The Avenging Eagle and I are in New Zealand on a top secret recruiting mission. We are looking for a 7 foot tall South Sea Islander who can run like the wind and jump over tall buildings. Oh, and it would be handy if he had some footy smarts that our current one lacks.
We fled the country after a disappointing loss to Port Adelaide on Saturday night. I enjoyed it. It beats the dismal, dispiriting performances of the past two weeks. And we won one of them. At least Saturday night’s game had periods of open, skilful running footy (mainly from Port). Our win over St Kilda a fortnight ago had none.
I’m a footy purist, and while I prefer a win, a skilful exciting contest is adequate compensation. This game is easy to summarise. Port kicked out to an early 3 goal lead, but 2 late goals to the Eagles narrowed the margin to a goal at quarter time. Port ran and scrapped. The Eagles battled and scrapped. There was never more than a goal in a very low scoring competition up to 3 quarter time.
Modern coaching strategies resemble the Somme. Supply lines are stretched so far that by the time the ball occasionally reaches the target, the few remaining attackers are overwhelmed by massed trenches of defenders. If I want to watch that I’ll tune into All Quiet on the Western Front on Anzac Day.
Still, Port ran the ball beautifully, and their lace-out passing was a delight. Skills come in many forms, and the frequent successful smothers by Port players suggest this is a Hinkley artform. My Eagles defence was always solid. Glass and MacKenzie predictably so. Jamie Bennell and Brad Shepperd had breakout games as running defenders.
Midfielders – please hand in your absent notes to Mr Simpson. Priddis and Selwood at least made an appearance. The rest of you##!!##. Our two most skilled midfielders (Shuey and Wellingham) have brains like peas, and hearts to match. Shuey went missing when the game was on the line in the second half. Wellingham never turned up.
If Eddie McGuire approaches you with the title deeds to the MCG on sale for a hundred grand. RUN.
The last quarter started with Port a few points up, before one of the great umpiring howlers of all time. Port run the ball out of defence to predictably only one man inside 50. MacKenzie towers over Hartlett in the marking contest, and gets his hand to the ball a foot (ok 30 centimilliwhatsits) above Hartlett’s lunging paw. The ball is palmed down to Hartlett, who removes the other two thimbles and brandishes the ball toward an incredulous maggot – who buys the whole routine. Mandrake goals from the rewarded deception and the game is over.
Port’s run and inside 50’s dominate the final quarter, though the Eagles continue to defend stoutly and are always statistically in the game. But Blind Freddy can see that the better team are in fetching aqua teal and ebony.
The standouts for Port are Jared Polec (Brisbane lose more top draft picks than Kim Kardashian) and Brad Ebert (who did he used to play for?) Robbie Gray was dangerous and Ryan Lobbe is a tireless ruckman, and probably the player Port could least afford to lose. Boak and Wines were well held, and Wingard (very classy) seemed to labour with a calf injury.
Jack Darling was easily the Eagles best. He dominated around the 50 metre arc. He is not quite big enough to be a key forward, but his mobility and hands make him a class act. Kennedy is struggling, but that largely reflects the appalling delivery from the midfield. Eagles forwards don’t yell “mine”, they scream “incoming”. Josh Hill should be a permanent feature at East Perth for the rest of the season. Cripps is not up to it as a small forward, but at least he battles. The loss of LeCras has been telling. I’d give Masten a go up forward, as he has good goal sense, and his disposal is appalling in general play.
Much has been made of the Eagles poor score conversion, but it is more about the slow sloppy ball entry and rushed shots from poor positions, than missing sitters. I am hopeful that Simpson is a teaching coach, and will gradually work on the poor skills and antiquated systems he inherited. For all that my boys (with 3 exceptions) battled hard, and it was a close exciting game.
To convince myself that AFL is still a game of beauty and skill, not just trench warfare and attrition, I sent the Great Helmsman a $15 postal order to watch games live on my Ithingy while we are in the Shakey Isles. Settled in with fush and chups and savvy plonk on the deck on a (genuinely) balmy Pacific evening on Monday.
I got one minute grainy chunks of the Cats and Hawks before the screen froze. Bandwidth or buffering?? After 27 reboots and countless software tinkers, I reverted to Gerard and Mad Mark on the abracadabra. Much more enjoyable.
Tell Cheryl Critchley that if she can get my $15 back, the Fans Assn has a member for life.
So onto the Bay of Plenty tomorrow (surely a positive omen for our Saturday clash with the Bluebaggers). In the unlikely event that we lose, I’ll be doing a Captain Oates. “I may be gone a little time”.
Port Adelaide 10.10 (70) defeated West Coast 7.14 (56)
3 – Jared Polec (PA)
2 – Brad Ebert (PA dammit)
1 – Jack Darling (WCE)