AFL Round Two
Collingwood vs Richmond It has been far too long, but finally football has returned, and the AFL was smart to restart the season with back to back blockbusters, on Thursday and Friday night, though thanks to the restrictions still in place in Victoria, much like actual blockbuster stores in 2020; nobody was actually allowed in. Football returning with this game, however, kinda felt like Star Wars returning with The Phantom Menace. Sure, it was nice to have it back, but the quality really wasn’t the same. Much like The Phantom Menace, fans were left confused by the overuse of CGI – in this case placing fake banners over the stands in some strange plea to hide that they were, in fact, empty. In the first half, I was left wondering if Richmond’s team plan for the rest of 2020 was for Tom Lynch kick their entire score, as his total of 3.1 to half time was the only scoring Richmond had seen. It wasn’t until the umpires took matters into their own hands with a soft free kick paid to Bolton and a questionable mark to Higgins just before three quarter time that other Tigers were able to impact the scoreboard. The final quarter saw an exhilarating scoreline of 0.2 to 0.4, with only two of those points actually coming off of a players boot, leaving us with the lowest aggregate score in the AFL era, and the only draw between these sides for over a century. All in all it was probably a good thing no crowds were allowed at this game. Geelong Cats vs Hawthorn At last a return to scoring in an AFL game. Well for Geelong at least. Hawthorn seemed to think that not only were there shorter quarters, but also that this game ended after half time. Geelong’s first three goals in this game all involved Rhys Stanley, leaving Chris Scott’s decision to leave him out of the 2019 Qualifying Final and Round 1 teams all the more perplexing. Equally as perplexing was Hawthorn’s decision to field a backline with a net height being roughly equal to that of the Eureka Tower, against Geelong’s brigade of small forwards; possibly one of those occasions where it would have been a genius move, had it not been so stupid – something my boss says a lot about me in my quarterly reviews. The AFL match committee brought out the age honoured “good bloke” rule again, with Shaun Burgoyne being slapped with a fine rather than a ban, for a tackle on Patrick Dangerfield markedly uglier than the one that saw the cat himself ruled ineligible for the 2018 Brownlow medal. The Hawks, fancied by many as a flag chance pre-season, and after dispatching Brisbane in round one, have some serious soul searching to do, after scoring just one goal in the second half, and going scoreless in the final quarter. And I for one could not be happier. Brisbane Lions vs Fremantle As if 2020 couldn’t get any weirder, Fremantle might actually be sorta okay at football? I know this is a small sample size, but this game was refreshing to watch after Thursday’s nil all draw, followed by Friday’s one sided second half. Footy truly might be back. Both sides were aided by their starpower, with this game being controlled by Neale, Cameron, Walters and Fyfe, the two pairs combining for a whopping 11 goals and 95 touches. On any normal week I would say the crowd got their money’s worth, as Fremantle launched a late game comeback, to get within four points of the Lions late in the final quarter. However, in most Fremantle like fashion, and possibly as payback for last year, Brisbane hung on to win. Possibly my favourite part of this game, was angry racist Fremantle fans taking issue with the sides taking a knee before the game, especially with Fremantle having once fielded a side with no indigenous players in it, in a 26 year, 566 game history. If only being politically tone deaf was a life skill, people like this would be set. Carlton vs Melbourne Carlton decided to ask something of themselves during this game. That something was: “If we don’t score at all in the first quarter, are Melbourne bad enough to let us come back and win?” and it turns out the answer was; Almost. Probably my favourite stat from the night was two strange streaks these clubs seem intent on continuing. 2020 now marks the 8th consecutive season Carlton have failed score a goal in the first quarter of a game, and the 9th consecutive season Melbourne have failed to score a goal in the final quarter of a game. Melbourne had kicked 7 goals before Carlton recorded their first before they went on to kick seven of the next 8. It was really as if each team was trying to let the other win, as the second half mostly consisted of Melbourne allowing Carlton easy inside 50’s, before the Blues squandered their chances in front of goal time and time again. The only good news to come from this bizarre game is that Melbourne and Carlton fans watching this game really would have felt like some sense of normalcy had returned to the world, with their respective sides trying their best to let them down. Gold Coast Suns vs West Coast Eagles Ah, the famous-and-I-totally-didn’t-just-make-it-up Coast Clash. A famous rivalry, where prior to this match Gold Coast had won a grand total of one game between the pair. Truly a spectacle of modern football. Now just as I thought 2020 couldn’t surprise me anymore, along came this game. West Coast came in with a mostly healthy list, missing only Hutchings, while amongst those missing for Gold Coast were captain David Swallow and important cog Brandon Ellis. When West Coast kicked four consecutive goals in the second term to take the lead, I thought the world had returned to some kind of reality I understood, but to my shock, and the horror of West Coast fans, Gold Coast outfought and outplayed the Eagles throughout the second half, with number one pick Matt Rowell, amassing 26 disposals and 2 goals in a clear best on ground performance in only his second game. If I didn’t enjoy watching him play so much, I’d probably hate him for being far too competent at his job at just 18 years old. When I was 18 years old I wasn’t competent at anything, other than having a terrible haircut and cooking pasta out of a packet. Continuing the theme of the round, Alex Sexton tried to decapitate Jeremy McGovern, who then retaliated by trying to combine Sexton with the fence, both of which incidents were fine, but when McGovern’s fist made slight contact to Sexton’s face, that offence was worth a week. Someone needs to offer a betting market on MRP outcomes. Clearly Gold Coast are now going to win the Premiership and Matt Rowell is set to win a Brownlow in his debut season. I will not be taking questions. Port Adelaide vs Adelaide Crows Oh boy. I’m not even sure what to say about this game. The idea that Port Adelaide might actually be good this year terrifies me to my core, so I’m more than happy to write it off as Adelaide just being awful. After all, they have been a relatively easy target for being awful since the opening minutes of the 2017 Grand Final. Perhaps instead of fining Adelaide for training in large groups before everyone else was allowed to, we should have encouraged it. The last time I saw a showing this bad was when I went to the midnight screening of the Batman v Superman film – something I’m still seeing a therapist about. Adelaide weren’t just bad, it looked as if they’d been training at playing a whole other sport while in isolation, and had to try and win this game on muscle memory alone. If the quarters had been full length they might have lost by 100, and even with the shortened quarters, this proved to be the biggest showdown win for Port in their history. Now we’ll never hear the end of why they should be allowed to wear the prison bars jumper. Port are on (sorry give me a second), Port Adelaide are on top of the – (no I can do this). Port are in fi- no, I can’t say it. I feel ill. GWS Giants vs North Melbourne You can find the new book “Maybe Brad Scott wasn’t a very good coach after all: North actually win games now” in all good book stores from first thing Wednesday morning. North Melbourne have now won five of their past six games, and are 2-0 to start 2020, after making GWS backline look second rate on Sunday. It’s amazing what you can do when you show some fight and determination, and allow players to enjoy their football. In a game that was touted as a shootout between two of the game’s best key forwards, Ben Brown and Jeremy Cameron only managed two goals between them, as a fleet of North smalls put the foot to the throat of GWS in front of all 350 of their home fans, all of whom were allowed to attend. The fact that GWS lost to North wasn’t even the weirdest part of this game. What made me most uncomfortable was the fact that Ben Cunnington appears to have hair now, and is still reasonably good at football. I also enjoy the thought of North Melbourne patiently waiting in the Virgin Lounge at Sydney airport for several hours while they waited for Essendon to be done with their game. Sydney vs Essendon Games between these two games is growing into somewhat of a rivalry in recent years, with the fixture almost guaranteeing a close or at least entertaining match – one which occasionally results in someone violating a goalpost. Unfortunately for Sydney there were no goalpost related shenanigans, and no Gary Rohan to get them across the line against Essendon this time, with the Bombers clinging on to a one goal win. All match it seemed that Essendon were going to run away with a comfortable win, appearing to be the stronger of the two sides, but much like an unwelcome ex in your dms, Sydney just kept finding a way to come back. Perhaps if shirtless videos on social media during the lockdown counted for something Isaac Heeney would have been able to do more to drag the home team over the line, but outside of his first quarter goal, he was unable to greatly impact the result. With both Essendon and North Melbourne taking home the four points, perhaps the flight home was marginally less tense than the flight to Sydney. St Kilda vs Western Bulldogs The fact that lockdown laws are slowly lifting is great news for me, because I think I need to get a tattoo reading "Don't pick the Bulldogs before the halfway mark of the season" mirrored across my forehead. I don't want to take away from the St Kilda win, it's just more that the Bulldogs defenders looked like a bunch of High Schoolers who really weren't in the mood for Phys-Ed in the middle of winter. The Bulldogs clearly didn't get the memo that they don't have to social distance during the game, as every time St Kilda made a foray inside 50, the Doggies players seemed to wait patiently for their turn to mark the football as the Saints players shared around the goals like herpes at a university party. The Saints had more individual goalscorers than the Bulldogs did goals, which is never a great stat in a game of football. The Bulldogs of the last few years have been interesting to watch, kind of in the way people take joy in watching terrible movies or TV shows. Some of the decision making is bizarre. Especially at the selection table, with players like Liberatore, Schache and McLean sitting on the sidelines, as they struggle to score goals or apply any pressure. Despite the fact that this may have been an ugly and strange round of football, it was a round of football, and let's be honest, that's better than actually having to find something to do with your weekends.