AFL Round 7 – Essendon v Western Bulldogs: Power Forwards and the Last Five Overs



I watched Essendon v The Doggies on Saturday night. Being injured and away from home is like that. No footy function to distract me, nothing better to do.

Nothing against the Doggies, I was really barracking for them! If only because if they were ever not the underdogs I’d shit myself. The game was okay, I guess, but I might have seen a few things bigger than that, to do with AFL in general.

This is just a theory, but I’m putting it out there.

Watching a whole match on telly made me feel like my life was slipping away a little. Especially between five minutes in and the last quarter. I’ve felt that way about a lot of games lately. Then it hit: AFL’s become like watching One Day Cricket. Bit of a frenzy at the start, followed by lots of team processes. Where as in cricket, after the first few overs a team will settle into accumulating ones and twos, in footy they’re focusing on maintaining possession, chipping it around, working to game plans.

It’s that middle bit.

If everybody batted as recklessly as Warner, the Aussies would have no wickets left by the 30th over. Players just can’t go at the breakneck speeds, or play with first and last quarter intensity for a whole game.

But, more so, there’s no urgency yet. “Don’t panic, we’re only a few down.” Or “We’re a few up, steady goes. Don’t let them back in.”

It’s only when one or both teams goes for the finish line that things heat up. A team that’s down sees time running out and starts going for it, taking risks, trying to hit sixes, even if it leads to turnovers, to being caught on the boundary. Then the other team has to match speed. That’s when bad kicks happen, and long bombs, and much more playing on and slapping the pill on the boot. That’s when players like Murphy and Fletcher come to the fore. When the game has to be read.

Sometimes, there’s ten intense minutes in the third, when one team gets four goals up, and the other feels it slipping away, when we’re lucky it happens in the death-throws.

Those moments become less about drills, patience and processes, more about instinct. Athletes are constantly outdone by footballers, lifeless drills are replaced by the adrenaline-filled game we were raised on.

Those last quarters are like a One Day Match’s penultimate overs. Everything goes up a notch, flows faster, becomes far more kinetic.


Beyond that, I thought of Cloke, goddamn it. Don’t like him, but he can play. If either the Doggies or the Bombers had a go-to like that they would win so many more games, and friends. Someone who doesn’t even have to mark it, just make a solid, overhead contest. The small men would kick more, the rebound out of their forward line wouldn’t be so easy, their half-backs would play-on far more.

The Doggies had it on a string in the last, attacked and attacked, driving long, penetrating kicks into Essendon marks, or Fletcher’s decisive fist, time and again. It was like watching almost any game of theirs for the past, hmm, how long as Chris Grant been retired? I dare say about the same amount of time they’ve not been making finals.

Long bombs without a power forward? Why not just invite Fletch around to dinner, feed him stake until his bloated, then let him leave with the silverware?

It was brilliant watching Bob Murphy show natural class and magic in the second half, but the blokes he gave it to had no target. Time and again they handballed and stabbed for ones and twos when there were game winning boundaries to be hit.

Power forwards are like the 4s and 6s of footy, they straighten everybody up. They get backmen chipping sideways less. And make the game more fun. Both Doggies and the Bombers need one.


Oh, and one last thing. I kept my telly on for around-the-ground highlights. Can someone tell me why, when the Swans beat Adelaide, they sang the Melbourne club song?


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