Apr 16, 2018
The Monday Knee Jerk Reaction: AFL Round four
Footy is a passion, not some cold hearted, spread sheet dominated rational exercise.
On a Monday, you want irrational reaction. You want emotion to trump reason.
What you really want is idiotic hysteria.
You’ve come to the right place.
Adelaide (58) v Collingwood (106)
So, that was one of the worst rounds of football ever; like Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony awful.
And like the Closing Ceremony, there were very few athletes to be seen.
Five of the games were showcases for some of the worst endeavour I’ve ever seen.
Even the winning teams seemed somewhat shocked at how much they had mentally and physically broken down their opponents.
To make matters worse, Collingwood looked really good.
Has Buckley’s six-year plan finally come to fruition?
It was certainly exciting for Pies fans to see Jaidyn Stephenson boot five goals; it was the first sign someone in the Collingwood scouting department might have an idea of what they are doing.
The Pies even finished the game with no injuries in what must be a first.
And while the Pies were very good, and showed a real desire to win, they were matched by an Adelaide outfit who displayed a lack of effort they usually reserve for Grand Finals.
The Crows were awful. With the rain and Collingwood’s players committed to harassing them, it was like they decided it was all too hard and shut up shop for the night.
Crows fans will be hoping this is just an off night, but the fact the Crows can at times just not seem to mentally switch on is a thought that’s going to linger for some time.
Luckily for the Crows, there’s was not even in the top three worst performances of the round, which is really saying something.
Greater Western Sydney (82) v Fremantle (51)
Fremantle were back to their freewheeling, high scoring best, putting a dazzling seven goals on the scoreboard in this one.
The game was in Canberra, and the wind was blowing so hard that at one point, a Ryan Griffen shot at goal was heading straight through the big sticks before being blown sideways and carried across several time zones before landing in Kalgoorlie.
This match was described by many as ‘scrappy’ which is always TV commentator code for ‘awful, but we have to pretend everything is great’.
The Closing Ceremony was also ‘scrappy’ but my hero Johanna Griggs was having none of that. I wish many of the teams that played this round had her passion and anger.
Fremantle can at least point to the conditions as a reason this wasn’t a stunning affair.
They hung around for most of the day, but the Giants just had too much polish when it mattered.
It’s hard to win in Canberra, and this is also true in football.
Richmond (110) v Brisbane (17)
Oh dear. An early bid for worst performance of the season by the Lions here.
Seventeen points is not a final score you’ll win too many games with. In fact, I would suggest your final score needs to be at least legally allowed to buy alcohol.
This performance will have set Australian Rules in Queensland all the way back to 2017.
The Lions were kept goalless until almost the end of the third term, in a display that had people comparing them to records set by University and the Brisbane Bears.
It’s never good if you’re in the conversation with those teams.
The Lions main problem is they were about as intense as a bungalow full of teenage stoners.
Richmond, on the other hand, could barely believe the ease at which they continued to get the ball and sweep forward to give Dustin Martin six goals.
I’d say this was like a training drill, but I think the Tigers train harder than this.
In fact, the only real surprise is that Richmond didn’t put 200 points on the board.
At one point, Luke Hodge could be seen wistfully looking up at the commentary box, thinking ‘I could be up there right now.’
Western Bulldogs (79) v Sydney (86)
Arguably the only good game of the round, with the Bulldogs coming to play for the second week in a row, only to run into an equally motivated Sydney outfit.
The highlight of this game was the battle between Easton Wood and Buddy Franklin, which took me back to the days of the Wayne Carey-Glen Jakovich tussles.
Both Wood and Buddy are everything that’s great about our game, individually locked in a duel amongst a broader team game and both masters of their craft.
Wood certainly had the upper hand in the first half, but Buddy kept working, and when it mattered, he again came through.
The Dogs had given up a 22-point lead at one stage, and as it seemed the Swans would pull away, the Bulldogs kept finding goals.
It would be in the final 30 seconds that Ollie Florent would get the ball out on the wing and outpace Tim English into the forward fifty to slot through the winning goal.
This game was a reminder of why we love football, and we really did need it.
North Melbourne (116) v Carlton (30)
The AFL’s war on Tasmania continued, this time sending Carlton south to convince the citizens of the Apple Isle that there’s a downside to having an AFL side.
Unfortunately for Blues fans, Carlton have managed to come back to Victoria.
This wasn’t even the worst performance of the day, thanks to Brisbane, but it was ‘Madonna’s acting career’ bad.
Ben Brown, much like Dusty Martin early that day, managed to singlehandedly outscore his opponents, booting five goals.
It was a highlight in a game lacking them. The Blues got off to a bad start even before the ball was bounced.
Captain Marc Murphy got injured in the warmup, and the Blues’ banner was shredded by the conditions before the team ran through it.
Not since Carlton’s hovercraft sunk on the Yarra has the club had such ill omens.
Brendon Bolton said after the game, "It's not what we stand for" but I have to disagree with him there. This is exactly what the Blues stand for and have for a long time.
They always talk about how the AFL’s punishment for salary cap cheating still hurts them, but a look across the way to Essendon shows a big scandal is no excuse.
Plus, it wasn’t the AFL that has made the Blues spend several years trading away all their talent, like Russell Crowe having a divorce auction.
Carlton fans have every right to be furious with this performance. The ‘rebuilding’ narrative is one of the greatest myths going around.
As one of the great AFL observers of all time once said “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
West Coast (139) v Gold Coast (59)
Gold Coast have spent a fortnight in Western Australia, and I hope they saw a quokka because they have not much else to show for it.
The Eagles were on fire against a disappointing Suns, booting eight goals in the second quarter and making this a walk in the park.
The West Coast crowd, never known for their relaxed nature, were so confident of victory, they started doing the Mexican wave in the last quarter.
To be fair, there was no entertainment occurring on the field at this stage, with Tom Lynch probably wondering which team he’ll go to next year.
The Suns play Brisbane next week in what should be a wonderful display that is sure to win Queenslanders back to Aussie Rules.
The Eagles, on the other hand, are sitting pretty. Josh Kennedy made his return and despite looking a bit rusty, showed signs that the Eagles can do well this year.
Essendon (106) v Port Adelaide (84)
This was always a danger game for Port. Probably due an off day, at Etihad and against an Essendon side which had embarrassed themselves the week before.
Teams either respond to that or not and the Bombers responded and then some.
Essendon were hot from early on, and Jake Stringer put on a four-goal performance that had the Essendon fans cheering him for the first time.
“If you do this each week, we’re willing to consider liking you,” the Essendon crowd could be heard saying.
John Worsfold put on a coaching masterclass by playing his players in the right positions this week and lo and behold it worked! Crazy right!
Port were below their best but still managed to hang around, and this could be explained away as a problematic day away from home.
They’ll want to tidy up their forward fifty entries though; they seemed to put a lot of effort into not kicking it to their forwards.
Hawthorn (115) v Melbourne (48)
In a shrewd move, Melbourne decided to hide any progress they’ve made in recent years, by giving up entirely at quarter time, despite leading at the time.
It was less taking your foot off the pedal and more throwing the car into reverse and flooring it back to 2009.
It was an interesting move that I’m sure is part of some clever long-term plan.
How else would you describe a performance this inept? This lacking in heart?
The Dees would only kick one goal after quarter time, against a Hawthorn team that seemed to only have injured players.
Hawthorn though were trying, and the cruised home in this one by 67-points in a brutal display that at one stage had the Melbourne cheer squad replace their normal flags with white ones to signal the surrender.
It was as if the Dees had seen Brisbane’s and Carlton’s performances and felt their reputation as the most embarrassing team in the competition was under threat.
Simon Goodwin has shown this season that he’ll drop non-performers, with Jayden Hunt being dropped previously, but now he faces dropping almost the entire side if he sticks to his guns.
A lot of people faulted Goodwin after Clarkson did some magic coaching things at quarter time and the Dees didn’t respond, but I’m not sure any coach should have to tell players to do things like run or tackle, these are basics.
As always with Melbourne, the players are the problem and within them lies the solution, there’s no messiah coming, no super coach. With the talent they have, there’s no way they should kick one goal in three-quarters of football.
This is all on them.
Geelong (103) v St Kilda (56)
The perfect nightcap to the round, a 47-point belting of St Kilda by the Cats on a cold, miserable evening in Geelong.
There was a scary moment when Saints defender Dylan Roberton just collapsed for what appeared to be no reason and was rushed off to hospital. He is believed to have suffered from an irregular heartbeat and let’s hope that’s manageable and doesn’t affect him long term.
The game was a nice pick me up for Geelong but provided no relief for Saints supporters whose team is no 1-3 and faces Greater Western Sydney next week.
The Saints were not only beaten around the ball; they turned it over more than they didn’t and Geelong, free of the pressure they’ve been put under by their opponents in recent weeks, feasted on them.
It capped off a miserable weekend of football. Good for the winners but bad for the game. Let’s hope it’s a one-off because that was hard yards.