The 2016 Ken Stabler Cup – Round Two

Greetings Tipsters


I went months without spending as much time on the couch as I did this past weekend. We were in Aoteoroa for Round One, I started a column upon my return on Tuesday, it was thin on football detail and long on generalised invective. Being locked inside a pressurised metal tube does that to me.


And so to Round Two – ah, but first, a note on the column title. The ‘Mopsy’ Fraser Cup began in 1998 and it’s time for a change. Every week will be time for a change.


Ken Stabler Cup was gonna be the title of my Superbowl review (Broncos D was beautiful brutality). Ken was born in Alabama on Christmas Day, 1945, quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, won the Superbowl in ’76. He was well known for his love of ladies and liquor. In the ‘America’s Game’ series on Superbowls, Ken chuckles and says “How much sleep do you need to play football?”


The final siren rang for Ken in July 2015. Today we’ll raise a glass to a champion who never let anything intefere with the pursuit of a good time.


Geez, Friday night was a bit underwhelming, wasn’t it? Last quarter, Richmond got to a 17 point lead, commentators were talking about the Pies not having the dare to make a decent forward foray while Richmond chipped the ball back and forth around the back half. Inevitably, they erred, Collingwood goaled and the chance was there. A few minutes later Vickery marked in range, chose to chip and blew it. You know the rest.


Saturday I worked, got home in time for the ‘Showdown’ and it was Crows on Show and Port going Down. For a team that was within a kick or two of the Grand Final 18 months ago, they aint done much since. Then I went out and caught The New Christs. By the beard of the prophet, that is one mighty rock and roll band. They don’t play often, rarely tour, but if ever you hear about a show in your city, get yourself along.


Sunday is my day of rest, at least until the weather turns a hazy shade of winter and gardeners stay at home far too often. I lay in bed reading Dashiell Hammett’s ‘The Glass Key’ until 1310 then moved to the couch for the match from the beautiful Manuka Oval. Geelong did almost everything right in the first term, like a carpenter who does great sawing and sanding and then says “Bugger it, I’ll do the polishing tomorrow.”


Mid second, the Monaros switched on and dominated, constant pressure and running in waves, got out to a lead of 40 mid third, they were running in a wave through the middle, another goal looking likely when a slack handpass was intercepted and, bang, there’s your classic twelve point turnaround. I told Perky Girl that it was game changing moment.
The Pivotonians kept coming, kept at it, kept on scoring but that last goal, the one they really needed, eluded them. The Monaros buckled down and it was intensity on show.


I like the new out of bounds rule. It’s in the spirit of the game, to keep the ball in motion. Players have to hang back a bit from a contest on the boundary, they can’t all rush in, force it over and reset for a throw-in. I like the interchange limit too. Remember the 1970 Grand Final? I don’t, but I’ve watched it and the commentary “these blokes are dead on their feet” is fitting. The last quarter, the game opens up a bit, big blokes are no smaller, skilled players are no less talented. Two minutes to go and the Monaros kicked the S goal.


If the idea is to keep the ball in play, then I can take the new rule a step further. Perspex walls around the boundary. The ball bounces off, players bounce off, no boundary ‘stoppages’ (by the gods, how I despise that word!), no need for boundary or goal umpires. Controversial goals will be a thing of the past, as we can wire up the perspex, much as Ch7 shows the goals in green and behinds in red when someone is taking a set shot.


Speaking of Ch7, what’s Fast Eddie doing there? Quite a shock it was, at the last break in the Swans match, to see Ed pop up. Few months back I read Gerald Stone’s book ‘Who Killed Channel 9’ so in light of that it shouldn’t be too surprising but it does highlight the gaps in my knowledge that come from yet another breakdown in World Wide Web connection.


Ephemeral knowledge, that is. The web is full of bibs and bobs of info, you read it and move on. Books require more. You have to keep track of characters, ideas, plotlines –non-fiction has plotlines, even physics – your brain operates in a different style, like a season as opposed to a quarter.


So I don’t know the latest on Luke Hodge’s elbow, but I did suspect that Hawthorn’s 2016 might be like Brisbane’s 2004, apart from making the Grand Final, that Freo would hit the wall in the flaming NASCAR sense, that Sydney would flake.


That last suspicion may be incorrect. Beating up on two mediocre teams doesn’t mean much but the Swans have a sense of balance on the park. Four years ago they beat North, the game Rohan broke his leg not 30 yards from where I was sitting with Dad and a few other blokes in the family, but I noticed a balance that day. Mumford and Pyke made a great ruck combo. Tippett and Sinclair may yet do likewise. Franklin is lean and fit, youngsters like Papley (grandfather/grandson recruit) are slotting in with ease, the ‘long bombs to Buddy’ style seems to have been abandoned.


Starting the season with two games against mediocrities gives a good team a chance to get their ‘structures’, ‘game plans’ and all the rest sorted in a way that practice matches never will. I have doubts about Sydney’s backs, one on one, but they’ve debuted some kids with pace and enthusiasm that’ll make them a better attacking team.


Last year I saw a teev piece on Luke Beveridge, shot at the beach where he surfs. I like him, he doesn’t go the usual coach haircut nor the usual coach talk. Supporters of any team would hate to hear that they are the ‘second team’ of other fans; the way the Dogs are playing they won’t be a second team for much longer. We knew they could run and kick, now they’ve conceded ten goals in two matches. Sure, against teams who could barely find the goals with a searchlight, but you can only beat the team you are drawn to play.


Team of the week is Essendon. How many pundits swore they’d have a winless season? I didn’t buy into that malarkey, they were going to pinch one or two – but in the second game, against the allegedly resurging Demons, that’s a great effort. Handsome Paul is great at marketing himself but – I was at the MCG for the 2005 Grand Final, twas a glorious day – he aint as good a coach as he reckons.


Cheers, Tipsters


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

Brought to you with the assistance of MOJO ‘Pretty Vacant’ comp of 70s rock and roll.


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. Onya Earl. Sad to hear of Mopsy’s passing and replacement by a septic. The rest all makes sense, as usual. It will be interesting to see if the Monaros and the Suns can maintain the rage. We have all been waiting for them for a while, and maybe they do have the maturity now. Freo’s slide no surprise. Sydney, North and the Crows all look better than I expected. Not sure about my Eagles until they play a few more good sides. They were awful on Sunday, and Ross will try to rough them up this week.

  2. Earl O'Neill says

    Ken was born in Alabama, Pete. He aint no seppo.
    Every week will be time for a change.

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