This game started with all the gentle civility of David Leyjonhelm’s Twitter activity. Both teams were into each other before the first bounce. I am not a real fan of niggle behind play. Firstly it relies on the “What happens on the field stays on the field,” argument, which implies that one standard of behaviour is acceptable on the field that would be unacceptable elsewhere. Aside from completely rejecting this argument, I am yet to be convinced that it makes the players play any better, and would suggest it can have the opposite effect. Perhaps it was a coincidence but neither team played particularly well tonight and Port had given away two free kicks before they even touched the ball.
The Hawks pushed hard in the opening minutes with Ceglar dominating the ruck. However Port kicked the opening goal against the run of play when they were able to use overlapping runners to bring the ball from half back and kick long to Schulz on the lead. Hawthorn continued to look stronger though and kicked two very similar goals in succession on the back of their pressure. Port’s kicking all over the field was often as ugly as Katie Hopkins’ opinion pieces and two kicks from defence were intercepted and fired back inside 50 to be marked by Rioli and Gunston with neither missing their shot.
I was looking forward to this game like a nerd waiting for the next Marvel movie. Having seen the Roos live last week, I had been pretty impressed, while the Cats have been very good to watch this season (I didn’t actually see the games they dropped against Carlton and Collingwood).
Geelong threatened from the opening bounce but let the Roos off with some uncharacteristic skill errors, including easy dropped marks by Caddy and Stanley. North were much more clinical when their turn came, scoring from basically their first attacking play after Petrie marked in the forward line and found Gibson to kick the goal.
Geelong continued to monopolise the play and after prolonged pressure in the forward line, they recycled the ball and Bartel sidestepped Wells and kicked the Cats’ first. Soon after, Menzel marked inside 50 on the lead and put his team in front. Blicavs created a terrible turnover at half back after marking a ball coming out of defence. He looked as indecisive as Turnbull talking about tax, eventually giving the ball away and catching his defence out of position, as they had begun to transition into attack. As a result it was easy for Thomas hit Harvey on the lead for a goal.
Prior to the bounce this looked like anything but an even game. In fact, a game of footy between the the under pressure Tigers and the in-form Swans seemed about as fair as a debate between Jacqui Lambie and anything smarter than a piece of fruit. But the great thing about sport is every game starts at nil-all and you never know for sure what will happen next.
Richmond were wearing a special strip raising money for the Allanah and Madeline Foundation and as a tribute to those affected by the Port Arthur Massacre. I thought this was a nice touch, although I’m sure there are still a few conspiracy theorists (probably wearing tin foil hats so government satellites can’t read their minds) who believe any recognition of the Port Arthur Massacre is just an attempt to further erode their “Constitutional,” right (it isn’t actually in the Australian Constitution at all) to own as many high-powered firearms as they want.
I'll say this for the dragged out cricket season: It really makes me appreciate footy season. The 2016 season is certainly shaping up as an interesting one and the round 4 match between the Swans and Crows pitted two in-form teams and unlike Malcolm Turnbull's ascension to prime minister, it didn't disappoint.
The Swans looked good in the early minutes, with much of the play in their forward half. After a scramble near goals, Cunningham won a slightly tough free kick for holding the ball in front of goal and happily kicked his side's first. After the initial flurry of activity in the Swans’ forward half, which Sydney should probably have scored more from, most of the quarter was well-balanced, with both midfields using the ball well. The Crows' captain exerted himself with strong leading mark at half forward and soon after another mark inside 50. He never looked like missing either, opening the scoring for his team with a classy goal.
Sydney struck back with an exhilarating goal from the centre bounce. Parker blitzed his way through three Crows with speed and strength. He kicked long and Heeney gathered, showing poise and evasive skills before giving off a superbly timed hand pass to McGlynn who hit it at full pace, ran into space and kicked the goal. The teams continued to basically trade goals and a free kick was paid to Lynch for high contact in a marking contest that he duly converted. His teammates seemed fairly subdued afterwards when I had expected them to maybe get around the big ginger a bit more (maybe even forming a lynch mob- sorry couldn't help myself).
Grand finals day is one of my favourite days of the year, regardless of who is playing. The day after rarely is though and I usually go through as many painkillers as the Sydney Roosters in their off season. This year is a bit different. As I have written elsewhere I am in the midst of recovery from an injury that has had significant impact on my life. As a result I am on an alcohol ban and I am able to actually watch the whole game and record it for those like me who often don't remember much after half time.
You have to give credit to both finalists for their performance over the season. Like Malcolm Turnbull, Hawthorn have ground inexorably towards their current position and it seemed almost unthinkable that they wouldn't be here today, while the eagles have come from the clouds (sorry) to exceed almost anyone's expectations.
I have expected the lack of height in the West Coast to be exploited like a 7-11 worker all season, but they have continually proved me wrong. Would today be the day they were found out? On the Hawthorn side there were fitness questions over Gunston and Hodge so it was going to be interesting to see how they ran out the game in the unaccustomed heat.
I was really interested to see what happened with this game. I actually think both of these teams have the players on paper to match any team in the competition on their day. What I suspect lets them down is team consistency and the occasional lack of tactical cohesion. After being thereabouts for a few years, neither team was going to be happy to go out in week one of the finals and I wished both could have somehow progressed. While neither coach is quite at Mick Malthouse’s level of aggression in media interviews, I could see the losing coach at least matching Serena Williams and being about as amused as the Pacific Island leaders were with Peter Dutton’s sense of humour. Brad Scott’s decision to rest a number of players last week drew more opinionated media discussion that the Chinese Free Trade Agreement last week (that is barely even a joke and almost a sad indictment on our society) so how the roos responded would be another interesting subplot.
At this point in the season, I have about as much confidence in the bombers as the Liberal Party seems to have in Joe Hockey, and after Richmond’s smashing of the pies last week, I wondered if a blowout was on the cards. So while I was wondering whether Essendon resistance would disappear quicker than Operation Fortitude, I wasn’t totally convinced that it would happen at all. Richmond may be a bit too good to be true (a bit like Damien Mantach) as last week’s scoreline flattered them and disguised the fact that their midfield was unable to really control the game.
It was pretty wet before the game and conditions for the opening bounce looked awful, with the resulting football about as attractive as a hipster beard/ man bun combination. Both teams were finding it hard to get the ball out of defence easily with clearances coming back more often than an ageing rocker without enough superannuation.
Richmond made a dream start to this game. They scored their first goal quickly, ripping the ball out their defensive 50, running and handballing through the centre of the ground before a kick inside 50 allowed Vickery to mark ahead of his player, before handballing over the top for Lloyd to run into an open goal. They quickly goaled again when Maric won a free in the ruck and kicked long, where Riewoldt’s quick handpass released Lambert to kick a goal on the run from the pocket.
The Collingwood defence was leaking like federal cabinet and it was starting to look ominous soon after, when Hunt chopped off another clearing kick and kicked to the goal square where Lloyd marked in the pack and goaled again. Collingwood weren’t as bad as the scoreline suggested though. They were finding players in space when they got their hands on the ball and were able to pick their way through the Richmond midfield to kick inside 50 on several occasions, without finding a forward in space. Richmond on the other hand played with ambitious flair, taking on tacklers and running hard through the centre. Occasionally the running broke down with an overzealous handball, which caught the rest of the midfield out of position and allowed the pies to counterattack, but the Richmond defence were excellent at stifling any scoring opportunities. Their forwards were looking looking exceptionally dangerous and were making no mistakes with their kicking to targets or goals.
I was leaning towards the giants pre-game, based on only reports that Essendon’s form line was flat-lining quicker than respect for Nick Krgios. However this was without having seen either team actually play (still that is more than enough knowledge of a situation for Tony Abbott to try to tell qualified scientists about renewable energy and climate change, so maybe I was giving myself a hard time).
GWS won the first clearance and kicked straight inside 50, where Patton marked one-handed under pressure from Gwilt. I always like seeing a young player coming back from a bad injury and playing well so this was a promising start. My first instinct was that this seemed a fairly good mismatch in size for GWS to exploit. Patton missed his set shot, but GWS were kicking for goal again soon after when Rory Lobb was too tall for anyone else in the pack and held a strong mark. With the sort of run up you might attribute to Josh Kennedy, Lobb kicked wide to again let the bombers off, but they fell down again coming out of defence when Hayes took a good mark and was awarded a soft 50 to bring him just within range. He combined Lobb’s stutter run with a Shoaib Akhtar-length run up, but somehow still had the energy to kick accurately at the end of it.
A bit like Forest Gump’s chocolate box (not a euphemism), you never knew what you were going to get from this game leading into it. Since John Barker took over at Carlton, the blues have shown quite a bit of fight in some games, but also capitulated quicker than Iraqi soldiers in others. But reading the blues is easy compared to knowing what to expect from North Melbourne who are as hard to understand as the Mercury website’s decision to publish ‘news stories’ about what is happening on The Bachelor. So with the stage set for anything, I sat down with interest to see what would happen.
There was a conference of players around the toss of the coin, as Carlton had two indigenous players joining Murphy, as a gesture of respect to Adam Goodes. I have written my opinion on the Goodes controversy here, so won’t comment further other than to say the support for Goodes has been encouraging by the playing group, even if some of the gestures seemed a little tokenistic. Andrew Swallow had come out on the ground with his head already bandaged, due to a pre-existing cut, denying himself the chance to walk up to a camera and say, “Do you wanna know how I got these scars?” Come on Andrew, football is part of the entertainment industry, after all.