Preseason pretence


by Jamie Gault

As we approach round three of the AFL season and start to, as the fans, settle into the 24/7 football bubble that encapsulates the community at this time of year, let’s take a moment to reflect on what has come and gone and how we got sucked in yet again.

Getting past the first round this season was harder than most. The build-up to the 2012 season was larger than ever with a heavily increased media attention brought on by the $1 billion plus broadcasting and media rights.

Coverage of the nation’s game has never been bigger, whilst confusing preseason form of quite a few sides namely Richmond and Carlton perplexed many a punter and expert alike. Media personnel with a unique amount of time on its hands had very little to discuss in terms of solid facts furthermore there was Fox Footy trying to get enough debate flowing to cover a full twenty-four hour football channel.

The result: way too much time to discuss, over-complicate and wonder whether that five goal victory was an aberration or rather a reflection of the teams improved 3km time trials or its ability to lift heavier weights.

Thank god when the umpire bounced that shiny yellow ball we got passed that and could finally talk in wins/losses or faith/lack of in matches that matter, but let’s focus pre-bounce, before we finally could get passed the mountain that is preseason.

Richmond, competing in what most will remember as the first game of the season (sorry GWS and Sydney), flaunted its fans and the wider football community alike with hope and excitement of victory, however it was Carlton’s pace and a surprisingly staunch backline that got it comfortably over the line by 44 points.

Richmond who defeated Hawthorn, and demolished the reigning premiers, Geelong by 59 points down the highway was, until that point, the flavour of the month. No talk of another five-year plan, rather they and the, by that stage, desperately thirsty media believed they could snatch the win. Carlton went into the game without a preseason win and the bandwagon was all but empty however logic was driving it along full throttle towards the MCG.

The more time passed leading up to that opening bounce on the 29th of March the more we were going delirious, like a pack of witch-hunters baying for a result and the inevitable flow of blood, hanging off every word spoken or written. The Tigers, it must be noted, should be applauded with their openness in the lead up to the game; they chose a tack and stuck to it. It gave the awaiting crowd of football lovers a way to be genuinely excited for the season’s opening match, but accidentally filling us (along with every other year) with a false belief that the Tiger Army would rise once more.

But as they ran up the race onto the fresh dewy grass of the MCG one could forgive the Tigers for wishing maybe they kept a little quieter in the lead up, one could forgive them if they thought that the predictions of the media were over their head. Could they win? Sure, but it seems every one forgot there was another team in the match, as we swum in the endless opinion material, previews, drawn out discussions on TV with each of our view a little hazed by the excitement of a new dawn, a new season.

The result of this match was quite the exception to the rule, well the rule that only exists for the weeks leading up to round one, but quickly rearranged thereafter. That is that preseason form will correlate with early season results. But of course we both know this isn’t the case (we realise this quietly a few rounds later and pretend we weren’t the delusional majority). It is hence ironic that Carlton, the very team we associate the negative relationship of preseason form and home and away success with, was an afterthought leading into the match. Carlton, the team that won the preseason cup and the wooden spoon in the same year in 2005, taught us the sacred rule that preseason victories or losses for that matter mean very little. But alas each year without fail we all choose begrudgingly, to let go of that fact and ride a wave of euphoria and optimism in terms of our predictions.

Oh it is a relief to know we can look back on the weeks leading up to round one, remember exactly what we were predicting with the benefit of hindsight, knowing we are now in a better spot. But like an old photo, we cannot help but wonder what we were thinking, or how better we look now than then. Much like how we are feeling better now with a few rounds passed than we were before.

With two weeks gone, as we knock on the door of round three Carlton sit with two wins and zero losses whilst Richmond is the exact opposite. Carlton have been “dominant” according to Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley, whilst Richmond’s poor disposal continues to haunt the dreams of coaches and fans alike. The days of air-sucking media coverage have passed, the mountain and its thin air that spates our better judgement is in to our rear and we can now relax and find a groove in the couch as we debate with logic, using the results of matches that matter and move towards that one day in September. And of course quietly pretend we were the very small minority that remembered the rule of the preseason and hence didn’t get swept up in the delusions that secretly plague us each and every year.


  1. Alovesupreme says

    This Blues supporter is happy to put his hand up, Jamie. The only performance of Carlton I saw prior to the season opener was a frankly poor effort against North Melbourne. North aren’t rubbish, but I doubt that their most optimistic fans expect them to be contenders for top 4 this year, and that’s our yard-stick.

    I wasn’t particularly bothered by the score-board result (I agree with David Parkin, who said many years ago, that the scores should not even be recorded in practice matches), but the dispirited manner in which the Blues played. That together with the back-line injuries, some of our gun players’ lacking match fitness and Richmond’s promising form made me feel pessimistic.

    At that time I had little doubt that Carlton would place higher on the ladder at season’s end, but I sensed that the Tigers were better prepared for the Round 1 encounter. I’m always happy when my team exceeds my expectations, as they have done in Rounds 1 and 2, by winning comfortably, and then winning massively. Friday against Collingwood will be a big test, but this time, the Blues seem to be slightly better placed than the Magpies. However, Collingwood have been superior for the past few years, so Carlton have a significant margin to close.

    I still maintain that Richmond are improving, and are likely to finish in the lower regions of the “8” by season’s end.

  2. Peter Schumacher says

    I try not to be swept away by this stuff but so far Adelaide are doing OK. however the next few weeks will certainly sort them out.

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