Finals Week 1 – Misfits (If)

“Surfboards through the turnstiles
Speedboats on the bay
All around the seagulls scream
Children out to play…”
Cold Chisel, “Misfits” (written by Don Walker)


Look at these kids. These young lads running, leading, chasing, creating. Look at them all. Misfits. Busting their arses.

Listen to these self-important talking heads. All machismo and bluff. Who is under all that makeup? Who lives inside there, really? Misfits.

If you could bottle hope, you’d live a fine life. Seeing, listening to and reading about emotional finals matches this past week has been heartening. Everything changes with finals footy; with the immediate consequences of finals footy. The many Richmond stories around this week have brought a smile. And as someone with no “dog in the fight” (again), my emotional response is swayed only by stories.

With rather too much certainty, there appears to be one major storyline flowing from each of the Week 1 finals:
Adelaide v GWS – the flag is there for Adelaide’s taking; GWS are a talented pack of individuals rather than a team.
Richmond v Geelong – The Tigers are back. Dusty is the messiah. Geelong are shot. Chris Scott knows nothing.
Sydney v Essendon – Swans should probably be favourites for the Premiership.
Port Adelaide v West Coast – Port choked on this. The free kick to Shuey was debatable.

If you can keep your head when all about you;
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too.
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
          “If”, Rudyard Kipling


From my reading of the play, happy Crows and happy Tigers should feel happy. And tell us all about it. That’s great. That’s why we support. But I think GWS and Geelong supporters, Cats in particular, would do well to take off those pessimism glasses. For one thing, there are supporters of 12 other clubs who would rather be in your position right now.

This time last year, after one week of finals, there was no real hint of the story to come. Well, maybe a small hint. The Doggies had beaten West Coast, the previous years’ runners-up, in an elimination final in Perth. It was a significant win.

But still, the Dogs were drawn to next face Hawthorn; themselves beaten by Geelong in a Qualifying Final, only when Isaac Smith’s shot for goal after the siren missed. So Geelong had earned a week off and a spot in the Prelim. Hawthorn faced a knock-out game with the Dogs.

In the other Qualifying Final, GWS beat-up Sydney (very physical game); giving them the week off and spot in the Prelim. Sydney went on to play Adelaide in Week 2, who had kicked a cricket score against North in their elimination final.

So neither of the winners of Qualifying Finals in 2016 (GWS and Geelong) made it to Grand Final day (Sydney and Western Bulldogs).


If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
          “If”, Rudyard Kipling

I wonder who is right now writing the story of 2017; the story we will later look back upon as being the story of 2017. I wonder who is doing something unusual; acting as a catalyst for their team. I wonder if it is Luke Shuey. It could be Luke Shuey, with his darting and swooping and clearing and voice. Maybe it is old Harry Taylor. Or Chris Scott, himself.
For who among us really knows the skills and talents required to manage the skills, talents and personalities of a footy team?
Maybe it is Damien Hardwick; fascinatingly, maybe it is Damien Hardwick. This is the same Damien Hardwick who coached Richmond in 2016. And 2015. And 2014. The very same guy.
But Richmond is winning now. I wonder why that is. And i would speculate that not even Damien Hardwick truthfully knows the answer.
Could Brad Scott be doing it next year? Or Nathan Buckley?
Maybe Sam Jacobs is doing something special (again). Or maybe it is Gary Rohan. Or Callan Ward.

If you can make a heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
          “If”, Rudyard Kipling


In all likelihood all of these people are doing special things. All of them are going the extra mile, playing, living through adversity. All of them are wringing every last effort from their minds and from the bodies.

And yet, when the game ends, there will be only one winner.

This is where having no dog in the fight becomes a virtue. “Neutrals” are free to enjoy a cracking game of footy; free to immerse in the visual splendour of colourful jumpers flitting across the emerald green grass. We are free to watch the sign-holders, the banner wavers, the despairingly face-painted. We bear witness to your emotion; your triumph and your tragedy.

There are so many ifs in this game; this game of moving parts, of interpretation, of chance. There are so many ifs in the most humble of daily lives.

Who is writing the story? Misfits, baby, misfits.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
          “If”, Rudyard Kipling




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 is married and has two daughters and the four of them all live together with their 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. The Ifs make the game brilliant. It’s brilliance is in the mix of chaos and control. When control dominates we say a side is in form. It’s a mystery.

    I think the story is driven by the result. The narrative emerges from how the game was won. The winner becomes all-good, the loser becomes not so good. Imagine if the Shuey free kick had not been paid.

    I am with you to a degree on the Geelong pessimism – but it will an effort because of the quality of the opponents to be faced. I have mixed feeling re the blame Chris Scott argument. Having watched the first half again, I think the Cats did try to take the game on early, but their decision-making and disposal were terrible (with a few notable culprits) and Richmond’s defensive skills and general pressure were terrific. They were trying to create flow, they weren’t good enough on the night to create that flow. Classic case was Motlop wheeling from the wing to kick to the top of 50. Was it Hawkins leading? A kick to advantage (space) to Hawkins right and Hawkins marks. I am not sure if it was Hawkins leading because when the intercept mark came Hawkins was only just in shot. A 20m error. Three Tiges could have marked it.

    If only those Motlop kicks found their mark.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Very clever and thought provoking as always,OBP thank you

  3. Like this ER. The Ifs throughout life are intriguing too. Sliding doors.

    JTH – I have been critical of C. Scott. I wouldn’t suggest that he was to blame for the Friday night performance in totality, but I do hold him to account for the mindset that prevails in his team. A mindset that is found wanting in the heat of finals. Like a second rate glue that fails when under pressure.

  4. Yes, definitely understand that.

    Coaches generally have made themselves as important as they can.

    Look at under 10s footy. Look at Friday night. So many of Friday night’s players have tremendous skill. How do you harness that? (Further commetns on your piece – sorry to split the conversation)

    For me it has always been a players’ game. And should remain a players’ game with the coach understanding that, and playing a role within that construct. Listen to Matthews talk about coaching. Blight.Then listen to some recents.

  5. Thanks JTH, OBP, Dips.
    There is so much to harness. In order for everything to click.
    And the harness is not enough on its own anyway – look at L Beveridge this year.
    Look at A Clarkson.
    The mindset argument is interesting – as in”do I feel supported enough to take a risk now?”
    Such a culture would be empowering to be a part of (e.g. seemingly the Doggies last year).
    But if only one or two players are given that licence (e.g. I gather perhaps Cats’ #14, #35), maybe that decision to be frugal in issuing licences would cripple the confidence of the others.
    If you’re coach; do you give everyone freedom?
    I think you do. And I think all coaches would know that. And do it.
    So player confidence is so important.

    Having a consoling, teaching, personable leadership figure alongside you on the field (e.g. T Harley, N Maxwell) I think would help.

    Much to this puzzle.
    90% of football is half mental.

  6. The opportunity and the moment. Listening from afar to all the CScott et al coaching debate. Whatever my meandering view on some of our players I have remained steadfast in my admiration of Simmo. My evaluation of any coach starts with a gut feel assessment of the cattle. Then what has he made of them? Sometimes coaches have a great game plan that is beyond the player’s capacity. I thought St Kilda and Richardson fitted that this year. Maybe they will develop a capacity to play that quick for that long, but a work in progress.
    I thought I could see Simmo trying to mould a unit and a style that was within player’s capacity (strong defence/slow the game down with lots of contests and ball ups/rely on occasional counter attack). Can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear but he’s gone pretty close.
    Beveridge is a genius for capturing lightning in a bottle. All the Cats fans seem to be yearning for their 2017 Hyundai I30 to perform like their 2011 V8. The donk’s not there when you flatten it. It was ever thus. If………….Well played ER.

  7. Simmo has McGovern.

  8. The best Almanac piece I have ever read! Inspired!

  9. Thanks very much Peter_B and Old Dog.

    I see that this is RUOK day.
    I’m reminded again that we’re all muddling along.

    Alex Fasolo has written a striking piece on his depression for “players voice.”

    On we go.

  10. And one match later, after Geelong d Sydney, and Cats’ skipper J Selwood declares coach C Scott to have been Geelong’s “best player.”


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