One sided games


by Dave Nadel

There has been much angst this week about one-sided games after the two top teams demolished the two bottom teams (and gee, wasn’t that a surprise). While I agree that a few seasons of one-side games would damage the competition, AFL fans and commentators are once again responding to a short term occurrence as if it were a long term trend – Remember all the Chicken Littles early last decade who said that the competition would be dominated by non-Victorian teams and that Victorian teams could not compete. They were right weren’t they?

Obviously one of the reasons for the one sided games is that the Gold Coast is an expansion team, full of kids. If you look closely at the Suns, they have one superstar, a handful of very good players (Bok, Rischitelli, Harbrow, Brown), a few players who can play well but don’t always do so (Brennan, Fraser, N. Krakouer) a few players who failed at their first clubs, a player who was a star of a completely different code of football and lots of kids. Some of these kids, however are going to be brilliant – Zac Smith, McKenzie, Swallow and probably Dixon) The Suns will be a good team, their one-sided games are a temporary phenomenon.


Most of the other blow-outs are due to poorly managed teams. Between the advantages of draft picks and the fairly good list that they still have, the Demons ought to be competitive. Given that the club itself represents the Melbourne establishment and used to have unprecedented access to the MCG and the MCC they should be a top eight club (and if Collingwood and some of the other clubs have better or equal access to the MCG that is not Collingwood or Richmond’s fault or even the AFL’s, it is the Demon’s own fault) The Demon’s position represents decades of mismanagement by a club rich enough and powerful enough to avoid their current fate.


Port Adelaide may have a more serious problem. The old Magpies were the most popular club in Adelaide (like Collingwood) but were hated by supporters of the other clubs (also like Collingwood). That turns out to be a bigger problem in a two club town than it is in a ten club conurbation. Maybe I am blinded by Pica solidarity but Port Adelaide are too good a club not to eventually overcome their current troubles, but it may take time.


The other factor that needs to be considered amongst all the angst about one sided games is that part of the reason for the one sided games is that the top clubs (particularly the two top clubs) are playing attractive, attacking football. Remember the middle of last decade, when every game between Sydney and West Coast (including two Grand Finals) produced very close results. Do you really think that those games were good to watch? Sydney, and to a lesser extent West Coast, were playing an ultra defensive game, with massive flooding, hardly any contested marks and far too little actual kicking of the football. The games were close, but that was partly because there was so little scoring.


Geelong brought back a fast, open running game, with lots of scoring. Collingwood, despite the defensive forward press, also built their game on contested marking and long kicking (it used to just be called “footy”) and I’m sorry, even if I wasn’t a one-eyed Pie supporter, I’d rather watch the Cats and the Pies play footy even when they are turning matches into cakewalks than the grim, congested, defensive close games of the mid-noughties. And imagine how good a Collingwood Geelong Grand Final is going to be as a spectacle if both teams maintain their current form?


  1. I know I’m in the minority here, but I loved all those Sydney v West Coast clashes, including the two Grand Finals. Below is the text of a letter of mine that appeared in The Age on the Monday after the 2005 Grand Final. That was the year the Andrew Demetriou had a go at Sydney’s style of footy.

    “TO THE critics of the Sydney Swans’ style of play, I say consider this: the 12 closest grand finals since the VFL’s inception in 1897 have yielded a highest score of 86 and an average score of 53 (median 55).

    As much as I enjoyed watching my team, the Western Bulldogs, and their exciting brand of free-flowing, high-scoring football during this year, the one thing I craved was a tight grand final – one that hinged on almost every action of every player. On Saturday, my wish was granted. And if the Sydney Swans’ brand of footy is what’s required to produce that sort of grand final, may it reign for many seasons to come.”

    I still feel the same way.

  2. Mark Doyle says

    Good to read a bit of objective common sense, Dave. This one sided games issue is just another overreaction by the media buffoons. I am not sure that there has been any more floggings than in previous years. We have all had to suffer the “pain” of our team being flogged. The Cats have had their fair share: against Collingwood in 2008 and last years prelim, the ’94, ’95 and ’08 GF’s and the ’69 first semi against Richmond. They say these experiences are character building and make the ’63, ’07 and ’09 premierships more satisfying. I am sure you as a Pies supporter have similar feelings of “pain” when thinking about the ’64, ’66, ’70 and ’80 GF’s and the ’09 prelim., but ’58, ’90 and 2010 premierships are more than adequate compensation. I had to smile at last years prelim. when the pie supporter seated next to me was hoping for the same margin as ’09 which was 70+ points.

    Hopefully, we can look forward to a classic 2011 GF between Geelong and Collingwood and I can be a bit self indulgent and enjoy another Cats premiership with Cam Mooney kicking the winning goal and Travis Varcoe winning the Norm Smith medal.

  3. Mark Doyle says

    Gigs, I also enjoyed those GF’s. They were enthralling contests. I think that I have seen all but 4 or 5 grand finals since 1967 and most have been enjoyable.

  4. Dave,

    noting your spelling of ‘Bock’ gave me much ‘joy’

  5. For goodness sake…in the 2005/2006 years, neither Swans or West Coast flooded – if you watch any of the behind the goals footage, you can see it was relentless one on one contests. You’re confusing it with the tactics engineered by Eade in the 90s.

  6. Correct Mark, the 2005-2006 games were opposite to the flooding because Worsfold didn’t believe in it, so he just accepted man-on-man. It worked while his midfield were stitching up every team in the comp.

    I think Sydney still tried to flood, so it ended up 7 on 7 in the Eagles front half, and 5 on 5 in the Swans. Can’t think this really advantaged either team. Eagles could put on their own frontal press and trap the Swans in.

    Best AFL GFs:
    2010 – brutal and dramatic
    2005 – amazing conclusion
    2009 – brutal
    2006 – better game than the two above in pure form
    2002 – brutal once more – no prisoners
    1997 – last term so impressive
    2008 – brilliant game until midway through third when Hawks broke it open
    1992 – one of the more skilful games to watch
    1996 – two words: Glenn Freeborn
    2004 – fourpeat up for grabs until late in the third – Wanganeen FTW
    2001 – brutal clash, epitomised by the fact Hart won the NSM

    We’ve got pretty lucky recently. In the past decade we had only a few stinkers: 2000, 2003, 2007, 2010R. And the rest were pretty good games, if not classics.

  7. bernard whimpress says

    A thoughtful piece Dave but I want to remark on your comment regarding Port Adelaide being too good a club not to overcome their troubles. Port and the Crows this year have been very disappointing which leaves me wondering whether despite the professionalisation of clubs that they have not become too sentimental and offer too many jobs for the boys when they retire. Mark Williams number was up for a time before he went and there was a member of his old guard ready to slip into his seat.

    While I do not like the practice of sacking coaches during the season Neil Craig had a good term to achieve success and Bickley has now taken over for the rest of the year. Again there are too many ex-Crows around the place and it might be far better to seek a coach and advisers from outside.

    Speaking of sentimentality I wonder about the wisdom of ex-coaches remaining at clubs in advisory/ management roles. This position appears to be something like the High Performance Managers who sit over coaches at state and national cricket level and often exercise power without taking responsibility.

    It seems to me that the playing side of clubs and sports are becoming increasingly bureaucratic with too many ex-legends around the place clogging the broth.

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