57 Mt Pleasant Street (part 5): World Cup Australian Football (The Now)

– Well hello once again and thanks for joining us here at the stopwatch of love for another week. And what a week it’s been. We’ve had a forgettable 50 over cricket tournament finished in England, we’ve had the US Open tennis, rugby World Cup preparations, and much much more. In Australian football we’ve had the Darebin Falcons go back-to-back-to-back, or as the Americans say, three-peat, in the VWFL, and as we approach the final bend of the 2015 AFL season, Stan, as we pass the clocktower, we see only six contenders left. I’m joined here, of course, by former Australian left-footed triple jump champion, former landspeed record holder and former Coles-Myer model Mr Slippery Stan Archer; and Stan I’ll start by asking you: who do you see winning the AFL Premiership Cup this year?

– Well thank you very much BJ; it’s a pleasure to be here. Who will win? How should I know? That’s anyone’s guess. But I need to say that you’re wrong, BJ. You’re wrong to say the season is ending. The AFL footy season has just started now.

– Has it?

– Of course it has. Every year it’s the same. Bang pop whizz fizz go weeks 1 to 23. Twenty-THREE?!? Coaches will be sacked, players will be injured, reported, delisted, criminally over-analysed; a swirling vortex will swallow inordinate hours of productive energy.

– Yes.

– Before the pretend stuff ends and the real business begins. Knock-out finals are everything. Just like at World Cups of association football. That group phase is an entree. An entree only. The real stuff is the knock-out phase.

– Yes.

– It’s the same for the AFL. One word of advice though: reduce the length of the entree, flesh out the mains.

– How?

– Look at the World Cup. The seeded knock-out stage contains 16 teams.

– So?

– So the entire AFL has 18 teams. Either create two mergers, or spend a minimal time deciding which are the worst-performed two. For example: let’s say it’s Brisbane and Carlton.

– But that’s not right. You don’t know they’re crap until you’ve seem them play.

– Good point. Hold a round robin scratch-match lightning cup for ranking purposes. Drop the worst-performed two, and set up a seeded tournament.

– I like it.

– Yes, so eight knock-out matches are played on the first weekend. four on the second weekend, two on the third weekend, by which time only two teams remain. These are yer Grand Finalists.

– I love it, Stan.

– Whole thing is over in four weeks.

– I really love it.

– Well it’s not you that needs convincing, though, is it? it’s that AFL administration.

– Yes.

– And they’re tied to a TV rights agreement.

– Yes, And they represent the clubs, to be fair. I mean, under your model, each year two teams won’t play a single game; they’ll be frozen out. And then eight other teams will be knocked out after only one game (each). Seems a harsh season, Stan.

– Harsh but fair, BJ. You can’t clog up an elite competition with mediocrity. Perhaps we should start with only eight teams.

– No, no.

– Alright, sixteen will work. Besides, that maximises range of styles to which we’ll be exposed. Styles of football from right around these nation-states.

– Yes.

– Think about it. We have one set of rules for everybody, but our various teams play the game (the same game!) using various different styles, BJ.

– Yes.

– It’s the same at World Cups for Association Football. Everyone plays by one set of rules, yet the game is played so differently by various teams and countries. Whole stereotypes have evolved around these. German efficiency; Dutch invention; Italian defence; Brazilian flair; Korean zip; Chilean pizzazz; Argentinian flow; Senegalese helter-skelter; Spanish verve; Australian speculation.

– Yes.

– The AFL finals are our World Cup. This year we have Adelaide exuberance, West Coast alacrity, Fremantle relentlessness, North Melbourne randomness, Hawthorn force and Sydney graft. We have particular styles of play played by each team. We have stereotyped characteristics of each team and club, all playing the same game, governed by exactly the same rules.

– Good one, Stan. it’s our World Cup. Where do the differences in style originate, Stan?

– It points to character. It points to the role of individuals in a collective. It points to priorities. It points to teams playing with the players they have; playing to their strengths. If you have N Riewoldt, L Hayes, N Dal Santo, L Ball on your list? Play one-out in the forward line and play hard-ball. Tackle like buggery. If you have a fleet of young 6-footers ready to run and run and run? Play a multi-pronged spreading kicking game of rapid ball-movement. It’s not rocket surgery.

– No. What about club identity? Is that important?

– No, BJ. We’d like to think so, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the playing list.

– What about the coach? Surely they control the game?

– Who told you that? A coach? Coaches are surprisingly expendable. No BJ, it’s a player’s game. Players decide, execute, play the keepings off, play the scoring game, play the invasion game. It all comes down to the players.

– Does it Stan?

– It does. And if I read another comment from a supporter of a beaten team saying “we’ll be better next year,” I’ll scream. Do you think everyone else is going to lie down all summer? EVERYONE THINKS they’ll get better next year. You did well in 2015? Congratulations. IT’S OVER. Remember Port of 2014? No finals. Remember Collingwood pushing Hawthorn and Freo in 2015? No finals. There is no “future,” there is no “deserving.” There only IS – RIGHT – NOW.

– Yes.

– It’s the moment, BJ. Come back to the moment.

– Brilliant, Stan. Any final words of wisdom?

– Ahh, one last thought, BJ. It really has been good to catch up again. Just now we’ve seen the demise of unsociable politics in Australia. And it’s got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be grand to also see the end of unsociable football. Imagine that. Long may the risk-takers; the ball-players; the imaginative, prosper.

– Ahh, thanks very much, Stan. And on that optimistic note, we say “Happy Finals” and bye for now.


Dips with a piece touching on game style from the weekend Western Bulldogs v Adelaide

57 Mt Pleasant Street (part 4): it’s the fun stupid [Feb 2015]


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About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    I shall be watching this weekend’s finals through an entirely different lens, thanks Stan.
    Sydney graft. That would be referring to the amount of bone shard, ligament shard, soul shard on the Swans’ surgical table right now, wouldn’t it?
    Brilliant, Mountain Ash. And pleasure too.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks OBP thought provoking as always bit to quick for my liking,Stan but the point that 18 sides is to many is entirely correct.Plenty of sides we all have thought would kick on and don’t with the power
    ( shocking nick name) the latest.The distinctive styles of teams is a interesting debating point as well

  3. Indeed it would be nice. Thanks, ER.

  4. cygne réfléchie – merci. You and your many ways of seeing the world.

    OBP – game styles is the big point coming out of Week 1, for me. What happens when Sydney style plays North style? What happens when Adelaide style plays Hawthorn style?
    Imagine a West Coast style v Freo style GF. Philosophical dynamite.

    D Brown – we can hope. And I guess follow those that show the right stuff. Your Crows seem full of risk-takers, trapeze artists, looking ahead, not down.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    A 4 week season? It would have to be followed by a 7 month trade period to keep the AFL in the news.
    Great work Stan & BJ. And ER.

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