A complicated look at uncomplicated topics to ameliorate your day.
Well, there goes the baby, out with the bath water.
Fremantle @ Collingwood
The season opener didn’t really tell us much we didn’t already know. Now, let’s not jump to too many outlandish conclusions just yet but it can re-affirm some pre-season thoughts. The Pies are not trending upwards at this stage. The additions of Adams and White were always going to take time, even on the back of some promising pre-season form. Reid and White missed the game and it will no doubt take time for them to gel with Cloke inside the forward half. The backline looks a little vulnerable with younger players like Frost, Langdon and Sinclair taking key roles alongside Maxwell, Brown and Toovey. It is hard to see how that backline will drastically improve as the season continues unless Reid and Lumumba return to defence to sure up the back 6. Keefe is an option but he is not a game changer for the Pies.
The Dockers showed the promise of last season and the familiar pressure that Ross Lyon imparts on his sides. I keep going back to the StKilda sides that, once they fully embraced the Lyon mantra, saw it take them deep into September and became almost unstoppable. In 2009, the Saints were still undefeated through 19 games and toppled a strong Hawthorn side at Aurora Stadium with 4 or 5 key senior players being rested. That season they suffered losses in rd20 and rd21 by a total of 7 points. I can see a similar path taken by this Fremantle side. Of course, they face stiff challenges on the road but Lyon has shown he can travel his side with great success and this young side will continue to be driven by these unheralded young stars of the competition like Fyfe and Hill. The fixture has them scheduled to face Hawthorn and Sydney on the road in rounds 3 and 5 with a rematch against Geelong at the Cattery later in the season. Besides those matches, they may be favoured to win every other game all season.
Over-reaction – Fremantle might go undefeated.
Over-reaction – Collingwood are rebuilding.
Sydney @ Greater Western Sydney
Talk about a Giant killer early in the season. This game will probably remain the most unpredictable outcome of the season. No one saw the Giants topple the Swans who were flag favourites for many last week. A 5 goal loss was the least likely scenario of many and a fairy tale start for the Giants.
How did they do it? CLEARANCES – The Giants were dominant at the stoppages and the Mumford effect kicked in straight away. Even (14 – 14) at the centre bounces but +18 around the ground led to the ball being in the Giant’s hands far much more than the Swans. A large discrepancy at the stoppages isn’t necessarily a back breaker, and has quietly been the attitude of the Cats in recent times. The Cats have seen teams dominate the stoppages knowing they have the backline firepower to win the ball back either through intercept marks from Taylor and Lonergan or swept out of defence by players like Enright and Mackie. The Giants out tackled the Swans and in the end held the Swans scoreless in the final term to be the better team on the day.
What Next? The Giants have a decent opening schedule and could put together a few wins. We can see the makings of a formidable forward line with the dynamic tall forwards floating inside 50. The midfield is developing under Callan Ward and the Giants are young. They should have the freshness to fire early in the season but lacking multiple pre-seasons at AFL level to peak in the last third of the season. Look for them to build the confidence and be competitive against teams like StKilda (Rd 2), Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.
Swans Slide? Sydney is a professional team that has not built success over the last decade on one week or one game. They will lick their wounds and be desperate to atone for that performance. The midfield will be stung and with Jack, Goodes, Tippet and more to return they are not in any danger of slipping out of the top 4 this season. One game doesn’t mean much in the scheme of the 22 game season. If a pattern emerges, the older swans sliding narrative may become relevant but for now, stick with the Swans. They are a classy unit.
Over-Reaction – Swans slip out of top 4.
Over-Reaction – Giants a sneaky chance for top 8.
Richmond @ Gold Coast
The Tigers had more disposals, more clearances, more inside 50s, more tackles and yet still were unsuccessful at Metricon Stadium. Cotchin and Deledio did as they pleased but so did the Sun crew. GAJ, O’Meara, Prestia, Swallow and Rischitelli were all prolific showing they are one of the most powerful midfields in the game on their day. The Tigers lacked forward line firepower against what looked like a fragile back 6 for the Suns. Warnock, Cameron, Lemmens, May and Broughton are not your biggest names and they were able to quell Jumpin’ Jack and his underperforming mates. Vickery and Jack managed 3 goals between them and Ellis, Edwards and Griffiths were not dangerous targets.
The Tigers were expected to spike again this year and this performance probably shows they are in that pack of 5 or 6 teams vying for the last 2 or 3 spots in the top 8. They are more than capable of beating Hawthorn or heading West and being competitive but until they consistently knock off Gold Coast caliber teams they will not push for the lofty heights of the top 4.
Over-Reaction – Swallow is in GC’s top 3 midfielders.
Over-Reaction – Jack Reiwoldt cannot win the Coleman.
Port Adelaide @ Carlton
Both teams made it to the Semi Finals last year and Port Adelaide once again were seen as the first team to drop out of the 8 this pre-season. They showed once again an ability to surge late in the game and over-run the Blues who had a few lacking in match fitness coming into the game be exposed by the fittest team in the league. We certainly keep hearing about how fit this team is and how good they are in final quarters. It may be partly placebo and partly true, whatever it is the impact is important. When teams get a lead later in the game, they will tend to slow play the ball and ‘chew up clock’. This can be very dangerous because it means you put up the white flag with regards to scoring. If you don’t score and they other team is fitter, going for risky options at every opportunity to kick majors and build momentum this can only result in the margin dwindling and your nerves mounting. This attitude change reflects the positive score differential for Port as much as an extra few second on their 3km time trial time for November.
What Next? Carlton have decisions to make it seems. The media has climbed all over Malthouse and the win now philosophy that seems to be following his stint at Carlton. What do the Blues do with treasured stalwarts like Simpson, Scotland and Carrazzo? Are McLean and Warnock viable options in 3 years time, if not, do they warrant game time now? These are the current questions flying around. The Blues should continue on the current path with players like Thomas to get better, Judd to come back, Murphy to build into the season and Gibbs/Kreuzer to put up better numbers. The problems seem to be the younger players in the team not being up to standard rather than the older players creating holes. Bootsma, Watson and McInnes seem out of their depth. All is not lost but they Blues look limp in comparison to the deeper challengers like West Coast and North Melbourne.
Drinking the Port? With Boak, Wines, Hartlett, Cornes, Wingard, Ebert and Gray you have a mix of match winners and consistent performers who get results. Throw in key position players like Schultz, Westhoff, Trengove and Carlisle and you can see the spine for Port Adelaide is pretty strong. They wont be a sexy team but they could easily re-assume their top 8 position again this season.
Over-Reaction – Malthouse experiment has failed and it is time to play the kids.
Over-Reaction – Port Adelaide will blindly win all 4Q because of their fitness.
Pearl of the Week – “No team is ever as bad as they look and no team is ever as good as they look for one game.”