he is talking tripe or he is solely to blame for St Kilda’s woes. Sure Ross, there’s no need to tag the duel Brownlow medalist in career best form..… peanut)

They have showed grit in patches but what has predominately shown through is a total lack of enthusiasm. Jason ‘Lou’ Gram was highly publicized a few weeks ago when he kicked the go-ahead goal and showed no more joy than he would at finding laundry powder for 13 cents off. Reiwoldt was terrible in the first half against the Blues. In a must-win game, the skipper had one behind from three set shots in the first half – none of them very difficult. He is a champion of the modern game and the captain needs to lead his men from the abyss but his continual butchering of the hard-earned set shots crushes their morale.

I expected the Saints to slip a bit this year and even had a flutter on them to miss the eight, but no-one expected them to be sitting below the Gold Coast after seven rounds. One and a half wins from six matches is an abominable start considering their list. With Hawthorn, an enigmatic Melbourne, Freo at Subiaco, Collingwood and the Dogs over the next five weeks, the Saints face the very real prospect of being halfway through the season with only one win, and even that was  a come from behind victory over the Lions.

There has been a push for the Saints to inject more youth, which they have done over the past few weeks with the likes of Cripps and Siposs, but the improvement needs to come from their stars. They are a good enough team to fight back and challenge and possibly even play finals but do they want to do the work? Their next month will provide the answers.

A Few Good Men.

With the focus on the Gold Coast and the pending inclusion of GWS everyone is talking about the kids. How good is Zac Smith? Dyson Heppell plays like a 150 gamer! David Swallow is an absolute Jet!

I’m as excited as the next guy about the progression of the youngsters. Seeing them grow and improve is a great experience, however, this year has seen the return of the veteran. There are some experienced players currently playing some incredible and it is translating to positive results for their respective clubs.

Take the West Coast Eagles for example. They are in the middle of a rebuilding phase and were tipped to finish in the bottom couple. Their coach was a muppet and odds on to get the boot by Rd 10. Enter Cox, Embley, Kerr and Glass. Cox is in career best form, once again being put on a pedestal with Sandilands where he belongs. Embley has never played better football, Glass is their general and Kerr is back to the sort of form that made him a perennial Brownlow contender. That is not to say these guys are solely responsible for the improvement at West Coast – far from it. Their kids have been great, Jack Darling is a beauty and both Shuey and Ash Smith will be 200 gamers. Nonetheless, when you handful of old stagers are playing good footy, it opens the gate for these kids to come in and play their natural game and progress. If your senior players are playing like shit then too much pressure moves onto the kids and they struggle (queue Port Adelaide). West Coast are currently 3 – 3 and their winning percentage indicates that they have been competitive when they haven’t got the points. The old dogs have shown the way and the kids have followed. As it was, so shall it ever be.

I’ll Rant and Rave!

Because yelling about stuff is so much fun, I figured a weekly section where I blow my stack about whatever topics has annoyed me the most over the weekend was in order.

I cannot handle the ducking the head interpretation. It is the most inconsistent area of the game and needs to be sorted out now. If a player ducks his head and initiates the contact – no free. If a player has his head over the ball and is contacted by an opponent that is a free kick. Pretty simple. Yet they manage to balls it up on almost every occasion. I actually had some peanut the other night suggest that a player diving head first into the legs of an oncoming player deserved a free because he was contacted high. It’s ridiculous. Does he deserve to win the hard ball? Probably. Is he un-hinged? Definitely. Does he get a free? NO! He initiated the contact. Surely we aren’t getting to the stage where players are required to jump out of their opponents way so as not to give a free. Joel Selwood will start headbutting every kneecap he can get his melon on. It will be bedlam…

Goal Umpires – you have one job to do. See whether the tablet goes betwixt the posts or hits them. Boys and girls…it’s not that hard. Do we need four goal umpires? No. Just two competent ones will do thanks.

In the Box (an assessment of how each of the coaches are travelling)

Mick Malthouse:Has his boys up and about going into the bye and couldn’t be happier. The result of years of training and structure to get his list fit firing and setting the pace in all the right categories. Is enjoying his running battle with Eddie McGuire and the constant barbs about losing his job are great entertainment for all. Even went so far as to suggest that Collingwood don’t deserve the ANZAC Day match long term.

Chris Scott: Envious position for a first year coach. Inherited a list that everyone thought was on the slide. Came in with the ethos that reputations don’t mean game time and has had the right response from his senior players with the Cats emerging as a genuine threat to the Pies. He has been able to blood some youth, with Duncan and Menzel emerging as future leaders of the club.

Brett Ratten: Has made some tactical changes, moving Yarran to half-back and using Gibbs in a tagging role, and on the whole it has been working for “Rats”. Knows he needs to improve or find another gig so expect the wheels to stay on. God help him if Judd goes down.

James Hird:The return of Windy Hill’s favorite son would be hailed a success if it ended now. He has turned around a struggling club and the Bombers are now legitimate top four contenders. Positionally he hasn’t changed much, but has managed to increase the work ethic of his mid tier players and instill more confidence in his leaders – Jobe Watson’s willingness to kick the pill this year is proof positive of greater confidence. Still taking it a week at a time and will continue to do so. Probably coach of the year so far.

Alistair Clarkson: Clarko seems to struggle a bit to get the Hawks up for four quarters. His game plan is solid with the use of the press and then the fast transition back to the faster forwards but the Hawks have a tendency to go missing for large chunks of the game. Will need to improve. Anything less than a prelim appearance won’t save Clarko.

Mark Harvey:Close to the best coach in the business at present. Gets the best out of all his players. Sitting over on the west coast of the country (far away from prying eyes) helps his cause. Cruelled by injuries that will not help their season, but Harvey has built a list that can win a flag…. if they can get a win at the G.

Dean Bailey:Who knows? Abysmal one week. Outstanding the next. I think Dean Bailey probably has less idea of what is going on at the Dees than anyone. Could have beaten Adelaide by 150, but should have lost to the Hawks by 200. We get it, they are kids and need time but mate…A bit of consistency. They are three and a half wins but haven’t beaten anyone of note.

John Longmire: “Horse” has done a pretty good job considering the shoes he had to fill. He’s got the kids playing good footy but more importantly has got increased output from Bolton, O’Keefe and Mattner, all of whom were at the crossroads at the end of 2010. Three and a half wins is a solid start and the Swans are tracking for a top six finish.

Damien Hardwick: The emergence of Martin and Cotchin as genuine A-graders has probably overshadowed what Hardwick has done at Punt Road. He has galvanized his young list into an exciting and sometimes ruthless side – the way they put Freo to the sword was noteworthy. Has been criticized for not playing Deledio on the ball but obviously has a plan and it keeps working. Nahas into the midfield has been a revelation.

John Worsfold: Under the most pressure pre-season, ‘Woosha’ has responded very well with the Coasters exceeding all expectations so far. Has the old boys up and about and the kids are starting to find some consistency. He needs to maintain this good start to be assured of a gig next year. I like that he has instilled some desperation in his troops with the West Coast forward press being the equal of anyone other than Collingwood at present.

Rodney Eade: Rocket is struggling. Liberatore and Wallis have been good inclusions, as has Markovic, but Eade is not getting the output from his big names that is required to play into September. Injury has played a big part and that is unfortunate but I can’t see the Dogs playing finals this year without wholesale changes. Eade needs to find a few more avenues to goal. Cooney isn’t getting his hands on the pill and Hall is doubtful on a weekly basis. Throw Cooney in the square and tell him to get involved.

Neil Craig: Every year my expectations of Adelaide prove to be generous. Neil Craig has been taken off contract and placed on staff – not sure how this affects his role within the club, but it can’t do much for his confidence. They have some upside but just can’t seem to find a win. Spanked by Melbourne on the weekend in what was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen. I guess it shows how good McLeod and Co actually were.

Guy McKenna: He took the second toughest job in football (The toughest being coach of GWS) and is making a real crack of it. At times must have questioned his own sanity at going to the Gold Coast – quarter time against the Dons would have been one such moment. Being able to see the kids develop – even over this short period must be exciting and if he can keep this list together, they’ll be playing for the flag by 2015.

Ross Lyon: Has had a shit-storm flying around him for the better part of a year and would be hating his current predicament, but by his own admission is not tagging opposition ball magnets, preferring to back his own players to get the job done and win the hard ball. Has anyone told him Lenny Hayes is not playing? Needs to find some answers pretty quickly.

Brad Scott: Cruelled by injury – the Kangas can’t take a trick at the moment. His skipper is publicly denouncing the efforts of his mid tier players. Lindsey Thomas is converting at about four per cent. Firrito thinks he’s playing soccer. Their best midfield runner in Ryan Bastinac hasn’t been able to get on the park. The Kangas have spirit and I like to see them compete, but they are a long way short of doing that right now.

Matthew Primus: Port Adelaide have no identity. They have no culture. They have no collective will. Primus gave the boys a spray at quarter time in the showdown and they responded with their only win of the year. They followed that up with a loss to Gold Coast and Primus issued a public apology to the fans and the sponsors. He has tried it all. He has swung the axe and dropped senior players, but I fear the big fella is whipping a dead horse.

Michael Voss: I thought the signing of Fevola was a good idea at the time, and that the signing of Clarke was a shit idea at the time. You can’t help bad luck and you can’t help dickheads like Fev. However, what you can do is stand up and move forward. The Lions loss to the Gold Coast was telling, but some of their other performances over the year to date have been heartening. Redden and Rockliff are both jets and with the pending return of Jonathon Brown, I expect the Lions to lift themselves off the bottom.

Out for two – Injury Updates

Big news: Melbourne young gun Jack Grimes has a navicular stress fracture in his foot and is likely to miss the remainder of the season. As many in the footy world would recall, navicular injuries ended Matthew Egan and Trent Croad’s careers. All the best to Grimey and we hope to see him back soon.

Adelaide:Patrick Dangerfield (concussion) test, Brad Moran (hamstring) test, Scott Thompson (corked calf) test, Daniel Talia (achilles) 1-2 weeks, James Craig (hamstring) 3-4 weeks, David Mackay (shoulder) 5-6 weeks, Matthew Wright (knee) tbc, Andy Otten (knee) indefinite, Jason Porplyzia (shoulder) indefinite, Scott Stevens (ill) indefinite, Phil Davis (shoulder) season

Brisbane:Xavier Clarke (hamstring) test, Andrew Raines (concussion) test, Jonathan Brown (face) 2 weeks, Niall McKeever (thigh) 3 weeks, Brent Staker (knee) 8 weeks, Callum Bartlett (knee) indefinite, Jamie Charman (achilles) indefinite, Ryan Lester (foot) indefinite

Carlton:Ed Curnow (AC joint) 3-4 weeks, Ryan Houlihan (calf) test, Matthew Kreuzer (knee) 2 weeks, Luke Mitchell (shoulder) 2 weeks, Andrew Collins (shoulder) 3 weeks, Mark Austin (arm) 4 weeks, Levi Casboult (knee) 5 weeks, Paul Bower (thigh) indefinite

Collingwood:Ben Johnson (back) test, Darren Jolly (knee) 1 week, Josh Thomas (foot) 1 week, Ben Sinclair (leg) 1-2 weeks, Nathan Brown (knee) season, Tom Hunter (neck) retired

Essendon:Brent Stanton (test), Scott Gumbleton (hamstring) 1-2 weeks, Andrew Welsh (calf) 2-3 weeks, Tayte Pears (foot) TBC, Courtenay Dempsey (knee) season, Anthony Long (hamstring) season, Jason Winderlich (knee) season

Fremantle:Hayden Ballantyne (hamstring) test, Zac Clarke (groin) test, Peter Faulks (calf) test, Michael Walters (ankle) 1 week, Tendai Mzungu (knee) 2 weeks, Justin Bollenhagen (hamstring) 2-3 weeks, Alex Silvagni (groin) 2-4 weeks, Tim Ruffles (knee) 4-5 weeks, Michael Barlow (leg) 4-6 weeks, Gavin Roberts (quad) 4-6 weeks Roger Hayden (foot) 6-8 weeks, Joel Houghton (arm) 7 weeks, Nick Suban (leg) 8 weeks, Anthony Morabito (knee) season

Geelong:Cameron Ling (hamstring) test, Steve Johnson (shoulder) test, Brad Ottens (soreness) test, Shannon Byrnes (knee) 1 week, Taylor Hunt (knee) 1 week, Billie Smedts (hip surgery) season

Gold Coast:Joel Wilkinson (shoulder) available, Nathan Ablett (back) test, Charlie Dixon (calf) test, Josh Fraser (back) 1-2 weeks, Jeremy Taylor (groin) 2 weeks, Tom Hickey (knee) 3 weeks, Daniel Gorringe (hamstring) 3-4 weeks, Josh Caddy (foot) indefinite, Michael Coad (hamstring) indefinite, Piers Flannagan (hip) indefinite

Hawthorn:David Hale (test), Paul Johnson (1 week), Will Langford (1 week), Brent Renouf (hamstring) test Cyril Rioli (hamstring) test, Matt Suckling (knee) test, Sam Menegola (wrist) tbc, Jarryd Morton (foot) 3 weeksCameron Bruce (knee) 4-6 weeks, Ben Stratton (knee) season

Kangaroos:Matt Campbell (hamstring) test, Lachlan Hansen (back) test, Ben Mabon (back) test, Ryan Bastinac (knee) indefinite, Ed Lower (knee) indefinite, Hamish McIntosh (achilles) indefinite, Marcus White (shoulder) indefinite, Ayden Kennedy (knee) season

Melbourne:Jack Grimes (season), Jordie McKenzie (test), Tom Scully (4 weeks), Robert Campbell (test) Jack Trengove (suspended, two weeks), Jake Spencer (year), Jack Fitzpatrick (TBA)

Port Adelaide:Matt Thomas (back) available, Cameron O'Shea (shoulder) test, Jarrad Redden (virus) test, Dom Cassisi (tibial fracture) 2-3 weeks, Nick Salter (foot stress fracture) 2-3 weeks, David Rodan (knee) 4-6 weeks

Richmond:Daniel Connors (hamstring) test, Shane Tuck (ribs) test, Matt Dea (leg) 1 week, Will Thursfield (leg) 1 week, Jamie O'Reilly (foot) 2 weeks, Kel Moore (hip) TBA

St Kilda:Tom Ledger (1-2 weeks), Will Johnson (test), Jarryn Geary (fibula) 2-3 weeks, Paul Cahill (quad) to be confirmed, Robert Eddy (arm) tbc, Jackson Ferguson (shoulder) tbc, Michael Gardiner (knee) tbc, Lenny Hayes (knee) season

Sydney:Campbell Heath (knee) test, Nick Malceski (knee) test-1 week, Jed Lamb (hamstring) 1 week, Matt Spangher (hamstring) 1-2 weeks, Kieren Jack (ankle) 3-4 weeks, Mike Pyke (quad) 4 weeks, Daniel Bradshaw (knee) indefinite, Gary Rohan (knee) indefinite

West Coast:Eric Mackenzie (foot) 1-2 weeks, Ryan Neates (abdomen) 2 weeks, Brett Jones (arm) 2-3 weeks, Mitchell Brown (thumb) 6-8 weeks, Beau Waters (elbow tendon) 9 weeks

Western Bulldogs:Barry Hall (1 week), Tom Liberatore (test), Easton Wood (2 weeks), Patrick Veszpremi (1-2 weeks), Shaun Higgins (1 week), Tom Williams (1 week)

The Drum…

Whispers from the West indicate that mature age rookie Tendai Mzungu has started full training and could be playing in the WAFL as early as next week. There has also been positive news on Michael Barlow, the surprise packet of the 2010 season is aiming for a round 10 comeback.

Barry Hall is struggling to overcome an ankle injury and is very much a week-to-week prospect. If the big man requires more surgery, it could mean the end of a celebrated career.

Who are we in the Red, White and Blue…

Many moons ago I used to occasionally don the boots for the Girral West Wyalong Bulldogs. As poetic license allows me free rein in this column, I’ve decided that we’ll follow their season as they battle for the Northern Riverina League Premiership…

The Doggies went into Rd 5 with a 0-4 record following a couple of tough weeks that saw the pride of Wyalong forfeit to Cobar rather than face the 430km each way bus ride and then get touched up by 12 goals by defending premiers Lake Cargellico.

Playing traditional rivals Ungarie at the Rec ground in WW it was sure to be a test of their commitment. The Dogs came out hard and led at every break to run out eventual winners by 43 points. Chase Grintell found form to bag six goals while evergreen Geoff “Norm” Walker played like a man half his age to snare four. Sam Broomby dominated all day and was given the Mug ahead of captain-coach Kaine Malone and Grintell.

The start of a big run to the finals I feel. CARNA DOGGIES!!!

Hi – Five:

The five best performances of the round.

5: Chris Judd – I’ve been critical of Judd over the years because I feel at times he gives the impression that he is bigger than the game and more importantly his club.  Not on Monday night. Ed Curnow popped his shoulder in a solid tackle and then came under pressure from the Saints who thought to test him out. A scuffle ensued and Judd flew the flag for his younger teammate and was in the middle of the dust up. Good to see the skipper getting his hands dirty for the team and it speaks highly of the spirit at Carlton.

4: Daniel Kerr – The Eagles didn’t get the points but Kerr with 28 touches, 16 contested, 8 clearances, 7 tackles and a goal gave the West Coast fans something to cheer about. Kerr seems to be completely over his hamstring worries and also off the K – both have had a great effect.

3: Trent Cotchin – 25 touches, 11 contested, 7 clearances, 4 goals and 80% disposal efficiency. Throw in 5 inside 50s, a couple of tackles and 2 score assists. The heir apparent to the Tiger captaincy will finish his career a Brownlow medalist – I have no doubt.

2: The Gold Coast Suns – Surprised everyone and took the points in the first “Q-Clash” (They’ll want to think hard about that name before the next one). Led well by Brennan and Rischitelli who had 22 clearances between them the Suns held it together to beat the Lions who are officially gone for the next three years. Zac Smith, Swallow, Matera, Patrick, McKenzie, Toy, Lynch…So much upside to the Suns. It is hard to look away.

1: Brent Moloney – Wow, just wow. 31 touches, amazingly 21 contested. Even more amazingly 19 clearances (only Paul Salmon with 22 has ever had more since clearances were counted.) 10 inside 50s and 5 tackles. Give him back the Vice Captaincy, hell, make him Prime Minister – Beamer, you are a star.


Thanks to Mark Nolan/Getty Images AsiaPac for use of the photo


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