Jun 25, 2020
A highly unhelpful guide to Round Four
The only guide to the round that admits it’s completely unhelpful. What it lacks in insight, it makes up for with wild theories and detours onto unrelated topics.
It’s your unhelpful guide to Round Four.
Sydney v Western Bulldogs (SCG) 7:40pm Seven
Just a word of warning that I wrote this column while in a bad mood.
‘Have you ever written this in a good mood?’ I hear you ask.
But I’m in a really bad mood at the moment, what with this whole COVID thing spinning out of control in Victoria again.
While I, like the majority of people, locked myself in my house and saw no one (granted, not a big change), others ran around doing the wrong thing, and the government seemed surprised by this.
Wouldn’t you expect people to do the wrong thing? Wasn’t that the point of enforcement?
And when this is costing your economy billions of dollars, wouldn’t you spend a lot of money on enforcement? It’s sort of a ‘money isn’t an object thing’.
I’d have parked a SWAT team outside the house of every positive case. I certainly wouldn’t have hired the people who normally guard a seven eleven at night to do the security at the hotels I was holding all the people with COVID in.
I mean, people’s lives are at stake, and even worse, the AFL season.
It’s doing my head in.
Now the rest of the country is laughing at Victoria and they’re right to.
And still I hear various AFL ‘personalities’ railing against the Grand Final possibly being moved out of Victoria for this year.
I mean, we’ll be lucky to have a Grand Final this year at all, and you can’t really hold it in the official plague state of Australia.
If you want to hold the Grand Final, don’t stuff up the one thing you had to get right.
Sydney to win this game.
Greater Western Sydney v Collingwood (GS) 7:50pm Seven
The constant perpetuating of an ‘us against them’ mentality, between Victoria and the ‘Interstate clubs’ as they call them, is what annoys me most about the AFL industry at the moment.
It’s a national competition and it’s better for being so.
Sure, it’s not a fair competition, and never has been. Looking for fairness in the AFL is like looking for love in a nightclub at 3am. It’s not happening and never has.
Do interstate teams get advantages? Yes. Do Victorian teams? Yes.
Do some teams get more advantages that others? Yes.
Do some teams get draft concessions when they probably shouldn’t? Yes.
Is it a hot mess that drives people crazy? Yes.
But it’s like complaining about the tides, they’re going to happen whether you complain or not. It’s never going to change, it’s too complex a system to ever get completely right.
The idea that the non-Victorian teams are somehow getting the most advantages though is ridiculous. Consider this, if you were given an expansion team, where would you set it up?
For me, it would be based in Melbourne and play at the MCG. Straight away you have minimal travel, play a lot of your ‘away’ games at home, and get a great chance of finals being played at your home ground, with the Grand Final a certainty.
You’ll also find player retention at lot easier.
Yet it’s often the richer, stronger clubs based in Melbourne that do the most whinging.
It’s like how the people in society who have had every advantage complain the most.
Collingwood to win.
Port Adelaide v West Coast (Metricon) 1:45pm Foxtel
All these advantages don’t even win premierships. Competency does. Competency is the rarest substance in the AFL. And it’s an unstable substance too, often disappearing just as it appears you’ve got your hands on it.
Take for example my team Melbourne. They’ve been the club of the Melbourne Establishment forever. They play at the MCG, they were once the powerhouse club of the competition, they have incredibly rich and connected supporters and have tight links to the MCC.
There’s no reason they aren’t THE powerhouse of the competition, except for decades of incompetency.
Even when they were handed advantages in the form of draft picks, their incompetency meant this was like pouring water into a bucket full of holes, a wasted exercise.
Then consider Richmond, they’ve played at the MCG for decades, have had a large supporter base forever and what has held them back over the years? The fact they couldn’t organise a quarantine system in a hotel.
Yet suddenly, they get some competent administrators, and low and behold, they get good again.
They almost stuffed this up too, remember the ‘Focus on Footy’ board challenge? Competency isn’t just unstable, it’s hard to spot until after the fact.
The biggest advantage a club can have is not shooting itself in the foot.
Take the Adelaide Football Club, they haven’t just shot themselves in the foot, but every limb and several vital organs.
Advantages or a lack of them aren’t their issue, much like myself, their problem, is them.
Competency will overcome every disadvantage built into the AFL and incompetency will hold a club down for decades, no matter what advantages you are given.
Port to win.
St Kilda v Richmond (MS) 4:35pm Foxtel
We do need to take stock at the state of football, especially when it’s under threat, and realise just how good the national competition is.
I love having teams in every state (dare to dream Tasmania).
I like the local rivalries, I like the interstate banter, I would even like the expansion teams to work, the more footy fans the better in my opinion.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still make jokes about them because they make it so easy, but I would like them to work out.
The expansionist, proselytizing nature of Australian Rules has been a big part of its success.
From its earliest incarnation, it was desperate to win over new converts. It’s the Scientology of sport.
The alternate approach was taken by Rugby Union, which for long parts of its history didn’t want certain groups of people to play it, even forcing the working class out to form their own version.
The result? Soccer overtook them in Britain and a lot of the world, and League and Australian Rules in Australia.
They’re now in real trouble.
That’s why the whole Victoria dominated AFL media annoys the hell out of me. It’s anathema to the spirit of the game and a strategic threat to it.
Sure, Victoria is rich and powerful, but it doesn’t own Australian Rules. Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia, all are essential to the game being as strong as it is today.
If they had gone the way Queensland and NSW went, and chose League, Australian Rules might not even exist today.
It’s about time people stopped treating them as enemies.
And NSW and Queensland came closer to being Australia Rules states than many people realise. What stopped them going that way? Incompetence. The enemy of football.
Richmond to win.
Essendon v Carlton (MCG) 7:40pm Seven
The other thing that’s annoying me at the moment, and I realise I’m doing it as I write it, is footy media types getting into arguments with each other and then that becoming news.
Someone has an awful take on some issue, so then another guy, who is also an idiot, fires back, and then it’s written up in an article like it’s a debate as important as Abraham Lincoln debating Senator Stephen Douglas on the issue of slavery.
The self-importance is overwhelming. When I write this stuff, I know it silly nonsense and that I know very little. I’m frequently wrong. Anytime I’m right is pure accident; I can assure you.
We are all like this about football. Football has been invented to make us all look like fools. That’s the fun of it.
No one understands it. It’s impossible to predict because it’s beyond human comprehension.
Every attempt to understand it on a deeper level results in people understanding it less. Just look at Champion Data.
That’s why I don’t want to read about commentator X getting into a spat with reporter Y, because we all know they are both wrong.
Carlton to win
Gold Coast v Fremantle (Metricon) 7:40pm Foxtel
Which brings me to another point. It’s no wonder that the AFL media is stuffed at the moment.
One, it’s never really been a place for diverse views. You either fit a very specific mould or you’re not let in.
Even more surprising is how hard it is to get out of the AFL media. It’s easier to leave the mafia.
Look at the recent Sam Newman news. If I didn’t know better, I’d think Newman had been running an experiment for years to see how much it took to get sacked from an AFL media position.
It turned out you can do a lot and still retain your job, and when you do finally get sacked, the media will bend over backwards to paint it as a mutual decision.
It really is astounding.
Now, with budgets being slashed in the media, expect less voices not more.
It’s not all the media’s fault either, Facebook and Google vacuum off all the advertising revenue, using other people’s content, leaving less and less for content creators.
As a result, were getting less and less good quality media overall and the footy media is no different.
The business model is broken, and governments don’t seem to have the power, or the stomach, to change the model.
COVID has only sped up this process.
Watch the AFL media become even more Victoria based due to cost cutting. and the views come from even fewer people, all basically with very similar backgrounds, mainly ex footballers.
I know this is happening with the political media too, all though this is being centralised in Sydney, but the outcomes are the same.
It’s disappointing it’s happening in the political media, but it actually matters that it’s happening in the AFL media.
This lack of advertising dollars coming into major and smaller media outlets is a real worry for the health of the game.
Gold Coast to win.
Brisbane v Adelaide (G) 1:05pm Foxtel
The reason it’s a threat to the health of the game, is because we need a footy media with a broad national outlook, not self-interest dressed up as football commentary.
There are not many sports where Presidents or board members of clubs are also the main voices in the media, but the AFL have this happen all the time.
You all know that when you talk to your friends, the current AFL media is more laughed at than respected. There are a few exceptions, but much of it is more insular and incestuous than the royal family.
When I talk to fans of non-Victoria teams, they genuinely feel alienated by a lot of the footy media.
So too are other groups like women and minority groups.
A sporting code that doesn’t include a wide variety of groups can end up in real trouble.
Brisbane to win.
Melbourne v Geelong (MCG) 3:35pm Seven
What we need to do is approach the current crisis as footy fans first, not as a state war.
We need to grow the game more, we need to work harder to convert people to being fans, we need make some compromises while this is all going on to keep the game moving.
It might mean a Grand Final in WA. That is not the end of the world.
Arguing between states is actually anti-football. It’s not helpful at all. Almost all of it is just the self-interest of individual clubs dressed up as some semi-coherent argument.
We’re going to come out of this crisis with less money, less media voices and the powerful clubs ramming their own agendas down our throats.
As a football fan first and foremost, this worries me a lot.
Geelong to win.
Hawthorn v North Melbourne (M) 6:10pm Foxtel
I love football, and unlike many in the media, I think the game is still great on the field.
The on the field product doesn’t worry me anywhere as much as the off the field issues we face.
Like in all crises, we need to be wary of the enemies within even more so than those without.
North to win.
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