Mar 20, 2023
The Monday Knee Jerk Reaction: AFL Round 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.
Richmond (58) v Carlton (58)
Footy returned, and so did 2022 Carlton, managing to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory.
If you’re a glass-half-full person, you could say that at least they managed not to snatch a defeat.
Not many Blues fans are glass-half-full types these days, instead, this would have been an unpleasant reminder that barracking for Carlton is a weekly stress test for your heart.
Richmond in a way, could see this as a win; they looked horrible at times in the first half, appearing very much like a team affected by fewer preseason games this year.
Footy was back, but their skills were not.
The second half was a little better, but the contrast between the skills in this game compared to the following night was stark.
Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper, Richmond’s much-vaunted new midfield pairing showed they can get the ball but they also showed they could butcher it with alarming consistency.
Getting the ball is great, but not when you turn it over most of the time.
The dying moments of this game was for Carlton what horrible corporate types call a ‘teachable moment’, as the Blues repeatedly made bad choices.
The problem is Carlton seems to have had a lot of teachable moments but not a lot of learning gets done.
Take the moment with just 17 seconds left and Carlton up by six points. All the Blues needed to do was stop a goal.
Every single fan at the game or watching on TV was thinking, ‘they would want to cover Tom Lynch here’.
Which made it odd when Tom Lynch went up for a mark, and the Carlton defenders decided the best approach was to stand by and watch him.
In hindsight, this was not the best approach.
Geelong (103) v Collingwood (125)
Look, you’d prefer the Pies to look this good in Round One rather than in the finals.
Still, it wasn’t great to see a Pies side look fast and skilful, and really makes those predictions that they are going to slide down the ladder this season look as silly as they seemed at the time.
If anything, the Pies look better, and it hurts to write that.
Geelong wasn’t bad either, but to lead at quarter-time, half-time and three-quarter-time and then lose is not ideal.
They really needed more Joel Selwood, who must have been wishing he could jump the fence in the last quarter.
Geelong wasn’t helped by injuries to Tom Stewart and Sam De Koning, both taken out by Ed Sheeran, who could be cited by the Match Review Officer.
Chris Scott said he hated losing coaches blaming something like the turf, only to then proceed to do just that.
The Pies had injury problems too, with Jeremy Howe breaking his forearm in an incident so grim that even Channel Seven wouldn’t replay, and they showed Celebrity Big Brother.
To see a teammate go down like that and still focus and win the game was a credit to the Pies.
That’s enough being nice about them; I need to go have a shower.
Harry Sheezel (87) v West Coast (82)
Harry Sheezel made claims that AFL is hard look silly on the weekend with a lazy 34 disposals on debut.
To be fair, he was playing the Eagles, so that’s like diet AFL, but still, Roos supporters would be frothing over his debut.
While Sheezell looked like he’d played 200 AFL games, in the first half, the Eagles looked completely new to the sport.
They had the urgency of those families that stroll five people wide on the footpath, and you’re stuck behind them, and they then notice you and act like you’re the annoying person.
The second half saw them lift their work rate to ‘almost acceptable’, but they can’t blame covid for everything this year and were far off the pace.
One big problem for them was Nick Larkey, who may have only touched the ball nine times, but six of those times led to goals, which is not a bad return.
In the end, the Kangaroos hung on, in a good start for the Clarkson era; for the Eagles, it will be interesting to see who coaches them next year.
Port Adelaide (126) v Brisbane (72)
Brisbane are the mirage in the desert of the footballing world. You keep thinking they are a good team, but then they do this and you’re forced to reassess your opinion of them.
They are the poster child for getting ahead of yourself.
The Lions appeared to be cruising to a win by half time, but decided to sit out the third quarter, a tactical mistake they soon regretted.
The Power have unearthed a real talent in Jason Horne-Francis, who broke the Lions in the third quarter as he celebrated not playing for North Melbourne.
It just shows you that he can be motivated if you just give him everything he wants.
Port put on eight goals to one in the third quarter, as the Lions decided defending was too hard.
They were certainly not helped by selecting a backline that would need help getting something down from the top shelf.
The good news is the Lions have plenty to work on and 23 more rounds to do it.
As for Port fans, it’s time to let your hopes get wildly out of control.
Melbourne (115) v Western Bulldogs (65)
Kysaiah Pickett was everywhere on Saturday night, setting up clearances in the midfield, kicking four goals up forward, and unnecessarily targeting the head with a late bump.
Luckily for him, Bailey Smith got straight back up, and Pickett will miss just two matches as the AFL continues its slow path to getting serious about protecting the head.
For the Dees, this was a great win, given they were missing Christian Salem, Jack Viney, Steven May and Bayley Fritsch.
But the real question is what is going on with the Dogs? They were in control for a lot of the game, but the ease at which the Dees blew passed them would be concerning for Dogs supporters.
Especially as it keeps happening.
The Doggies weren't helped when Liam Jones went off with a neck injury. Luckily, he’d done his own research on such an injury and could treat it.
A few crystals and a night under a dreamcatcher, and he’s ruled out any serious concerns.
A big problem for the Dogs was their forward line, which is tall but can’t kick goals.
Last time I checked, you win based on your score, not collective height, which sounds like a stat Champion Data would overvalue.
Gold Coast (61) v Sydney (110)
Is there a stronger brand in football than the Gold Coast Suns? Sure, the brand is ‘just making up the numbers’, but its consistent.
Against the Swans pressure, the Suns turned the ball over so often that Sydney almost didn’t need to get the ball themselves, knowing they’d have it back within seconds.
There were real ‘deer in the headlights’ vibes from the Suns' players, who seemed surprised when they had the ball in their hands and seemed keen to get rid of it as soon as possible.
This is a good strategy for a game of hot potato but not footy.
The Swans looked good, and while Sydney fans will be thinking, ‘where was this last September?’, at least they seem to be getting on with things.
Unfortunately, Buddy marred the victory with a high hit on Gold Coast’s Sam Collins.
Cue a discussion about ‘playing on the edge.’
In a week where concussion is a big topic, the AFL has sent a message by giving Buddy a week and Pickett two; that message is not a strong one.
Greater Western Sydney (106) v Adelaide (90)
The Adelaide Crows have dug deep to lose this game in perhaps the most disappointing performance of the round if you ignore Hawthorn.
Leading by 28 points at half-time, and with the Giants having Lachie Whitfield, Harry Perryman and Josh Kelly on the bench in the last quarter, the Crows had to work hard to have the Giants overrun them.
Izak Rankine was indicative of the Crows, working hard all day but with little reward, booting 2.5.
In 36-degree heat, the Giants, to their credit, kept coming at the Crows all day, despite the mounting injury toll.
It was an impressive turnaround, as they had looked terrible in the first half, but the benefit of playing Adelaide is there’s always a chance.
Now the Giants get the Eagles next week, ensuring a 2-0 start to the season.
Hawthorn (65) v Essendon (124)
Essendon got the shot of false hope they desperately needed and now sits on top of the ladder, which is just weird.
For Bombers fans, things couldn’t have gone any better, thumping the old enemy and watching Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti with a goal.
It was probably the Bombers best day in twenty-odd years.
They may be as organised as the Italian army off the field, but they can beat the wooden spoon favourites.
The challenge now is can they repeat these results in the AFL?
Hawthorn are in for a long year.
I don’t know any of their players names, and based on this performance, I won’t be learning any of them soon.
My advice for Hawthorn fans facing a year such as this is to try to suppress any feelings of hope. Try to feel as dead inside as possible.
St Kilda (67) v Fremantle (52)
The excitement machine that is a Ross Lyon coached club was in full effect on Sunday.
Despite having about half the squad out, the Saints were a disciplined machine and squeezed the Dockers across the ground.
Fremantle’s rucks took the odd decision to tap the ball to St Kilda’s midfielders all game, which to the untrained eye seemed an odd approach.
Perhaps even stranger was Nat Fyfe only touching the ball nine times.
When the Dockers did have the ball, they moved it slowly and with no real purpose.
In fact, the umpires seemed to give St Kilda more trouble than the Dockers, with the Saints players deciding that arguing with them was a good idea, which it wasn’t.
No player had ever won an argument with an umpire.
The Dockers stayed in it all game but given they were finalists last year, and St Kilda had so many missing, that was the least they could do.
This being round one, it would only be common sense to write them off for the year.
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