Tell them Junior’s dreamin’

By Chris Riordan

Like most footy fans, I tend to base judgements and opinions on an inconsistent range of often contradictory observations or even pig-headed bias. The gathering of evidence can come later!

I’ve never embraced the DreamTeam concept. I vaguely recall once watching an awful quarter of Port possession and hearing someone behind me gleefully tally his accumulated points. Some spectators began liking Joel Bowden (good fella notwithstanding). Maybe it was the further emphasis on “hard statistics”. Add “Super” to anything and when “Coach” means Sheeds’ red nose all over the paper, my stubborn back is up.

But I can, and do, go to “neutral” games, often enjoying them more so than “my” club’s matches. Emotionally released, I watch, get involved as and if I wish or just retire for a bet and beer on a whim. I’ve seen good sides develop and speculated on various careers. But never joined a DreamTeam.

This willingness to attend games “on spec” has often been rewarded by classic contests and vivid memories. But not today. The AFL were determined to get a bumper aggregate round to kick off this season and, mostly, did so. But, to continue the Supercoach analogy, if you pick all the stars together then you are left with some compulsory budget choices in the end. That, in this case, meant Melbourne and North, buried on GP afternoon. Credit to the behemoth. For once, they got it right- this was pretty much the forgettable match touted.

Not that I didn’t enjoy it. A sun-drenched Autumn MCG and a scattered crowd meant heaps of room, no personal tension and some footy.

For Melbourne, sporting black armbands in testament to the late legend Tiger Ridley, there was a host of newcomers to evaluate and, hopefully, a fresh attitude to accompany it.

North, as always, came with question marks.

The endeavour was tremendous, but so it should be in Round One. The ¼ time text I received skiting “15 v 16” was, I though at the time, pretty harsh. It was the sort of opening stanza urged years ago by the banners that would circle the old ground…”tenacious”, “determined”, “crunching”, but not really skillful.

Nevertheless, “perfect” footy can be boring, with measured kicks and possession obsession adhering to a stringent gameplan. Here, endeavour and accountability were paramount and it was good to watch.

I’d focused on an old and a new from each team.

Brent Moloney,  a returning hard-nut with some talent, added grunt to the Demons’ on-ball brigade, but still must improve his disposal. Constant Roo-watch, the normally indefatigable Boomer, was, in spite of his gut-running, held.

My “newbies”, Melbourne’s giant Spencer (famous name in those hallowed halls) and North’s #18 Smith (famous number in their portables) were interesting and, not surprisingly, ultimately over-run in the heat of the day and the occasion. But each showed promise.

Spencer threw himself gallantly in to the fray for most of the first quarter and when finally rested earned that distinctive and quaint rippling applause from the MCC Members in recognition of his fine innings!  His performance wavered thereafter as North presented a host of quality talls including BOG Hamish McIntosh, whereas Melbourne’s nominal key big, Johnson, was poor. But it is a name to watch.

North’s latest Number 18 fronted at centre half-forward, presented menacingly and contested willingly. A work in progress, at least he had support, with Halle and Petrie (and often McIntosh) posing problems for undersized defenders. For him the task of competing was adequate as, on the ground, North’s little men hovered. Today it was Campbell who proved most menacing but, at other times, it will be Thomas or Boomer himself.

The best of the unseen, it turned out, was Melbourne’s Warracknabeal ranga Kyle “Dick” Cheney, who was brave and composed.

But North’s hard running, combined with its height advantage, always looked likely to break open a gallant opponent which, as a recurring Achilles, simply turned the ball over too often. They’d kick to an undermanned forward line and sometimes conjure a goal. More often a groan.

North’s own fallibility kept the match alive but, from my perch at the front of Level 4 in the City pocket, I could see blokes like Harding and McMahon pushing from one end of the ground to the other and eventually creating chances.

Media apologists can laud a better effort, but Melbourne still have issues. Miller, for example, has played enough footy to make better leads and decisions. He was a disappointment.

And their admirable new skipper, Junior McDonald, encapsulated his club’s and the DreamTeam concept’s limitations. At ¾ time he was still one of the leading point scorers in the contest trumpeted on the twin big screens. Yet he’d clearly played a disappointing game. Hesitant little handballs, badly weighted kicks and a terrible missed set shot at a critical time for his side were better indicators than the bean-cruncher, populist model.

VOTES; 3 H. McIntosh; 2 L. Harding; 1 M Campbell


  1. CB
    Just re-reading a few articles and totally concur with your thoughts on Dreamteam/Supercoach propaganda. Its a bit like snow skiing, I’ve tried it, and I can see why others may enjoy it but it just leaves me cold.

    And as you are aware, there is only one Super anything that matters, and he wore 27 for the Dogs in the halcyon days. Apparently making a fair fist of coaching in the EDFL these days.

  2. Of course those were the halcyon days when we won nothing and nearly went out of business!
    ref “Bulldogs fan in familiar anguish”.
    Budge started on again last night at how shit the Doggies are (always!) and that anything other than flags are failures.

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