We love September. The longer days, the warmer days, the sunshine, the after work drinks, the Mad Mondays of your local club, racing season just around the corner…and of course finals footy.
At round 22, I was sick of football. The Essendon ‘supplements saga’ had challenged even the most loyal football fan. Will Brodie in a column in The Age some weeks ago put it perfectly after the penalties were handed down the innuendo of “could’ves” and “should’ves” had died down: “’How are you coping with the Essendon thing?’”At first it was touching how many people asked me that in the week after the thoroughly reported verdict on the Bombers’ drug/supplements saga. But on reflection I realised my friends weren’t sympathising with me. They were sports-lovers expressing their own pain, empathising because they felt sick of it all themselves. Footy fans were saddened, a little sullied by association – “Is it our passion which makes heroes do such villainous things?” They were deadened, disappointed. Regardless of where they stood on the sanctions handed down, they resented the whole issue for lessening their enjoyment of the AFL. Footy fatigue had set in.”
But we are back friends; the passion has reinvigorated and awoken like Smaug beneath his blanket of golden articles in the Lonely Mountain. Friday night was an anti-climax, a Hawthorn side leaps and bounds above any other while the Swans appeared as dreary as a William Butler Yeats poem. Were we to be let down in another lopsided finals series? Nay.
The skinny dimensions of Simonds Stadium simply allowed Fremantle to more aggressively suffocate the Cats than they would have at any other ground. Port Adelaide is proving that you don’t need Disney to script a real life Mighty Ducks scenario. And then the Bluebaggers pulled off one of the great victories in finals history. The victory will live in memory as clear as the performance of one C. Judd and just as memorable in the homemade sandwich Nick Duigan was tucking into just moments before being called to arms. Four favourites, three upsets. And Collingwood, Richmond, North Melbourne and Essendon are out of the finals. Don’t you just love September?
BUT CAN WE FOCUS ON THE REAL STUFF?
So while it is near non-negotiable to deduce that we were blessed with three truly great games of football on the weekend, our attention still seems to be turned to the minor aspects. There was a bit of scuffling and masquerading on the deck at Simonds Stadium. Yes? An AFL footballer did the prison salute after kicking a goal. Still waiting for a story? Nick Duigan had a sandwich before he played a game of footy.
Right, I’ll just stop you there, members of the press. Read back a few lines: we were blessed with three truly great games of football on the weekend.
3AW’s Shane McInnes learnt the hard way one of the new tricks I’ve learnt as a young journalist when asking questions: how would I respond to this question? (If you haven’t seen Ross Lyon’s press conference following the win over Geelong, it’s worth the watch). Dustin Martin did the crossed-wrists ‘prison salute’ after kicking a goal to put Richmond five goals up. To those suggesting that the salute was a catalyst for Martin’s quiet second half, you need to take a good hard look at yourself. And Nick Duigan’s sandwich – why would that ever be news angle, ever?
KATIE JUST DOES IT BETTER
At the end of last season Katie Brennan stood before a young group of footballers – nearly all boys as part of Queensland Strength and Conditioning Coach Joey Hayes and his program Ultimate Sports Performance – sighing that she would never reach anything in the sport she loved.
She would never play at the highest level in a national competition and coming off a broken foot, she doubted whether she would be able to get back to her previous best. A move from her native Queensland down to Melbourne was one filled with doubts. Would I make it? Would I be able to settle here?
She needn’t have worried. 2013 has seen her be a Victorian representative, a member of the Darebin Falcons Premiership side, before polling third in the VWFL Best and Fairest and taking home the VWFL Best First Year Player. Women’s football in Victoria caters for all, from all walks of life and from all backgrounds. You’ve just gotta love this city.
ESSENDON SUING GREG SWANN FOR CALLING THEM CHEATS….
In other news to Essendon, the sky is blue. (With thanks to the ‘Kade Simpson’s Beard’ Twitter account.)
WHAT THEY (ROSS) SAID
“That’s the best question you could come up with after two hours of footy? You’re quite brilliant, Shane.” Ross Lyon puts both feet into 3AW’s Shane McInnes after a loaded question on Fremantle’s off-the-ball tactics.
Did you think Ross had finished yet? Ha, no: “I think you’ve got to look at what you stand for as a journalist to be frank Shane.” I think she’s cooked now, Ross!
Sorry, more Ross, but at the start of the game: “Home ground advantage is a myth. It’s noise coming from the crowd.”
Right I’m done; time to move on to the master of sound bites. To your guess at to whom Mick Malthouse is alluding to in a pre-game interview on 3AW before Sunday’s win: “I left the club in a winning culture, an enjoyable culture, where we were able to enjoy each others company. In a winning mode. If that has to be changed, I’m not there to judge that. And if that’s what they’re referring to, I think that’s sad.”
Joel Selwood after being questioned by Jason Dunstall on what was said between him and Ryan Crowley following the final siren on Saturday: “Some things are just better left out on the field.” Spot on Joel, can we all move on now?
Ryan Fitzgerald tweets after both Reece Conca and Mitch Robinson (only momentarily) with soft tissue injuries: “More hamstrings pinging than teenagers at a Stereosonic festival.”
Dennis Cometti with some fitting commentary as Chris Judd puts Carlton 10 points up late in the final term: “This will be fitting! THIS WILL BE FITTING!”
Mitch Robinson on afl.com.au when asked about what went through his head when punched the ball through the goals: “Yeah not much. I thought I was going to be traded after that, so I knew I had to do something to redeem myself.”
Brendan Fevola with some sentimental tweeting: “Only time I miss playing AFL when you see your old team mates in a big game at the G. Butterflies.”
The Footy Almanac’s Craig Little describing Richmond’s first half: “Richmond is like a wrestling dwarf at Bells Hotel. That is to say, ‘on fire’.”
Andrew Krakouer to Dustin Martin over social media: “Loved the celebration mate. Just showing some support.” Right, can the rest of us shut up?
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Richmond. Oh come on, after finishing ninth all these years, for the one time they make the eight and then proceed to be eliminated by the ninth-placed team? That’s a tiny bit funny.
Port Adelaide. From the team no one even wanted in the competition to week two of the AFL Finals. Ken Hinkley almost deserved a standalone mention, but I get the feeling that he’s the sort of man that wouldn’t want to be individualised. And that’s what is making Port great to watch in 2013.
Chris Judd. Doing my utmost not to name all 22 of the Blue boys who ran around the mighty MCG on Sunday afternoon. His third quarter is just something to behold.
Nick Duigan. As one this journalist’s ‘love children’, it was frog in the throat stuff watching someone who has battled the odds in the VFL this year, before being deservedly rewarded with four goals and the ‘match-winner’ tag.
Ryan Crowley. If Steve Johnson is having 11 touches and two goals in the first quarter, you can almost put your glasses down for a Geelong win. If there’s a better description than ‘putting the clamps on someone’, I’d like to know it. Provides the theatrics and character that’s missing in the modern game.
Shannon Geary. Played his 50th club game and 50th game as captain for Strathfield Storm on the weekend.
Balmain Dockers WFC. Looking to go for the ‘three-peat’ when they head into their AFL Sydney Womens League Grand Final on Saturday.
Montrose Football Club Division 2. Third time lucky. After tasting Grand Final defeat in consecutive years over 2011 and 2012, they broke the duck over Mooroolbank on Saturday.
Alex Overs. Banned for 15 months by ASADA after testing positive to painkiller Oxycodone in last year’s North-Eastern Football League Grand Final.
The MCG. Coped well with three big finals on over the weekend, but a major credit to get the work done for the biggest of them all last Sunday. Until big Victorian clubs (Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon and Richmond) are regularly making finals, we’re unlikely to witness an atmosphere like it again. Tore shreds off any Grand Final crowd in recent memory.