Round Two Reflections: Forward 50 has become “The Land of the Giants”

 

by Nick Sculley

Round one of 2012 will be hard to top this season. One match decided after the siren, two more by less than a kick and the old-fashioned shootout was back in vogue. Fast-forward a week and round two had taken some of the gloss off an exemplary first round. Two 100-point plus thrashings, complimented by a few 90-point drubbings had the doom-sayers pronouncing that this is a sign of things to come in 2012. Then came the clash at the ‘G on Easter Monday. Another installment of the greatest modern-day rivalry; the Hawthorn-Geelong clashes have well and truly usurped the throne belonging to West Coast and Sydney during the 00’s. Forget about the arctic conditions. Forget the fact both sides were missing club legends on this particular day. Forget that the puddles between Jolimont Station and the MCC members destroyed by $20 slip-ons. The Hawks and Cats threw-up yet another classic with the latter coming out on top for the eighth consecutive time. The one-sided run of results begs the question whether it can still be labeled a rivalry but, when you look at the margins and the titanic struggles that ensue without fail, it truly is the greatest rivalry I’ve seen in my time.

Giants own the forward 50

Please don’t misconstrue this statement; I’m not talking about the GWS Giants!!! I’m talking about Kennedy, Darling, Lynch and the Cox/ Naitanui tag-team that roam the Eagles forward line. Add to that combinations of Franklin/Hale/Roughead/Gunston at the Hawks, Hawkins and Pods at the Cats, Walker/Tippett/Lynch at the Crows, Dawes/Cloke at the Pies and Riewoldt/Kosi/Stanley at the Saints. There are a few other sides in the competition that can boast a similarly daunting forward setup (Melbourne and Kangaroos) but they lack the small forwards to compliment them, as alluded to last week.

Yesterday’s clash at the ‘G displayed that these sides will be equally effective regardless of conditions. However it is also a sign that if your backline is undersized and raw there is a chance your side may fall short come seasons end. (See St.Kilda, Carlton and, at this stage, Hawthorn.)

A Gold Coast side minus Gary Ablett would attract less fans than Port Adelaide in 2011

If you were a Gold Coast fan or neutral fan watching their clash with the Saints on Sunday you would have switched off at half-time if it wasn’t for Gary Ablett Junior. Sure, we can take some satisfaction from the AFL’s expansion sides being beaten-up on a weekly basis, but that can only keep the fans interested for so long. Ablett is the best player in the competition and I’m already prepared to eat humble pie after having him at two in my pre-season top 50. He can do it all, but it’s about time the youngsters in his midst picked up some of the slack. As fans we want to see the best players inspiring their side at the business end of the season, and it would be nice for Ablett to be given this opportunity before his career comes to a close.

Is there a better comeback from a knee reconstruction than Courtenay Dempsey?

Early days I know, but Dempsey produced a brilliant performance playing off half-back on Saturday in Essendon’s hard-fought win over Port Adelaide. Dempsey amassed 23 touches, six marks and an outstanding goal on the run from outside fifty which noticeably lifted his side. Bombers fans will be hoping that, once he returns, Jason Winderlich reaches a similar standard to Dempsey. It’s not all positive with regards to Courtenay however. I, like the majority of fans at Etihad Stadium on Saturday, were extremely disappointed to see that his caveman beard had been given the heave-ho. For a long while I considered dumping him from my Supercoach side but 111 points has won him a reprieve.

What I liked in Round Two

-The Marc Murphy/ Chris Judd combination at Carlton can propel their side to great heights. The pair amassed 63 touches, five goals and 297 Supercoach points.

-Tom Hawkins took his game to a new level in last year’s Grand Final win over the Magpies. On Monday, against the Hawks, Hawkins didn’t just pass that previous standard, he took a flying pack mark up and beyond it. The Tomahawk’s kicking may be the only thing stopping him being mentioned in the same breath as Cloke, Riewoldt x2, Kennedy and Hurley in the battle for the game’s number two power forward title.

-David Armitage played his best game in his short St.Kilda career on Sunday, albeit against the Gold Coast. It was hoped that, in the absence of Lenny Hayes, Armitage would make a significant step-up in season 2011. This did not occur but on Sunday he showed signs that in the midst of Hayes, Dal Santo and Montagna he was capable of grabbing the limelight.

-Sam Reid’s first half was a joy to watch. He tailed-off in the second half but there is no denying that Reid is a star of the future. Few players in the AFL have the ability to ‘clunk’ marks as well as Reid, and he is one of a handful of Swans younger brigade that look set to drive them towards yet another finals campaign.

-Alastair Clarkson identifies the Cats as ‘the best side that’s probably ever played the game’. It’s impossible to argue. This Geelong side live for the big occasion and know how to win a game from seemingly any position. Stevie J started the game brilliantly and kept the Cats within an arms reach. Paul Chapman looked off the pace early on and yet played a big part in the final term. Hawkins I’ve already mentioned, Podsiadly has gotten over his inability to kick goals at the MCG and Bartel, Selwood, Kelly etc. just keep on producing. Right this side off in 2012 at your own peril, and I think after tomorrow very few will.

Comments

  1. Interesting observation about Armitage, Nick. Watching the game I reflected on Twitter that this might be the year he goes from being an anagram of “AM I GREAT?” to being an anagram of “I AM GREAT!”

    And I certainly know where you’re coming from in discussing the forward 50. (Yes, from the Land of the Giants of course.) The Doggies have already copped two giant beatings in the first two rounds, from the Eagles and then the Crows.

    Good stuff.

  2. Richard Naco says:

    A few observations to add.

    Reid didn’t so much tail off as much as cop a right royal mugging in the second half against Freo. I was there as a complete neutral, but it was a tad sad to see him getting zero protection from the umps. Mind you, there was an upside. Adam Goodes’ superb pack mark & subsequent goal came about to some extent because both Freo defenders in the pack were so focused on stopping Sam getting a fair crack at the ball that they forgot about Goodes.

    I hold no grudge against GAblett, but he did have his chance to strut his stuff at the business end of the season. He made his choice that “it’s only a game, after all”, an obvious quantum shift from his earlier position of “I only play this game for premierships” (quotes from either end of the 2010 season). He is a fantastic player and has shone more brightly away from the bright lights of Corio Bay, but he is proof that while $1.6m pa may buy a lot of things, it can’t buy you the ultimate glory.

    Courtenay Dempsey’s return is welcome, but as you requested a comparison, I present Josh Hunt. His reconstructed knee carries a 105kg payload every step, and did so all the way to a premiership.

    Excellent article.

  3. By “number two power forward title”, I’m assuming you have Buddy at No#1. By “power forward”, I assume you mean “key forward”, particularly given you use Cloke/Hawkins/et al for comparison.

    Buddy is an extraordinary player; maybe the best in the League, but 6’6″ does not a “key” forward make. Geelong has it’s own version (admittedly a lesser one) of Buddy: Travis Varcoe. The Hawks have two Buddys. The other one is Cyril.

    Whilst the Hawks lack a strong, experienced key backman (maybe two), they also lack a key forward (in the traditional sense). Roughhead is the man who can solve that problem. He needs to get back to the pack breaking, strong marking form he showed in 2008. I’m sure the Hawks would have loved to have Roughie doing what Hawkins was doing at the other end.

  4. PS. Hawkins kicking is not what stops Hawkins from being mentioned in the same breath as Cloke and Reiwoldt (Nick) as both of those men are maligned for their goal kicking. It is the fact that he has not performed at a high level for a long period of time.

    Given that, I would not mention Hurley in the same breath as Cloke or Reiwoldt (x2).

    By they way, enjoyed your article so apologies for sounding so negative.

  5. Where do I begin?!?

    Gigs I’m dreading coming up against the teams mentioned, although at least by that stage we should have Gwilt back and will have decided whether to play ex-Eagle Beau Wilkes forward or back. Your love of anagrams shines through very quickly.

    Richard, the Swans forward line with Reid and Goodes (as he spends more time forward with age) will be one of the most daunting in the comp in year’s to come. As for Ablett, I understand that his tune changed very quickly but it was better than the alternative. If he hadn’t been so strong in his stance that he loved playing at Geelong and for premierships people would have been even more certain he was leaving and, before to long, our game would turn into the NRL in terms of mid-season departures. It made him look like a liar, but for mine it’s better than the alternative. And I’m fairly confident no player in the league would turn down that amount of $$$ hey. As for Dempsey’s return, I put him in the same boat as David Rodan due to the way that he moves, which is quite differently to Hunt. Both great comebacks in their own right, but if Dempsey can avoid doing yet another knee playing the style that he plays I think it would be a great credit to him and his surgeon.

    And Pete, I agree that Franklin isn’t a key forward in the traditional sense but at the same time I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the way the game is heading. I mean really, if you had the choice between playing like Buddy or playing like Cloke you’d choose Buddy every time, and so might the athletes/footballers of the next generation. In terms of the key forwards I put Cloke and Nick Riewoldt on a higher plain due to their ability to perform other facets of the game extraordinarily well. And I was a bit preemptive with Hurley, but it’s hard not to see him being an elite forward with another season under his belt.

    Cheers for the feedback! I’m always one to enjoy a bit of banter.

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