We might need to bring out Andrew Harwood to adjudicate over the latest spat on the academies for the clubs in the Northern states. Surely the league needs to simply shut the rhetoric up from Ed and make sure the big picture is kept in mind. If we rip out the emotion and self-interest, the academies make sense to provide a pathway for juniors in areas where the indigenous code is not the prime attraction. Then if we also put the Swans in the middle of the table rather than the top then Isaac Sweeney becomes just another draftee.
The four clubs get priority access to one draft pick, surely that is fair given the investment they are required to make to the academies. Given the numbers of draft picks that come out of QLD and NSW this is a non-issue. I do see that providing similar academies in Victoria would be beneficial – particularly if they focussed on rural areas. But the inequities in funding would make that impossible and could you imagine the squawking over which clubs were allocated which zones. There are far more inequities in the competition than this one. Number 16 please Mr Harwood!
It is also that time when the fixture is up for discussion. The fans have spoken and said they want a fairer draw and the new sheriff has said he wants to listen to the fans. As I have previously said there is no reason a 22 game season cannot be made fair. Split the competition into three sections and 6 teams each – play all teams in your section twice – 10 games; play all other teams once – 12 games. 3 separate ladders and the top 3 in each play finals. If one section is much stronger than another then balance them from year to year. It might affect some of the so called blockbusters – but a fairer competition will have more interesting games and probably better crowds overall.
We looked forward to last week’s round with a certain amount of terror about the lopsidedness of the games – only to be dealt with one of the more interesting weekends of footy for the year with the only lopsided game being where the spoon contenders smashed the flag contenders. An observation of some of the results over the last two weeks where backlines are being exposed by marking forwards. Two weeks ago Essendon and Richmond exposed Collingwood and Port, last week the Blues and Bombers did the same to North and the Dogs. The thought of forwards netting big bags has always excited the fans so let’s hope the trend continues. This week we do have some salivating contests – will we get the same intriguing results?
Coxless ($1.59) vs Tiggers ($2.66)
I have been predicting for two years that the Eagles will have a problem when Big Cox is not a force – it has been a wait but the time has come. In the meantime we have watched one of the most skilful big men in the game strut his stuff and is pretty close to the archetypal ruckman most clubs would like to have. Close to 300 games and flag – well played Dean Cox. He gets to take it out on the Tigers who have a had such a slow news week we had to hear about the contract position of Chris Newman and Jake King. (Mick leave them alone please!) But onto the contest at hand and the Tigers have impressed of late winning contested footy and hitting the scoreboard. The Eagles have been less consistent than North Melbourne so who know what they will dish up – the one thing is they dish up better produce at Subiaco and since the game is there I give them the edge, but even Richmond are fair value at $2.50 against them.
The Originals ($2.88) vs The Blow Ins ($1.52)
Bragging rights in the north are up for grabs and Brisbane will be pleased that the Suns won’t have Gary Ablett up against them. It really makes this a great contest and a great test for both clubs. As great as Ablett has been for the Suns, they now get to how well their young talent performs in his absence. Whether they play finals or not the club will learn a lot over the next few weeks. Brisbane have taken some great scalps and their midfield group is continually improving – Leppa will be looking forward to this contest. Purely on the strength of their Gabba form I am going with Brisbane and they represent terrific value at anything better then $2.50.
The Wingman ($2.18) vs The Main Event ($1.83)
The Hawks will welcome back Buddy’s buddy in Josh Gibson, but he doesn’t quite measure up to the big show himself. Then the Swans also get Tippett back and along with Reid, Goodes and Pyke they will certainly have the height to stretch the Hawk defence with Lake still missing. At the other end the football world has been waiting for the Grundy and Richards to succumb, but they effectively get the job dome week in week out. Roughead, Gunston and Hale have the capability to stretch them but I think the chances are greater at the other end of the ground. In the middle this is a classic battle where two hard-nosed outfit will slug it out – the challenge for both will be pace on the outside. Brad Hill is so important as he also wins inside footy. This could be the Grand Final preview and promises to be a Saturday Night Special – not much in it for mine but swaying to Sydney with that potent attack. But it is a flip of the coin game and Hawk fans should be pleased to have a game where they are better than yours for mine!
Maxed Out ($1.86) vs Trucked Off ($2.10)
The loss of Maxwell will structurally hurt the Pie defence in the short term as they injuries to other key defenders in Brown and Reid – they may see Reid return this weekend. Tall backs will be at a premium up against Walker, Jpod and Jenkins. The loss of Swan will not hurt as much compared to when he was at his best, but losing Ball also puts a big hole in the Collingwood midfield. The Crows have given Rutten another game off which might see Collingwood try and stretch the the defence, the return of Elliott brings back a bit unpredictability also. On personnel and form Adelaide should be favoured, but at the G and with their backs against the Pies fighting qualities cannot be underestimated. The consequences of a loss will be massive for the Pies and has me think they will produce something and prevail.
After a struggle all day the Friars broke away from the Unicorns to all but consign them to relegation. For the Friars the battle remains with a 2½ game gap on Bulleen-Temp whom they face this week. A win will all but ensure the Friars survival in this grade. The Under 19s faced a Uni Blacks side who could only muster 15 for the game – always tough during the holidays when most of their players are recruited from the colleges. A massive win but interesting the lads played best when the numbers were evened up. This week they take on the other Uni side and the Blues who lead the comp and will be a great test at Friar Park.
Go Friars and more relaxed about the Blues.