General Footy Writing: Time to look at where we’re at

By Michael Rees

After 8 rounds – what’s it all about?

At the completion of next weekends hostilities all 16 AFL teams will have completed a little over one third of their home and away campaign. What have Rounds 1-8 told us in seasons past?

The 1970 season saw the opening of the League’s new headquarters at Waverley. It was also the first time the competing teams would battle a home & away fixture of 22 matches. From 1970-2009 there have been 14 occasions when the team sitting on top of the ladder at the completion of 8 rounds would go on to collect the ultimate prize on the last day of the season. Hawthorn, 7-1 after 8 games in 1971, was the first of the above mentioned period, the most recent the 2006 West Coast Eagles with an identical 7 win/1 loss record. Of the remaining 25 leaders after 8 rounds, 14 would make it to the ultimate game that season. 28 of the 40 teams at the top of the pile after Round 8 since 1970, a healthy 70%, have at worst still been alive come Grand Final day.

We’ll meet again

On four occasions in the 22 home & away game era, the eventual grand final combatants have clashed on round 8.

1970 – Collingwood 16.12-108 defeated Carlton 12.13-85 at Waverley – It would be Collingwood, rather ironically, who would storm home in the second half, coming from a 29-point deficit at the long break to maintain their perfect start to the season. The Pies would comfortably account for the Blues in Round 19 at Victoria Park, and again in the Second Semi Final. The result that followed a fortnight later is fairly well known.

1974 – Richmond 13.17-95 defeated North Melbourne 9.16-70 at Arden Street – The Tigers jumped North with a 5 goals to 1 first quarter and maintained that lead throughout the afternoon. 3 further meetings that year would all result in comprehensive wins for Hafey’s men.

1983 – Hawthorn 20.17-137 defeated Essendon 14.11-95 at Princes Park – A game better remembered for Robert Dipierdomenico’s attempt to re-arrange Alan Stoneham’s face that resulted in a month off for the future Brownlow Medallist. Dipper would have some of his own “claret” spilt during the return game at Windy Hill in Round 19 – the Bombers recording a 46-point win. The Hawks would win the all important final meeting on September 24.

2002 – Collingwood 17.12-114 defeated Brisbane 16.15-111 at Docklands – Collingwood trailed by a couple of goals at half-time but a 9 goal to 6 second half was enough to get them home the only time the two would meet prior to the Magpies agonising 9-point loss on September 28 that year.

Does this mean anything looking forward to this weekend?

Could any of this weekend’s fixtures throw up a preview to the 2010 title decider? You may not need look any further than Friday night’s clash between the surprising Fremantle and the 6 and 1 Magpies. Saturday night’s clash of Cats big and small when Geelong visit the Gabba is another possibility.

Not the end of the world

A Round 8 loss has sparked some teams to streaks that have lead to premiership glory. In 1995 a dominant Carlton won their first 7 games but were taken apart by a rampant Sydney on a May Friday night at the SCG. By 12 goals. They would be crushed 8 days later by a mediocre 1-7 St Kilda outfit,  by 56 points, managing only 3 majors themselves on a wintry Waverley afternoon. From that point onwards the Blues were simply magnificent, winning all remaining 16 games on the way to their 16th pennant.

In 2004 Port Adelaide received a 92-point caning 7.6 to 21.14 from a North Melbourne side who’d won 9 of their previous 10 meetings against the Power since their inception in 1997. Port would have their colours lowered on only two more occasions prior to Alan Scott being “proven wrong” with Choco’s boys bouncing Brisbane on Grand Final day to claim their initial AFL title.

Tom Hafey’s 1973 Tigers received a 37-point pounding from Hawthorn in Round 8 of that season, but would salute in 15 of their final 18 games that season.

We’re still in this

Three premiership sides of the last 39 years have turned around horrible starts to end that year on the winners’ dais after looking anything but champions at the completion of 8 games.

1975 – North Melbourne 3-5, 9th position. The early road to the Kangaroos first flag was treacherous but a tough 11.8 to 9.12 Round 8 victory over their conqueror of the previous season, Richmond, would see normal transmission resumed at Arden Street.

1998 – Adelaide 3-5, 10th position. When the Crows went down by 13 points to Richmond in round 8, even their most optimistic of fans would’ve questioned their ability to repeat the supreme effort of the previous September. They did.

2005 – Sydney 4-4, 10th position. A 3-4 record from their first 7 games of the 2005 season meant that a win against Port Adelaide in Round 8 was imperative. A dour 9.15 to 6.9 win did the trick for the Swans and the drought of 72 years, or 23 depending on how you look at it, would be broken 132 days later.

Downhill from here

Whilst your team’s record at this juncture of the season can be a reliable indication of whether to contemplate queuing for finals tickets or plan a holiday come September (38 teams in first place after 8 rounds during the period in question went on to participate in that seasons finals), it’s not a certainty. Collingwood, this season’s pace setters, being the exception to the rule – twice.

In 1993 the Pies would finish 8th after compiling a 6 win, 1 loss & a bye record in their first 8 contests and miss out on September action by 4 premiership points. Four years later the Maggies could muster only 4 wins from the last 14 contests and end season ’97 in 10th position with a 10 win 12 loss record, missing out on the finals by half a win.

Round 8 titbits

  • 31 of the past 40 flag winning teams have saluted in their Round 8 clash The largest of those wins coming in 1971 when Hawthorn crushed Brian Dixon’s North Melbourne at VFL Park by 95 points 22.15 to 7.10
  • The worst of the eight Round 8 losses suffered by the eventual premiers of the last 40 seasons occurred in 2004 by the Power (see above)
  • West Coast are the only premiership team of the last 40 seasons whose services were “not required” in Round 8 of their second title year in ’94. The Eagles enjoyed a bye that week
  • Round 8 debutants 1970-2009 have included a diverse range of characters such as Glyn Hewitt, Lleyton’s dad, for the Tigers in 1973, Terry Daniher for South Melbourne in 1976, David “Grave Danger” Granger for the hapless ‘79 Saints and Anthony Rocca for the Swans in 1995
  • 1984 saw Fitzroy 1-7 after 8 games. The Lions rallied to make the finals winning 10 of their remaining 14 games that season, including the last 6 home & away games
  • Nick Hanson, wearing Guernsey #53, would play his only game of AFL football for St Kilda in Round 8 of 1993
  • Hawthorn’s Brendan Krummell sees stars after Byron Pickett poleaxes him into the turf at Waverley Park, Round 8 1999.
  • The last time the make-up of the eventual finalists was “set” by Round 8 was season 2006 when West Coast, Collingwood, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, St Kilda, Fremantle & the Dogs were ensconced in the top half of the table at that time.

Comments

  1. Martin Reeves says:

    Mic

    With Richmond sitting 0-7 after seven rounds, the wooden spoon is secure. Even more disturbing is the fact Coburg are sitting 1-4 after five rounds. It’s possible both clubs may enjoy fewer than 5 wins between them this year.

    Are you aware of the lowest number of wins between affiliate clubs in the VFL/AFL for a season?

    Perhaps we could qualify for a priority pick of the best VFL talent at the end of the year…

  2. Mic Rees says:

    Martin – #1

    Interesting question. As far as the lowest combined AFL/VFL total between aligned teams, alignments commencing in season 2000, I would need to check the last decades records. Usually it’s one or the other. Carlton and Preston had a couple of lean years early in their aliance. Pies had a poor 2004 and reigning premiers Williamstown missed the finals. Not including their bright start this season, the Essendon/Bendigo partnership hasn’t racked up huge figures in the win column.

  3. Damian Watson says:

    Great read Michael,

    I remember that wintry Waverley night in 1999 when Pickett shirtfronted Brendan Krummell, from memory Wayne Carey booted 7 goals that night as well.

    Round 8 of 2001 was arguably the turning point in the Lions premiership season when they were annihilated by the Blues at Princes Park, back when Kouta was at his peak.

  4. Mic Rees says:

    Damian – #3

    Many thanx Damian

    Yeah, checked that game – Carey booted 7, Krummell only played another half dozen or so games after the incident.

    Brisbane lost a week later to the Crows, but strung 16 in a row after that all the way to the flag. Can’t remember any team getting close to them during their streak.

  5. pauldaffey says:

    Damian,

    Just to highlight my age, I remember the build-up to the 1974 match to which Mick alludes.

    In those days, we all watched The Big Replay on Saturdays from 6.30-8.30pm. At the end of one show, the host Mike Williamson said something like, And make sure you’re with us next week when we bring you the match of the year: North Melbourne versus Richmond.

    I asked my Dad whether North Melbourne versus Richmond really was the match of the year. And how did Mike Williamson know?

    I was fascinated that a match could be so big that it was match of the year. Dad explained that it was fair enough to say that when it was the top team versus the second team.

    I was also fascinated that North Melbourne would be in the match of the year. With Richmond, it was expected. But North, in my young mind, was a bottom team. In 1972, my first year of footy consciousness, they won only one game!

    I watched the next week with great interest. The Tigers were too strong, but this match of the year did seem different. It didn’t feature Carlton or Collingwood. It was at Arden Street!

    I later loved going to Arden Street, but that’s another story.

  6. Mic Rees says:

    Paul- #5

    I would imagine that following that episode of the Big Replay they would’ve crossed to the National Tally Room in Canberra as the nation went to the polls that day – Gough’s last hurrah.

    It was also the day of the Windy Hill brawl. No one was gonna stop the Tigers from going back-to-back after that.

    I saw the voice of Arden Street, Paul Jennings,the other day at Southern Cross Station – he’s holding up OK

  7. Tremendous work again Mic,
    I worked for North Melbourne at the game where Pickett cleaned up Krummell in one of my previous lives and one of my North colleagues worked with Brendan.
    As Krummell was lying on the deck, he said “I don’t think I’ll expect him in on Monday”. I remember reading an article saying that Krummell was never the same since as a result of the concussion received. From memory he only played a handful more games.

  8. Mic Rees says:

    Leigh – #7

    Many thanx Leigh

    Checked his record. Seven more was all Krummell managed. I thought it was a pretty good effort just to get up again.

  9. Martin Reeves says:

    How lengthy would the penalty be if Pickett laid that bump in today’s game?

  10. Damian Watson says:

    That is an intresting story Daff, obviously the short lived 10 year rule and the appointment of Barassi as coach helped North immensely that year but I suppose North always had that lowly reputation before the early 70’s.

    I do remember watching an old tape of Slammin Sam Kekovich dominating in one of North’s rare victories back in 1971 over the reigning premeiers in Carlton (I think it was the opening round) at Arden St, they barely posted a victory from that point on throughout the season.

    I’ve never been to Arden St, hopefully I get the chance to have a kick on the ground later this year.

    Did they have ‘The Winners’ back in those days on the ABC, or was it just Channel 7’s replay at that stage?

  11. Mic Rees says:

    Martin – #9 – A month, minimum.

    Damian – #10 – “The Winners” debuted Rd 1 1977 – The GF replay would’ve been the marquee match-up. Prior to that the ABC had the standard replay on a Saturday evening. Earlier in the 70’s they had a preview program on Friday nights W2 – Who’ll win. I believe Harry Beitzel hosted it. Aunty also had its footy review program on the Saturday evening, similar to Football Inquest on Seven.

  12. Damian,

    I remember The Winners very well from the ’80s. From 1982 onwards, I didn’t make it to many league games, so The Winners became much-loved viewing.

    The main thing about The Winners was how much SA and WA fans loved it. I’ve heard so many friends from those two states tell me how they used to gather around the TV at 5pm (I think) on Sundays to get their weekly fix from Victoria. Friends gathered at each other’s houses in Adelaide and Perth and made it a weekly party.

    They loved especially to watch the former WAFL and SANFL players who played for their own clubs in those competitions.

    I know many East Perth fans, for example, who follow North Melbourne because of the Roos’ recruiting from the Royals in the late 70s – Ross Glendinning, Phil Kelly, etc.

  13. Rocket Rod Gillett says:

    We never got The Winners in the northern states until late Saturday night, about 11.00pm. That’s all we got – no radio, nothing in the papers, nothin’.

    The VFL live telecasts from 1979 onwards in country NSW really increased exposure of the game. Alas, I was usually running around the back-blocks of the Riverina trying to get a kick…

  14. WA fans loved the Winners.

    Countdown at 5, Winners at 6 (accompanied by grilled cheese and bacon on crumpets, watching St Kilda get belted if they featured),Come and Get It at 6.55, News at 7, and bloody Weekend Magazine at 7.30pm, the music reminding you there was school the next day.

    You’d already had the VFL replay on Channel at 10am, followed by a WAFL replay at 11am (hosted by Gary Carvolth) and a WAFL football panel (Percy Johnson, Frank Sparrow et al)

    A feast of footy.

  15. 1974 Rocket! That was my breakout debut for the Taringa State School Juniors (gr 5 and below). And I got a kick this year…

    Match of the Day on 7 on Saturday arvos was all we got in Brisbane. At least at an hour I was allowed to watch. You lucky dogs with your old-fangled discussion style programmes!

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