Some Might Say

We’re not yet half way through Round One and many commentators have already come to some staggering conclusions. Collingwood and Carlton are gone, Franklin was a complete waste of money and the two expansion sides are set to dominate for the next decade.

That’s not to say that any of these predictions are certain to be proven incorrect, but the determination to be the first to sharpen the knives overrides any common sense in the AFL community. It’s the same every year, yet no one seems to learn from their prior mistakes.

In the first game of 2011 Melbourne and Sydney played out a thrilling draw on the MCG. Melbourne – laden with high draft picks – was sure to be a team on the march, while the Swans, unable to perform on the big stage, were old and getting older. Their time at the top had certainly come to a close.

Eighteen months later Sydney was the 2012 premier, while Melbourne could only manage to finish above the two newest sides. For all intents and purposes, they were by far the worst performed team in the league. Two teams at completely opposite ends of the spectrum were tied in a gripping duel, yet in the end it meant exactly nothing.

It is the dogged nature of the modern football media that every week be seen as a conclusion instead of a chapter, a destination in place of a journey.

So it was this weekend, with GWS causing one of the biggest boilovers of modern times with a runaway victory over premiership fancy the Swans, while Gold Coast lasted longer in an entertaining tussle with top four aspirants Richmond.

In the other games, Fremantle seemingly confirmed their status as one of the teams to watch in a crushing win over the Magpies, while Carlton, ahead for three quarters, were left in the dust by a hard-running Port Adelaide.

The victors deserve the praise, and certainly the quartet was impressive in securing the four points. Yet, particularly in the case of the Giants, it pays to be cautious before making bold claims about dynasties and future champions. While the excitement of the moment seemed to elevate the result to the dawn-of-a-new-epoch status, so much will change in the course of the next six months that it is likely to render similar outcomes the exception and not the rule.

While the success will be viewed as historically significant for Greater Western Sydney as a club, in the context of 2014 it is worth noting why upsets are viewed as such.

It is often said, usually by the same reactionary commentators and usually in an attempt to seem sage after the fact, that the AFL season is a marathon and not a sprint. While this is true, if you continue to make daring predictions you’re bound to get something right eventually.

Let us then view the launch of another campaign noted for its predilection for endurance as merely the mirage that it is, rather than the reality it purports to be.


  1. Hear hear Franc!

    Tabloid sports ‘jernalism’ and SOME – but not all – sports radio shows are in a race to be first as if somehow, come September, we’ll all remember the sage that ‘tipped this’ back in March and we all kneel in reverence.

    As any thoroughbred racing fan will tell you, Melbourne Cups aren’t won down the straight six, there’s still plenty of racing to be had before you get to Chiquita Lodge.

  2. David Zampatti says

    Interestingly, though, Mr Whately pointed out on the cable last night that, over the two most recent seasons at least, first round results were strong indicators of how teams would fare in the rest of the season.
    So, using my own Freo as an example, our solid 1st round 2013 win over then premiership favourites West Coast accurately foretold their slide from grace and our successful season; In 2012 our close win over the Cats in round 1 meant the two sides meeting again in the finals, and the Dockers winning again, hardly surprising.
    Much more often than not, these trends were mirrored in the other games in those opening rounds. There were exceptions to the rule in both seasons, similar to the Melbourne/ Sydney draw in 2011, but, if were a Collingwood, Carlton, Richmond or Sydney supporter, I’d disregard the weekend’s results at my peril, I think.
    And Franc, being a bit partisan here, I’m not sure what you mean when you say Freo SEEMINGLY confirmed its status as a team to watch on the weekend. Did you see something I missed?

  3. Franc de Borges says

    No David, I said ‘seemingly’ as to assert it would be at odds with the crux of the article. I have Freo winning the flag this season, as I did at the same time last year (true story).

    I didn’t watch 360, but two years is hardly a large enough sample to come to any conclusion. Look through the last decade and you’ll find many examples of bizarre first round results that were not a portent of things to come.

    That’s not to say that Collingwood, Carlton and Richmond will certainly rebound (I had all three as possible sliders this year) but to use one performance as confirmation of any theory is just folly.

  4. Franc de Borges says

    Also, beyond the first round Sydney in ’05, Geelong in ’07 and Collingwood in ’10 were all written off after somewhat mediocre starts to the season.

  5. kath presdee says

    There are two things that the GWS vs Sydney game showed the broader AFL public:

    1) GWS have improved from last year and have solved a critical deficiency in the ruck with Mumford and have stiffened their defence with Shaw and Hunt.
    2) Sydney, once again, has started very slowly and have a significant weakness in the ruck.

    What this will mean in the context of the longer season is that the Giants should win more than they were expected to, but I doubt they’ll win more games than they lose.

    Similarly Swans have players that have to come back (they missed Jack especially) but unless they get some assistance for Pyke in the ruck, they’re not going to do as well as before. As GWS showed last year, having a top quality forward means nothing unless you can win the ball in the middle.

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