At half time on Friday night, I’m willing bet my mother’s life there would’ve been some nervous Geelong fans. Like Carlton the week before there was no run, there was no leadership – no one knew where the next goal was coming from.
But like the Blues, Geelong found a way and in the process ended what has been one of the most exciting seasons for Port Adelaide, perhaps since their 2004 premiership.
The assumed excitement of being runners up in 2007 would’ve been quickly washed away after their abysmal Grand Final performance. That day was the equivalent to a Meat Loaf pre-game entertainment show.
For anyone who thought they knew football, Port Adelaide were supposed to finish with the wooden spoon and eventually faze out in nothingness as a club. People laughed at Chad Wingard being drafted to dreary old Port, while his fellow draftees went to the land of opportunity over at GWS. No one’s laughing now.
Port Adelaide got fitter, faster, stronger, and tougher and were engrained into their mindset that they had to apply all of these traits for longer.
Things had to change. No longer were they to be the easy-beats, embarrassed by the fledgling Giants last year.
Keith Thomas and his department made some interesting calls. They wanted old-school, but not Denis Pagan-old-school. They brought in Ken Hinkley.
They wanted them to take their level of athleticism from good to elite, but not through usage of anything illegal. They hired a soccer fitness guru in Darren Burgess.
And they wanted experience in their midfield, but not players at the twilight of their careers. So they chased hard for the signature of Angus Monfries, while offloading what seemed to be core players in Danyle Pearce and Troy Chaplin.
Five starts, five wins. Admittedly, their woeful finish last year gifted them a soft draw to start with. But then wins came against good sides and not just ordinary wins; hard-grind, come-from-behind, exciting wins.
AAMI Stadium wasn’t having its seats covered in advertising layouts; they had people there, wanting to watch one of the oldest clubs in South Australia succeeding. And there was much to cheer about, Monfries went from an Essendon ‘stager’ to an uncompromising gut-runner; Travis Boak resisted the calls to move to Victoria and was stiff to miss out on Best Captain at last week’s AFLPA MVP Awards; Justin Westhoff showed why Port persisted with him; Jay Schulz proved he should be the man to kick for your life; and then there are the exciting prospects of Wingard and Ollie Wines, just to name a few.
It’s fair to say there won’t be many empty seats at Adelaide Oval at Power games for many, many years to come.
THEY SAID IT COULDN’T HAPPEN
There are few things better in life than proving the doubters wrong. And when you’re told you can’t establish a new club, the club would amount to nothing and you’re wasting your time; there’s really only one option left to do. Win the premiership in your debut season.
And that’s exactly what the Northern Blues Amateurs did. Coached by George Wakim, his side’s debut season in the Division 4 VAFA competition was truly a premier one.
Being down by four points at the main break, a storming six-goal to one second half saw the Blues home to record a memorable victory. A former coach at Preston Junior Football Club, Wakim was sick of seeing players part with each other when they finished their days with PJFC, having no senior club to flow into. 18 Preston juniors played in Sunday’s win, with George basically telling it exactly how it was: “I don’t think that there’s anything much more pleasurable in life than doing things that people tell you that you can’t do.”
THE ‘MUSIC MAN’
It wouldn’t be off-season (even though nearly all of us are still engrossed in what happens during September) without a bit of contract speculation. Dustin Martin and Ralph Carr have taken over from Paul Little and James Hird to exasperate the entire football community over where the freakishly gifted midfielder will end up. But if we all think we’re exasperated, have a think about how Richmond and Martin’s teammates feel right about now. So lucky we’ve brought in the big guns to analyse the process for us in the form of the one Ricky Nixon.
Nixon has started his own blog (concerning) on current football and player management issues (more worrying). He’s up to part two, called “The Next Step” and you get the feeling there’s a bitter taste in the mouth as Nixon sits down on his laptop: “It might be time for Carr to put his money where his mouth is. I recall him running with a big spread in the Herald Sun saying a year or so ago on he thought AFL (player) agents had no idea, and that he was going to show them how a ‘Music Man’ did it. It might be time for the ‘Music Man’ to put his money where his mouth is and find Dustin some deals outside the Club that brings his yearly earn up to the level Carr promised him, and if he doesn’t then if I was Dustin, I would ask him to underwrite it.”
WAKE UP AND SMELL THE DAISIES
Didn’t mind this little barb over Twitter during the week.
Dale Thomas: “As my great mate Dane Swan would say, it is as cold as a polar bear’s toenail today.”
Twitter User (I’ll leave you to ponder which club he supports): “Cold enough to turn you ‘blue’, eh Daisy?”
WHAT THEY SAID
“Bunch of Richmond flogs let the kid live spare me with ya pathetic tweets! To the few goodies out there I apologize in advance!” Ah Daniel Connors, how we missed you…
Ted Richards on the idea of challenging his reprimand: “I did mention it to ‘Horse’ (coach John Longmire) as a joke. He didn’t laugh.”
The Age writer, Jill Stark defending AFL is a non-misogynistic sport: “True there are aspects that don’t exactly advance the case of sexual equality – The Footy Show is to feminism what Robert Mugabe is to the human rights movement.”
Andrew Demetriou on Dr Bruce Reid: “He has accepted that he was marginalised and we have accepted that he wrote the letter and we’ve agreed to move on.”
Interim CEO Ray Gunston responding to The Australian’s story on Thursday that ASADA were ready to hand down penalties: “The club understands that there is no factual basis to the story in relation to the issuing of infraction notices at this point in time.”
Paul Chapman’s reaction after being handed down a one-match ban: “They have their rules and a I suppose I broke them, but, you know, is the game getting softer?”
“The main problem is that no one, and I mean no one, has any faith in the Match Review Panel and it needs to be overhauled.” Gerard Whateley on AFL 360 on Monday night.
Gillon McLachlan responding to criticism of playing finals on a surface like ANZ Stadium last Saturday night: “The right people have to learn, understand and try to fix it. That is what the expectation is. We’re not in denial about it. It needs to get better.”
Richmond general football manager, Dan Richardson on Dustin Martin: “Given the considerable effort we have put into Dustin’s development both on and off the field, and our efforts to retain him all season, we are extremely disappointed with this decision.”
A Lodgebook favourite, The Footy Almanac’s Craig Little puts things in perspective after Carlton’s de-listings on Wednesday: “After a regrettable 2012, Carlton’s list management should have resembled a nuclear accident near a children’s farm.”
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Hawthorn and Geelong Football Clubs. Both teams lined up in a preliminary final last night and both have teams playing off for the VFL grand final at Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Solid club structures see the playing list run deep with quality.
Therry Penola Football Club. Won both its seniors and reserves, Division 2 VAFA premierships on Saturday night and move into Division 1.
Angus Monfries. Has evolved so much as player in just one year. Last year, was the subject of ‘staging’ as an Essendon player. This year, with Ken Hinkley in his ear down at Alberton, has become a selfless, committed footballer.
Damian Barrett. Won the ‘Alf Brown’ AFL Journalist of the Year award at Tuesday night’s AFL Media Awards. How?
ANZ Stadium. How this place has the audacity to call itself an AFL venue is beyond me. It’s a ground built for slow sports like rugby, the last time they had any pace going through the joint, Cathy Freeman brought the nation to a stand still. 13 years ago…
Matt Thomas. The Port Adelaide-listed Norwood gun took out the SANFL Margarey Medal as the League’s Best and Fairest polling 16 of a possible 18 votes in the final six rounds to take out the award, five votes clear of second.
Williamstown Reserves. Won their first premiership at development level after eight minutes of extra time in a golden point scenario over a spirited Box Hill.
Callum Carseldine. Came back from osteitis pubis and a niggling ankle to win the NEAFL Reserves League best and fairest despite missing eight games through injury and senior selection.
RIP Ron Richards (1928-2013). The Collingwood 143-game favourite son, 1953 Premiership player and brother of Lou, died aged 85 yesterday. Mourned by everyone at the Pies and remembered as a devoted player, coach and administrator.