At the Trough: Round 1

Filed in AFL, AFL Lines by on April 3, 2012

Footy’s back baby!!! After a grueling five month preseason which saw the MTN crew running laps of each and every beer garden east of Alice Springs, we finally landed primed and ready for the start of round one. And what a cracking round of footy it was.

Everything we’d been dreaming of since the Cats knocked off the Pies (you beauty) in the big one last year. It had everything. Ferocious contests, last gasp victories, upsets and abominations. Big grabs, great goals and even some good old knuck. If every round this year serves up this kind of action then ATT won’t be searching for inspiration.  Each week we’ll take a look top five highlights and lowlights of the round that was.

Top Dollar!

5. Fox Footy: Foxtel have committed over $100m a year for the next five years to the sport and are taking every opportunity to maximize their returns. The Fox Footy channel is incredible. Every game in HD. Footy news updates. Talk shows (although I don’t think anyone is tuning into 360 four nights a week.) and everything else the avid footy lover could want. An added bonus that I’ve noticed over the last few weeks is that Fox Footy is taking every chance they can get to run cross promotions for the Melbourne Storm. News Limited owns the Melbourne Storm and have a controlling interest in Foxtel. They’ve seen the new media rights as a new way to market the Storm to the people of Melbourne – not in opposition to the AFL but as an ally. Billy Slater, arguably the best player in the NRL was a guest on Fox Footy’s EMT and gave a great insight into the code. Well played Rupert. 

4. Chadwick and Izzy. When I first heard that GWS had signed Chad Cornes I vomited a bit. Chadwick was once the standout centre half-back in the competition but the last few years he has been shithouse at best and an out and out liability at worst. By all reports the great man has embraced the opportunity set the standard for the young guys at the GWS and is leading the way in all forms of training. His rejuvenation off the field seems to be helping his footy as well with some solid games now under his belt. Much has been made of Izzy Folau and I won’t harp on it but this lad has played about 20 games of footy in his life. That puts him on the same level of footy knowledge as your average 11 year old. All kids need a strong role model to show them the path and if Cornes can stay fit and motivated, his influence on Izzy be what’s needed to enable him to progress from elite athlete to elite footballer.

3. Indigenous All stars. There have been plenty of headlines in the last month regarding the Indigenous footballers in the AFL and the greater Indigenous community. From Liam Jurrah to Matthew Rendell, tempers have been frayed and relations have been stretched. With the mood being so high it was incredible to see the efforts of some of the Indigenous players in round 1. Chris Yarran set the standard on Thursday night with his creativity culminating in a goal that rivals any ever kicked at the MCG. Buddy was up to his usual tricks and Cyril Rioli was electrifying on Friday. Harley Bennell for the Suns and a fresh Josh Hill for the Eagles all showcased their brilliance in game changing efforts. Indigenous players add so much excitement to our game with their speed and skill. As long as they are playing, I’ll be watching.

2. The top four? I’m struggling to recall any preseason top four predictions that didn’t include Geelong, Collingwood and Hawthorn. A pretty reasonable assessment I would have thought. The big problem here is that after round one we also have three other teams that have stamped themselves as contenders. Carlton and West Coast were always going to be there or thereabouts  given the depth of talent on their lists and that has been reaffirmed by their clinical victories on the weekend. Both were challenged for three quarters and both blew their opposition away in the last. Fremantle also knocked off the reigning premiers, albeit in Perth, but with their list they are legit and will be a force this year. As such we now have to squeeze six into four. With any luck the Pies will shit the bed and drop out of contention, but I can’t see it happening.

1. Fremantle v Geelong: The match of the round for mine. It had everything. The lead changed regularly during the day. There was niggle, knuckle, skill and grit. Much has already been made of Hayden Ballantyne and his antics. There is nothing in the rule book that says you can’t chat away to your hearts content. Libba won a Brownlow being the grubbiest little prick you could ever imagine. As long as Ballantyne keeps putting his head over the seed when the going gets tough then you can’t fault him. He’ll definitely need to because the hits will be coming. Stevie J seems to think some retribution might be in the air. Scarlett did what any man would do when someone is screaming in your face. He bopped him on the chin. OUTRAGEOUS! Not really. It’s always been against the rules but it has always been awesome. It’s not like he king hit him from behind. It was a Phil Krakouer special, right on the chin. It will cost him three though so probably not worth it, but it certainly would have felt worth it at the time. The ill discipline of both sides was the aspect that got the headlines but what was truly on offer was an amazing four quarter contest played with guts and determination with no place to hide. How good is Nate Fyfe – all the trappings of a young James Hird. Hopefully it’s just a taste of things to come.


1. Melbourne Footy Club: What a bust this was. With all the pent up emotion surrounding the passing of Jim Stynes, one could have been forgiven for thinking that the Dees might have had a crack. They were absolutely belted, flogged in every aspect of the game by a team without their best player who are supposedly 12 months behind the Dees in their rebuilding phase. The Lions played well with some great individual performances but they were allowed to dominate through the sheer lack of effort and desire of their opponents. Their experienced group of Moloney, Green and Davey might as well have stayed at home for all the impact they had. Davey especially needs to have a good hard look at himself. He was rubbish last year and needed a good start. He’d be lucky to get a kick at Casey they way he is travelling. A tough introduction from Mark Neeld who has promised change, but the list is thin and it’s hard to see where the next wave will come from. It could be another long year for the Melbourne faithful.

2. Shit Haircuts: There are always a few lads who want prove their individuality with an odd do. Last year it was Pendles’ dreadlocks and Nic Nat’s Pom Pom. Ivan Maric set the tone early channeling the ‘88 Hawks with his well-groomed mullet, his time spent in Adelaide obviously having a lasting affect. As mullets go it isn’t too bad, but the Tigers will be hoping that his impact can transcend fashion. He’s had an impact on Jack Reiwoldt whose latest haircut looks like it was sculpted by the love child of Michael J Fox and Stevie Wonder. The Carlton lads led by Murphy and Gibbs are bringing back the ‘Step’, while Matthew Kreuzer’s attempt to follow suit has all the hallmarks of a DIY. Ashley Smith from West Coast has some form of afro undercut going on and Luke Dahlhaus loves the dreads. Just let the footy do the talking lads. You’re better than that.

3. Eddie McGuire: No one can argue that Eddie McGuire has had a positive influence on our game. He’s built the Collingwood football club into a powerhouse and kudos to him. He deserves his accolades but what he doesn’t deserve is to be the CEO of the AFL. The seeds were planted in an article by Michael Warner in the Herald Sun calling for Eddie to be named the next boss of our game. God forbid.  He is a media personality first and foremost. He’s done a great job as the president of Collingwood, but Gary Pert is a driving force behind the administration. That’s the bottom line. TV presenter, club President, journalist, even commentator – he ticks the boxes but he’s not an administrator. This shortcoming was shown full well by his short tenure as CEO of Nine. Moreover, the thought of giving the responsibility of running our game to someone so obviously biased defies belief. He is not allowed to call Collingwood games on Fox Footy because he can’t remain objective. Surely the next CEO should be someone without an overt club allegiance. An administrative background wouldn’t hurt either.   

4. Mark Robinson: To quote a mate of mine “Mark Robinson looks like a big, fat, old drunk”. No news to Robbo I wouldn’t have thought. I can’t attest to Robbo’s schooner quotient but the thing about Robbo that shits me to tears is that he changes his mind mid argument on just about every topic. He takes the high moral ground every chance he gets until it’s shown that his argument is flawed. Then he back pedals like nobody’s business. Regarding the Hayden Ballantyne issue, he came out all guns blazing that Scarlett was a low mongrel and that Ballantyne was within his rights to say whatever he wants. Until Bomber Thompson differed in opinion then he changed his tune pretty swiftly. “Geelong were arrogant”…Were they? “Well maybe arrogant is a bit strong.” Fair enough having an opinion Robbo but stick to your guns mate. Gerard Whately wears the pants in that relationship, which is funny enough in itself.

5. Richmond: Every year we come into round one with a hype around the Tigers that rivals the premiership contenders; every year they get paddled by Carlton. It sucked me in as anyone who reads our AFL lines column will know. It sucked a lot of people in, with the Tigers’ line being squeezed from +20.5 into +12.5 before the first bounce. For some reason everyone wants to believe that the Tigers are on the mend. Perennially 9th on the ladder it only seems just that the boys from Punt Rd might actually make a fist of it. They were competitive again and their core group of players have a wealth of talent, but the bottom line is their defense is second rate and until that is fixed they’ll continue to hemorrhage goals. As good as their midfield is, those kind of defensive shortcomings will leave them destined to struggle.


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