The 2015 ‘Mopsy’ Fraser Cup – Round 7

Greetings Tipsters


When Neale Daniher was coaching Melbourne, he became known as The Reverend. He had a priestly mien, a quiet smile that hinted at a deeper sense of humour and a sense of decency rare in public figures. In that, he reminded me of Tim Fischer, a more unusual character in politics than Neale is in football.


The Reverend studied at RMIT in the 1980s and got a grasp on the potential of computers that would serve him well. Kevin Sheedy credited his hours of analysis of Carlton’s centre-bounce setup being of vital importance in the ’93 flag. He coached Melbourne to a Grand Final but there was always a hint that he’d rather be in the background, an assistant coach or manager/director of football ops.


If ever there was an aura of bad luck around Neale, as his sadly truncated playing career would suggest, it’s really hit home now that he has Motor Neurone Disease. It’s one thing – one terrible thing – to have a playing career that promised the world be ruined by knee injuries. It’s another thing altogether to have your life ruined by an incurable disease, especially when you’re 54 and in the prime years to make the most of decades of experience and thoughtfulness.


So, to Neale and all the hundreds of other Danihers, we wish you all the very best of everything, especially a miracle cure.


There is no miracle cure available that will heal the many and varied wounds of that club that we dare not mention. It’s ironic, in the least, that Ronald Dale B wanted to be sure he was going to go coach a club that had a sound administration. Duly satisfied, Ron went on to remake the club.


Long a proponent of the national competition, I wonder what Ron thought of that club after Saturday when (Rohan Connolly was first into print with this, but we all thought it) the symbolism of the upstart Monaros wiping out the club with sixteen flags sat about as lightly as Mt Rushmore. And what of the rest of the once-were Big Four?


The Richmond/Collingwood match was a close, hard match, but not one you’d load onto an interstellar flight. These two, and Essendon, can hope to make the finals, but that’s about it. Throw on the assorted baggage of these clubs and, really, the best you can say about any of them is that the Four & Twenties have potential over the next couple of years.

Hubris, wealth, an excess of self-satisfaction? These are not issues down at the Whitten Oval. Neither is a ruckman, not when Sandilands, who can change a lightbulb on a nine-foot ceiling without a ladder, is in form. It almost worked for them, it also shines a light on evolving physiques.

Bontempelli is a young midfielder standing 6’4”, an inch or so taller than John Nicholls and Graeme Farmer and at least two inches taller than Royce Hart. At 187lbs, he weighs about as much as Royce did, too. Undoubtedly, his aerobic fitness would be far superior to any of those worthies at their peak. So, now I’m wondering how the 1996 Team Of The Century would fare against the Bulldogs or the Monaros.

Once Vanessa (the Stop Privatisation Of Football work experience kid) has ironed out the flaws in her time machine, we’ll go and collect all the ToC players when they were at their playing peak, take them to 2014 and send them off to a sports institute for twelve months so they can work on fitness, then line up a match. I’ll get back to you with a report.

A few weeks ago, I asked Vanessa to analyse the last fifteen years of recruiting by the club that is Not Good For Football. She sat down with her tablet for a while then scootered down to the uni. She’s still just fifteen, but they let her have the run of the pure mathematics lab. She came back with a very nicely bound and frightenly large document, we went to her parents’ restaurant for lunch and I spent the afternoon noshing on the tastiest delicacies this side of the Mekong Delta while she very patiently explained the introduction to the Executive Summary.

It was almost too much to absorb until her dad joined us with a bottle of snake and scorpion whiskey, and then I started to get a grip on what she was saying.

“Vanessa,” I said, “burn this document and any other paperwork, wipe the program and all related work and never speak of this again, to anyone. This work of yours is a marvel, a thing of beauty and if it ever gets out it will cause a ruckus the likes of which Australian sport has never seen.”

See, it was just too good. Too smart, too incisive, laying everything out in excrutiating pinpoint detail. Vanessa doesn’t take much of an interest in sport, so she approached it with a pure mathematical mind and she utterly zinged it. Dear lass, she told me she’ll set up a Neale Daniher Fellowship when she gets tenure at Stanford.

Ah, but I digress. Team of the Century got me thinking about the interchange, the sub, all that. We’re on record as being in favour of the nineteenth man, maybe the twentieth, and Saint Nick’s knockout got me thinking about this again. Would Nick have run so hard if there was no interchange? Leave alone the visuals of the incident, which seem to indicate that he was afflicted by temporary blindness because I can’t figure any other way in which a champion who has logged near 300 games over 15 years could’ve knocked himself out like that.

Today’s players are super-goddamn fit fulltime professionals. None of us really believe that Fyfe, Swan or Mitchell couldn’t play a full game without a rest every seven minutes. Sure, they’d be tired at the end, but so was Brent Crosswell. With two reserves, teams would pick eighteen players and two, not twenty-two, which would free up more players overall – with eighteen teams now really stretching the talent pool, this will be Good For Football. Senior lists need not be so long, there will be more of the beloved “equalisation”, state leagues will benefit, I won’t have to watch Australian Football become more and more like rugby.

Speaking of “equalisation”, what about Gillo’s Crazy Draw? Everyone seemed to take it oh so very seriously, much stroking of chins and mutters of “a playoff from round 18 to 22, that’ll never work,” of course it won’t and it was never meant to. It’s a Big Idea that will get folks talking.

It ain’t so many years since every one of 16 teams played every other team, and then repeated the first seven rounds. I liked that, we all liked that. I like the way the draw has been set up this year, with all last season’s good teams playing each other early on while the crap teams play each other. Gives everyone some hope.

If the Monaros’ draw is indicative, it’s looking that way this year. At least we don’t have that rat-bastard of a draw a year or two back when teams would repeat matches within a few weeks. The draw will never be fair. The Wiggles and the Wharfies will always log up airborne miles, the big Melbourne teams will never have to travel too often. That’s just the way it is.

Speaking of the draw, what does it offer us this weekend?

The ’95 Grand Final rematch is on Friday, I wonder what the tally has been between these two since then? The ’01 GF rematch is on, each team being coached by a player from the game, how often does that happen? The ’14 GF rematch is on too, and, um, no other GF rematches. There’s an idea for a theme round, Gillo.


Cheers, Tipsters


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

Brought to you with the assistance of Fever Tree’s 1968 album ‘Another Time, Another Place.’

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.


  1. Great idea for the GF themed round Earl. The Bulldogs will be playing University. Freo will be playing with themselves.
    Love your work. NDaniher for GG – he could be a wonderful example of humility and service to the whole nation. Shakespeare said “we all owe God a death”, and being reminded of that can be a powerful motivator not to waste our time, or as PK said “now time has wasted me”.

  2. E.regnans says

    Superb, Earl.
    Straight to the pool room.

    That Vanessa could be one to watch.

  3. Thanks Paul. A great read.

  4. Paul? I thought he was Ringo.

Leave a Comment