Oct 05, 2020
The Monday Knee Jerk Reaction: AFL Finals Week One
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.
Port Adelaide (58) v Geelong (42)
What a weekend of Finals. In complete contrast to a season that felt like a slow-moving train wreck but less fun to watch, these games were actually exciting.
Not only was there good footy, the results threw the Premiership race wide open, if the team that finished top of the ladder going straight into the Prelim can be considered ‘throwing the Premiership race wide open.”
But Port did come into this with question marks over them, their lack of recent finals experience and their poor game against Geelong earlier in the year, meant this was no certainty.
While the game itself was great, it only enhanced my belief that a lot of footy’s problems could be solved by turning off Ray Chamberlain’s mic.
‘Razor Ray’ again made himself the centre of attention, failing to grasp he is meant to have the profile of a state opposition leader, barely noticed and not able to be named by anyone.
Add to that Bruce and BT talking him up, and the idea that shutting off microphones would be a blessing only grows.
When it comes to Channel Seven’s commentary, the phrase ‘addition by subtraction’ certainly comes to mind.
Razor even copped a spray from Chris Scott for his poor centre bounces, which looked like the ones a toddler would do, and despite Chris Scott being 100 per cent correct, it still fun to laugh at Scott’s ability to whinge no matter the situation.
What was impressive about the actual game, was Port’s ability to shut down Tom Hawkins, who had destroyed them earlier in the year.
Hawkins seemed keen to assist the Power with their plan, missing shots and being generally useless, but this was partly due to them forcing him to the boundary line at times. Yet he should be acknowledged for his versatility, he missed some easy shots too.
Geelong’s ability to choke in a final is really becoming a central pillar of their ‘brand’, which I concede is better than having a reputation of not making finals, but it’s hollow consolation.
After the game, Chris Scott says it’s ‘a bit lazy’ to criticise Geelong’s finals record. I guess his right, in the way that for me to say ‘it’s raining as I write this’ is so obvious it’s barely worth mentioning.
Port fans now have every right to believe. They were fantastic, both in negating Geelong’s game plan, while also executing their own.
Their commitment was on display when Xavier Duursma flew back to take a mark and got knocked out briefly. It was indicative of the Port players desire to do anything to win, and it makes you realise you were wrong to doubt them.
Well, that and the fact I tipped 0-4 this weekend. Although, tipping 0-4 is just as hard as tipping 4-0 when you think about it, at least that’s what I’m telling myself.
Brisbane (69) v Richmond (54)
Slick. That’s all I could think as I watched the Lions take apart Richmond with a focus and intensity usually reserved for when I eat a souvlaki at three in the morning.
Where Richmond has built their impressive reputation on relentless pressure, on Friday, the Lions both stood up to it and exceeded that pressure.
Where early on, Dusty Martin was carving them up, much to the collective excitement of the Channel Seven commentary team, the Lions limited his impact, and then played so well the commentators were forced to mention there was another team out there.
Charlie Cameron was a big part of the Lions surge, but every single Lions player stood up at some point when it mattered.
Even Lachie Neale forgetting to play the first quarter didn’t matter, the Lions simply had the Tigers covered.
As for the Tigers, the result confirmed their patchy form this season. Not having Tom Lynch certainly didn’t help, it allowed Harris Andrews to do whatever he wanted.
It was like that week I had without my ankle bracelet. There Department of Justice had no way of keeping me honest.
Without Lynch, the Tigers are like a vegetarian pizza, technically meeting the basic criteria of what it’s meant to be but in the end, deeply unsatisfying.
In the end, Brisbane has set themselves up on the inside track with the rest of their finals being at the Gabba.
If Brisbane wins the Premiership, they will be the first team to do so on their home ground since Richmond, all the way back in 2019.
And people say this column lacks insight.
St Kilda (67) v Western Bulldogs (64)
You have to say, given a chance to coach his first AFL club, Brett Ratten has really made it count.
For the first time in a decade, St Kilda has won a final, and it wasn’t stressful at all.
Leading by 24 points at three-quarter times, the Saints fans, an optimistic bunch at the best of times, calculated in their heads that there were 13,452 ways things could go wrong in the last quarter, and all of them almost came true.
One of those 13,452 scenarios was Paddy Ryder going off injured, which happened after he’d dominated the game. It’s shattering he’ll miss the semi-final.
With Paddy off, and an ignoble defeat staring them in the face, the Bulldogs started to get moving in the fourth quarter.
Saints fans started panicking as I did at the local café when a woman actually spoke to me. “This is it,’ I thought, “someone like me.”
It turned out she wanted me to move down a seat because her boyfriend was coming.
For Bulldogs fans, a similar fate was ahead of them, a brief flicker of hope, snuffed out by the cold hand of reality.
They can’t blame the Saints, they gave them every chance, the Bulldogs just didn’t take them.
Saints fans on the other hand are experiencing a sensation they’ve not felt in a decade, joy. Some of them are handling it well but not all.
One Saints fan said they’d prepared themselves so well mentally for a loss, that they spent all Sunday wondering why they felt positive about life.
I told them not to worry, they only needed to deal with those emotions for a week.
West Coast (75) v Collingwood (76)
So West Coast hates going to Queensland that much. At home and against a side that was ‘only making up the numbers’ the Eagles stuffed this up worse than getting the employee of an art gallery to be part of a hotel quarantine program.
In some of the most painful words I’ve ever had to write, Collingwood were magnificent.
When Taylor Adams smothered the Eagles hopes and dreams, you realised you were watching one of the Pies’ great finals victories.
What a lot of us did is confuse what we wanted to happen with what we thought would happen.
With the benefit of hindsight, the Eagles had looked brittle all year, so this shouldn’t have been the shock it was, but still, at home and against a Pies team that has spluttered into the finals, this was the Eagles to win.
What Collingwood did so well is to take it to the Eagles, to not react to them but make West Coast react to what they were doing.
The signs were there early on that something weird was happening, in a five-minute period, Mason Cox booted three goals, and briefly looked like a 90s key forward’s DNA had been discovered in a mosquito trapped in amber and been brought back to life.
Brody Mihocek also starred and with Jordan De Goey, it almost looked like Collingwood had a forward line.
The real difference was desire, the Eagles seemed keen to win but not desperate. The Pies on the other hand brought a desperation that reminded me of my friend Greg on Tinder, it was scary and a little over the top.
Unlike with Greg, in this instance, it worked.
Like all sane people, I firmly believe that a Collingwood premiership is literally the last thing I need this year, but credit where credit is due, making up the numbers, they are not.
My new book Cheat: The Not-so-subtle Art of Conning Your Way to Sporting Glory is now available for pre-order.
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