What a strange AFL ladder we have. Gold Coast sitting second! Port undefeated! GWS, Richmond and the Eagles are all wallowing down the ladder with the riff raff. How good is that? How challenging to our sense of normality?


These are abnormal times. The fixture is now constructed by a cocktail of desperate measures rather than the usual architectural design around the ‘in’ clubs. Fixtured advantage is all but gone which means the jig is up. No crowds means the Friday blockbuster between two ‘deserving’ teams is defunct and without this there can be no conjuring of tricks that allows one team to play its last 8 games at the MCG (for example). Footy is pretty much stripped bare. Dare I say it? A level playing field!!


And not surprisingly this levelling of the playing field (or the closest we’ve had to it since the suburban home grounds were sent to the gulags) occurred as the AFL lost its authority not when it gained more.  The big government of AFL House has jettisoned its bureaucracy and therefore its swagger. The business plan that outlines the next ten premiership teams is now in the bin. Yes ma’am, no ma’am they say to the state premiers who close their borders.


And what do we see? Perhaps we see the real ladder? The ‘pure’ ladder? Perhaps we see how good the teams really are with their armour removed and the games reduced to a bare knuckle stoush? The coaches’ boxes resemble most cafes these days; half full. And some coaches appear to be lost in the mist. The training facilities and club personnel have been gutted. The result is that the arms race of football departments has ceased. The Wall has come down! Whereas the ladder may generally have represented the ‘elite’ in a given year (with a few glorious exceptions like the Dogs in 2016) it now represents exuberance. Money can’t buy you love with the AFL at present because the priority car parks at the MCG have been revoked.


The teams that seem to be prevailing are those that dare. Gold Coast’s running optimism is infectious. They’ve taken the drone suits off. The game is being shown the way forward by an 18 year-old, first season ginger nut who only knows how to have fun. The dull system hasn’t got to him yet. More power to young Rowell! Sir Kenneth Hinkley at Port is telling his men to kick more goals than the opposition. Imagine that! The dreary defence first, we-kick-7-goals-they-kick-6, concepts are not cutting it. The answer isn’t on page 39. The young Lions are leaping for grabs and playing on; risking things. Extraordinary. Even Clarko agrees with that. ‘Shit-canning’ our own brand he said after the Hawks and Roos dowdy arm wrestle. Spot on Clarko.


I watched the Geelong and Melbourne game at the MCG last Sunday. It was beyond awful. I didn’t see one smile for the game. Not on the ground nor in the coaches’ boxes. Goody looked like his trousers were too tight and Scott like he was pondering clause 67(i) of his contract. Meanwhile the players engaged in COVID footy. I got the impression that they didn’t know the game had started and were warming up amongst themselves. Every now and then a bloke ran wide and yelled to his new friends “kick it to me, kick it to me!”. When the final siren sounded they asked each other who won. Neither of these teams displayed the fortitude that may take it to the flag because neither has grasped the new paradigm.


Season 2020 is footy unplugged.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE


About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. “Footy unplugged”.
    Not a bad description, old mate.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Love this, Dips. In this piece, you’ve brought into the light a number of points that were previously only vaguely forming in my head.

  3. Rulebook says

    Dips why oh why in general this fear of losing instead of actually trying to win in general ? Yet the teams actually playing attractive footy are 1 and 2 huh ? For mine as I have said this year to me just seems like soulless crap.Other aspects are that the game in general inc the players are a mile away from the real world the greed is driving people further and further away from the afl

  4. Thanks lads.Strange days indeed.

    What odds are the Suns to make the 8? Probably dropping fast.

    Agree Rulebook.

  5. Insightful Dips. Infuriating that they take the most naturally gifted, entertaining players in the country, players capable of all sorts of joyous, instinctive pyrotechnics… and douse the spirit and flair that brought them to the talent scout’s attention in the first place. “Any sign of initiative will be met with reeducation.”

  6. Good point ajc. The disease of sameness. Its rampant.

  7. DBalassone says

    I reckon there’s a “double” effect with these shorter quarters. Obviously the quarters are 4 minutes shorter, but I think there’s also a “mental” effect: sides that get 2 or 3 goals ahead, tend to shut up shop earlier and play for the siren, playing keepings off, content with their lead, knowing that the quarters are shorters and if they can just hold on for that bit longer they will have the upper hand.
    In 4 of the games on the weekend that went down to the wire, it seemed like sides with 2-3 goal leads were just trying to hold on, rather than blow the other team off the park.

  8. DB – yes goes back to Rulebook’s point – fear of losing rather than striving to win.

    This year is set up for a courageous team to pinch a flag.

Leave a Comment