As always, it was an eventful ANZAC Day and the game itself reflected that. Considering Collingwood have the shooting accuracy of expendable henchmen in action movies and Essendon’s poor recent form in wet weather, I really didn’t know what to expect and couldn’t pick a favourite ahead of the game.
Essendon definitely started the better, winning a lot of the early ball and also delivering it well into the forward line. McDonald-Tippungwuti kicked to Daniher in the pocket for the first goal and Heppell found Francis soon after for their second before Collingwood had even looked dangerous.
The early minutes of the game looked ominous for Blues fans. Port were winning the ball too easily in the middle of the ground with Ryder and Wines influential from the start. In on the rare occasions Carlton came forward, the Power cleaned up easily and rebounded quicker than teenager after an angry break up, streaming into a forward half where Robbie Grey was a constant danger.
After giving off a handball for Pittard to miss an early shot, Grey won an important contest on the wing and put the ball out in front of Dixon on the lead. The big forward collected the bouncing ball on the run, turned and snapped the opening goal. Perhaps a minute later the Blues broke down trying to come out of defence and Polac was on hand to goal on the run from outside 50.
I thought this had the makings of an interesting game. Despite misfiring as regularly as Sean Spicer’s White House press briefings, the Dogs have been doing enough to win games- aside from their surprise loss to Fremantle- and although the Roos’ winless start paints a bleak picture, I think they are a better team than that and one that has the potential to be very good on their day.
It was a fast-paced start to the game. The ball was almost constantly in dispute and bodies were flying around like it was a Fast and Furious movie. The Dogs’ pressure was particularly good and they were doing more of the attacking, however they were uncharacteristically sloppy at times, causing their attacks to break down just as they looked threatening. One of their better passages of play found Stringer in space deep forward and forced Thompson to make front-on contact, with the Dogs’ forward kicking a goal from the free kick.
It was a rainy Sunday arvo so I sat myself down in front of the TV to watch the Blues and the Bombers. I have to say I was a bit worried, as I rate Essendon as a markedly better team and if there is a one-sided game on, I lose interest faster than Natasha Exelby.
The early minutes of the game seemed to be in keeping with my expectations, with the Bombers doing most of the attacking and Carlton finding it hard to get past half way except through Casboult’s powerful marking. One such mark was the catalyst for the first goal of the game, as Casboult kicked it long inside 50. No one could mark it but good work by Petrevski-Seton (who had an excellent game) made a chance for Cripps who snapped it off a step from about 30 metres out.
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.