The 2014 ‘Mopsy’ Fraser Cup – Round Ultima

Greetings Tipsters

 

Ash McGrath and Lenny Hayes might be thinking about a topline Mad Monday. Maybe they’re thinking about going home and laying on the couch, free at last of the urgency that had them up every three hours to re-pack the ice on their muscles, stretched and used way beyond endurance.

 

Come 2020, Lenny will be an AFL Hall Of Famer and Ash will be a footnote with a premiership medal. That’s not to slag Ash, a very good footballer, but to point out what we might dub ‘The Skilton Factor’ – or, at the other extreme, ‘The Aaron Keating Factor.’

 

Field games, football codes, hockey, polo, they’re all sports that rely on a superior team to win big. They also provide an arena for the sublime skills of the elite players to shine. Lenny came agonisingly close, Bob nowhere near so, but they share a hole in their hard-won glittering careers.

 

Matthew Pavlich is lurking around that hole. You reckon he’ll get there this year? The form is holding for some, there are twelve teams that may play finals and three or five with a fair tilt at the flag,

 

Aint that a grand and wonderful thing! Some seasons there’re two or three obviously gonna make it all the way. 2014, a week out from the finals, five contenders.

 

Port are the most unlikely, but you can’t write them off when they get it right. Fast young teams with nothing to fear have won the flag before.

 

Freo have lately learned to kick more goals. Will this stand up in the white heat of finals? Still not convincing. Ross Lyon may be the Rene Kink of coaches.

 

Geelong are more exposed than years previous. Unusually low percentage for high on the ladder late in August, no team that has lost by 100+ points during the season has ever won a flag.

 

Hawthorn have copped injuries across the playing and the coaching list, and they keep winning. Strong, decisive wins. Hitting the finals with their best, but maybe lacking. Aint just players being injured, it’s them lacking that 0.01% edge that comes with playing, being out on the park with your teammates, the difference between a sweet kick to a leading forward and a rebound goal to the oppo.

 

Sydney have the form, the players, the odds, and everything to lose. They’ve assembled a team that plays with the magnificent arrogance of Lethal’s Lions and the machine-like efficiency of the 2000 Bombers . Anything less than a flag will be nigh unto a failure.

 

The Premiership Team is not the best team of the season, it’s the best team on Grand Final Day. Freo or Port might surprise the heck outa Sydney in the Qual Final. It might be a kick either way that decides whether Hawks or Cats get the week off. For all the talk of ‘Top Two’ and the week off for winners, the top team gets to play the Prelim on Frinite and the winner gets an extra day before the Big ‘Un. A scheduling imbroglio gifted Sydney that extra day in 2012, stole it from Brisbane in 2004.

 

The Top Five are seriously well-managed clubs – two years back, did you really think Port might have a chance at a flag so soon? Ten years ago, did you expect Sydney, Geelong and Hawthorn to become the modern champions?

 

Did you expect Melbourne to be as terminally terrible for so long? Did you expect St Kilda to lose a Grand Final by a random bounce and crash to another spoon so quickly?

 

There’s no controlling that random bounce but what each of the Top Five have done is put together a team of footballers, coaches, administrators, doctors, physios, from the receptionist to the scouts who check out VFL matches (scout – now that’s a good word), a team that is focussed on the one thing that keeps football clubs moving, The Flag.

 

There’s an inherent culture in there, one that the Hawks, Swans and Cats have, that the Fuschias don’t, that the Dogs and Tigers are trying to get, that the Suns and Monaros are aiming to create.

 

Detroit Lions is my NFL team. They’ve got a great bunch of players, they’ve recruited a great coaching staff. They gave up 15 penalties for 130 yards in a practice match against the woeful Jaguars, which they won by one point. They aint the Hawks, Cats or Swans. Team culture conquers all. Get that right and you’ll have a decent chance at a flag. Mess it up and watch a procession of coaches walk out the door with heads hanging low.

 

Cheers, Tipsters

 

P&C, a Stop Privatisation Of Footy Production, a division of Trans-Dementia Inc.

Brought to you with the assistance of Bob Dylan’s ‘Bringin’ It All Back Home” and some dirty ol’ R&B.

 

The term ‘R&B’ is credited to Jerry Wexler wanting an alternative to ‘race music.’ Then he and Ahmet Ertegun set up Atlantic Records, which has enriched our lives immeasurably. Bless ‘em.

 

About Earl O'Neill

Freelance gardener, I've thousands of books, thousands of records, one fast motorcycle and one gorgeous smart funny sexy woman. Life's pretty darn neat.

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Earl yes that million dollar question how you create that winning culture and grow , develop and keep it , so many factors involved not accepting mediocrity and being ruthless to make sure is just 1

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