The home and away season is done and dusted, and the real season is just around the corner. Ah September, what a month. Some say the beginning of Spring has everything to do with the Earth’s rotation, but what are the chances the finals would just happen to coincide with warmer weather and blooming flowers?
Please note I am not a meteorologist.
The Hawks beat the Eagles with relative ease and locked away the McClelland trophy for finishing the home and away season atop the ladder. Is the McClelland trophy the least desired trophy in existence? No one shows off the McClelland trophy. It’s like saying you were in first place halfway through the race. If you end up winning the race you’re obviously going to show off the winner’s trophy, and if you end up losing the race you would seem like a desperate fool trying to draw attention to the fact you were in front but didn’t end up winning.
On the other hand winning the McClelland trophy is generally a precursor to the awardee at least making the Grand Final. Since 1991 only three McClelland winners have failed to make the Granny. The 1999 Bombers were the first, and scientists are still no closer to discovering how that happened. Port Adelaide went back to back in 2002 and 2003. Interesting fact, if you tell someone a team finished top two years running but failed to even make the Grand Final in either year, the reaction they give is the same as the one they would give if you told them a team finished dead last two years in a row. A wince, followed by a curt “ouch”. State rivals Adelaide also achieved the unenviable feat in 2005, which doubles as both the most unexpected McClelland winner, and proof that you can be the minor premier if Scott Welsh and Ken McGregor are you two leading goal kickers.
Now that is a million dollar performance.
Cloke crushed the Bombers defenders on Saturday night. He took 16 marks. Eight of them were inside the forward arc, and seven of them were contested. He had nine scoring shots, and five goals. I think I heard a bomber defender whimper at one stage. A dominate key forward makes any side a completely different beast, and luckily for Collingwood Cloke chose the eve of finals to finally deliver a performance that backed up his demands. He should keep this up, a month like that may help the Pies forget the five that preceded it.
Thanks to a win over the Suns and the efforts of Geelong, Adelaide finds themselves in second spot on the ladder and two home finals to show for it. Dangerfield was electric once again with 36 disposals, 2 goals and perhaps 3 more Brownlow votes, while fellow Brownlow contender Scott Thompson had another handy day at the office 30 touches of his own and six scoring shots.
Adelaide will play Sydney at home in the first week of the finals. The Crows have won eight of the last ten encounters between the two sides, and will be hoping to make it nine from eleven on Saturday afternoon.
The Cats are like the guy in action films who just won’t die. Worse still, everyone else just assumes they are dead, but then they arrive on scene, very much alive and well. After round eight they sat tenth on the ladder with just four wins. The dynasty is over they said. We don’t have to worry about Geelong anymore they said. Fast forward 15 weeks and they are entering the finals as the hottest team not named Hawthorn and the obvious answer to the question ‘Who would you most like to avoid in the finals?’
They’re going to do it again, aren’t they? You can just see it, can’t you? Don’t fight it. I tried. They can’t win from sixth. Nobody wins from sixth. You have to finish in the top four to have any chance. But you know those rules don’t apply. Not to this side. Not to Geelong. Their fans know as well. They possess a confidence that supporters of sixth placed teams don’t usually have. There is a knowing glint in their eye. They know everybody else is afraid of them, and they couldn’t love it any more than they already do. They could finish ninth and their fans would still be confident of making it to the Grand Final.
Jack kicked six goals against Port Adelaide to win the Coleman Medal, giving birth to plenty of All-Australian discussion. Should the Coleman Medallist be an automatic inclusion in the side? Is he, by virtue of the fact he kicked the most goals, the best forward for the season?
Perhaps that is a discussion for later. In the meantime, Coleman trivia! Riewoldt’s 65 goal tally is the smallest to claim the medallion since John Peck kicked 56 for Hawthorn back in 1965, which was also the first time the medal was won by a player whose team finished at the bottom of the ladder. This latter achievement was also replicated by Brendan Fevola in 2006. Now that I think about it, winning the Coleman but finishing last might be another “wince-ouch” moment.
The hardest proposition in football over the past five years has been getting a win against Geelong at Skilled Stadium. The Swans make the list not because they lost to Geelong, but because they lost a home final in the first week as a result.
Port Adelaide and Richmond
It seems fitting that a game between these two should end with neither winning.
Ten straight losses to end the season for the Doggies. I can’t recall seeing a team go through such a horrible patch yet receive as little attention as they did. They must be thankful to Port Adelaide and Melbourne for diverting it all.
It’s hard to fathom just why it is they’ve finished slightly better than Melbourne and worse than Port Adelaide. On paper they seem much better equipped than those two. The Doggies best senior players, such as Griffen, Boyd, Murphy and Adam Cooney’s ghost, are far, far better than anything the other two have. It’s not like they are devoid of young talent either, with Wallis, Liberatore, Smith, Cordy and Roughead showing they can be players at this level. The absolute dearth of forward options is of greatest concern. Their best marking option in the forward half is their full-back. Their leading goal kicker this year was Giansiracusa, with a paltry 28. If your leading goal kicker is older than the number of goals he kicked, you have problems. They’ve scored more points than only the Suns and Giants this year, and only the Giants had less marks inside fifty.
There isn’t much to hang your hat on in the young tall timber stakes either. Liam Jones seems like a poor man’s version of Sam Reid (can take a grab, kicking is suspect), and Jarrad Grant has stagnated since his under-16 days. The problem is exacerbated by the fact there are no real standout key forwards in the coming draft. Trying to get Western Australian Jesse Hogan in the GWS Mini-Draft appears to be the best option, but who knows how much it will cost you. Adding more talented midfielders seems the most likely outcome for the Bulldogs this off-season, and while it is becoming more and more apparent that you can never have too many good midfielders, eventually you need a player or two who can take a few marks and kick a few goals.