Sep 22, 2020
AFL Mad Scramble Two: 22 September
A column every day, as we get more football than we even asked for.
Occasionally, this column will even mention football but rarely sensibly.
Essendon (49) v Melbourne (68)
This game highlighted all the reasons Melbourne aren’t in the finals. Against a side that has numerous injuries and worse skills than them, the Dees got on top only to let the Bombers get right back into the game.
Considering the Dees had potential finals on the line, this was astounding, but that’s Melbourne when it matters most, they do the least.
Their losses to Sydney and Fremantle underlined that this was a side that should have made the finals but will have missed out purely based on mental weakness and immaturity.
In this game, the deep respect Simon Goodwin gets from his players was on display during his three-quarter time address, when Christian Petracca and Jayden Hunt started inappropriately touching each other.
Given this was a key moment, and the Dees seemed on the verge of stuffing it up, this was extraordinary. I know a Simon Goodwin address brings all the energy of someone who has been punching cones all day but pay attention.
That said, Petracca and Hunt were two of Melbourne’s best, so perhaps inappropriate touching is the way forward for the entire team. I had a boss once that seemed to subscribe to that philosophy.
It was typical Dees all the way, turning this win into what really felt like a loss.
Between missing finals, Harley Bennell breaching quarantine and the inappropriate touching apology, the Dees really nailed the landing on the end of their season and showed that once again, their members’ money has been well spent.
Essendon fans would be feeling similar emotions. Another wasted year, questions over who will stick around and a new coach who may be good but doesn’t exactly have you fired up for the next season.
The pain in the Bombers members’ souls can be felt each time the ‘get Hird back’ cry goes up, which is like me saying ‘take me back to stage three restrictions.’
It’s sad when your expectations have been lowered to the point that you crave not the glory days, but a slightly less horrendous time than the present.
It would make more sense if the Bombers fans called for Kevin Sheedy to come back.
Anyway, that’s two teams’ seasons over, and it really couldn’t have come soon enough.
Adelaide (33) v Richmond (77)
I won’t miss season 2020. It’s been horrible footy wise, partly due to the COVID issues, like the shortened quarters, and partly due to the continuation of Steve Hocking’s vandalism of our game in the interest of being ‘innovative’.
You would have thought the Crows would have been glad to see the back of the season too, but the last month has been a positive one, which is surprising given they captured the wooden spoon on the weekend.
That turned out to be quite hard, North Melbourne made a real run at grabbing it.
The Crows weren’t really in this game, but there was effort there and they’ve shown enough to at least go into 2021 with some sense that there is a path out of the darkness.
The Tigers had to work hard in parts, but they were focused on getting the double chance and looked like a team that has got itself right just in time for the finals, you wouldn’t want to face them.
When you look at their key challengers, Brisbane and Port have little or no finals experience, and Geelong have lots of finals experience, but it’s been bad.
I’m not saying Richmond is going to win, but I’ve taken all the money I got from JobKeeper for the fake employees I created and put it on the Tigers.
I probably shouldn’t have told you that but I’ve doctored the records to show the money went to executive bonuses so I should be fine.
Brisbane (78) v Carlton (61)
When I think of the toughest players I’ve seen, two come to mind immediately, Nathan Jones and Kade Simpson
Both men have given everything to their clubs, often with their clubs giving very little back to them.
To keep stepping up week after week when those around you are often not giving their all is astounding.
The mental strength to keep pushing yourself like Simpson has when team success constantly eludes you is something you’d love to bottle and give to every player.
To crank out 342 games, in an era when the club has more often waged war on their fans’ psyches, rather than opponents, and keep stepping up and setting an example is why the fans love him.
Brisbane didn’t exactly set the world on fire in this one and I think there’s still question marks over them.
The Lions could do with a bit more ruthlessness. They don’t seem to want to bury teams. They could do with some lessons from my Aunt Veronica, who specialises in burying opponents, and by opponents, I mean family members.
I don’t mean physically, although she’s put a few in the ground, but emotionally.
She called me this week, and after I said, ‘this year has been tough’, she said:
“That’s because you’re weak. Your entire generation is. Not enough of you have gone to war. When I was growing up, we didn’t have time for feelings, not bad ones and certainly not good ones. We certainly didn’t sit around having brunch or caring about issues. And I have to be honest, even within this weak generation, you are an extreme.”
Brisbane should hire her.
Hawthorn (108) v Gold Coast (57)
When I previewed this game, I asked who cared about it, and it turns out the Suns didn’t.
Gold Coast seemed content on ensuring Ben Stratton and Paul Puopolo had great send-offs, which is a weird thing to do for players who don’t play for you.
But Carlton did it for Bryce Gibbs, so perhaps this is a new thing.
Gold Coast’s season has been a lot like the Matrix trilogy, an exciting start before getting progressively worse and disorganised before ending as a disappointing mess.
Hawthorn’s victory will hopefully deliver a false sense of hope that will result in them making poor decisions in the offseason. We can dream, can’t we?
In all honesty, I mock Hawthorn supporters a lot but it’s pure jealousy.
And I know they’re doing it really tough at the moment. The fact some Hawthorn families have toddlers who haven’t seen their team play finals is heartbreaking and my thoughts go out to them in these difficult times.
Sydney (63) v Geelong (69)
Geelong turned in another classic September performance, coming incredibly close to losing this and making all Cats fans nervous about how finals are going to go.
The Cats spent much of the game looking like a team that hadn’t touched a football in a few months. They kicked the ball out on the full so often I felt like I was watching Rugby Union.
Partly this was due to the Swans putting enormous pressure on them, but it mainly seemed that the Cats were just mentally off. It happens. I even lost a game to the computer on FIFA once, purely because I just wasn’t switched on.
It was a dark day and I’m not proud of it, but that’s just being a top-level athlete.
The Swans seemed like a team possessed early on and really should have been leading by a lot more, but Tom Papley seemed keen to secure fourth spot for the Cats by kicking 2.5.
Patrick Dangerfield, who had been off all game, was thrown forward late in the third and sparked his side to run over the tiring Swans.
It was a result that would have pleased the commentators. Listening to them, you wouldn’t have known the Swans were playing.
In fact, it would have been cheaper to just record someone saying, ‘The little master, Selwood brave as always, and Dangerfield!’ and just play that on the loop.
I had a shot every time they said, ‘little master’ and I’m still absolutely plastered.
But Geelong’s win wasn’t one that would instil confidence for the finals, while for the Swans, there are signs a difficult season will bear fruit in the not-to-distant future.
Fremantle (44) v Western Bulldogs (74)
The Bulldogs just needed to win this and they would be in the finals, and apart from their own ability, they had the Norm Smith curse working for them, making the outcome of this a surer thing than me going on one of history’s great benders when this lockdown is over.
Freo certainly hung in there early on, Nat Fyfe again keeping the Dockers in it, but the Dogs just had so much more to play for.
While the Dockers certainly didn’t disgrace themselves, with each passing minute, they knew they were a step closer to getting to the pub.
I think most Dockers fans would be pleased with the season, overall there was solid improvement and Justin Longmuir seems to have some idea of what to do, which is all you can really hope for in a coach.
For the Bulldogs, it’s now a dare to dream scenario, memories of 2016 come flashing back, although it seems unlikely the Doggies can do it this year, but the same was said in 2016.
Collingwood (45) v Port Adelaide (61)
The only thing better than ending the regular season with a Collingwood loss is ending the finals with one.
The Pies looked very much like a team that will be making up the numbers in the finals this year, but this being 2020, you can’t rule out a Pies premiership to really put the icing on a truly awful cake.
Port Adelaide have had a wonderful season, but there are two things that have stopped them getting respect in the AFL media, a lack of finals experience and not being from Victoria.
Despite the competition moving predominantly north, the AFL media’s Victoria focus hasn’t, and Port get mentioned only briefly in dispatches despite pretty much leading the comp the entire year.
Plus, they’ve expertly trolled Eddie ‘I was only at a nightclub to research COVID safe plans’ McGuire, with the prison bars issue all year, a wonderful bit of community service.
Port should go far in finals, they’ve got the balance right, now we do have to see it in finals.
The Pies always give it their all, but not having any key forwards does seem a bit of an oversight.
Perhaps Eddie was looking for one at that Gold Coast nightclub.
My new book Cheat: The Not-so-subtle Art of Conning Your Way to Sporting Glory is now available for pre-order.
At the moment I’m barely able to work, so you can help support me in producing this ridiculous nonsense I churn out on a regular basis. It’s greatly appreciated. Find out more here: https://titusoreily.com/support-titus