Category: Sport

(Disclaimer: the following opinions expressed are those of a Geelong Football Club supporter. While all efforts have been made to open both eyes and consider the situation objectively, management apologies for any partisan views published.)

For those living under a rock, last night Geelong played Hawthorn in yet another classic at the MCG, and as has been the case in every game since the 2008 Grand Final, Geelong won by a narrow margin.

However, a supposedly contentious decision in the final seconds set the talkback stations alight and invited comment from just about every commentator of the game, with a fairly mixed response from all. For those who haven’t seen it, here’s the vision (both at game speed and with a slow-mo replay):

So to add to the number of people with an opinion on this event, here’s is my take.

There was no free kick to be paid there. From the live footage, it did in fact look like Franklin was pushed in the back by Tom Lonergan, and on the basis of that alone it wouldn’t have surprised me had the umpire blown his whistle and paid Franklin the free (though it would have disappointed). However, on review and looking at the slowed-down reverse angle footage, there is no evidence of a push in the back whatsoever.

What there is evidence of is somewhat different, and would warrant a free against Hawthorn rather than for them. That footage shows Franklin diving in order to receive a free kick. Despite the lack of contact from Lonergan, and the ball coming in over his head height, he made no effort to raise his hands in order to mark. Instead, he chose to go to ground, in what can only be described as a deliberate attempt to deceive the umpire into paying a free kick for him. I think it was an extremely lazy and selfish act on the part of Franklin to not go for the mark, and I think his pathetic effort was appropriately rewarded by him not winning possession. I actually believe that if he’d gone for the mark, he would have not only had a good chance of taking it, but he may have been more likely to earn a legitimate free kick as well.

It also appears the impact of this decision is being grossly overstated as is usual for decisions near the end of the game. It’s no wonder umpires are regularly thought to “swallow their whistles” near the ends of tight games – no one wants to be labelled with making the decision that determined the result of a game. As such, this criticism has come of the umpire who decided against paying the free to Franklin. However, while people will harp on about one free kick, ignoring the fact that 48 others were paid throughout the course of the game. I don’t see the Hawthorn fans complaining about the weak 50-metre penalty against Bartel on Franklin that gifted Clinton Young a goal earlier in the match. I also don’t see them criticising their coach for allowing Scarlett and Mackie to stay a kick behind play unmanned, which prevented Hawthorn from launching any threatening attacks in the last term and kept them scoreless after 3 quarter time.

So I’m sure the Hawthorn fans will feel ripped off because their faultless (*cough*) star wasn’t given the chance to win the game for his team. I stand by the fact that if I believe he deserved that chance, I’d agree that they had a legitimate complaint. However, he didn’t, and that blatant dive ensured justice was done, and Geelong won the game.


Take your politics elsewhere

Last night, due to my interest in the round ball game, I casually followed the progress of the Australia versus Serbia friendly being held at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium. I don’t have pay TV so I didn’t watch it, and from all reports I missed an entertaining match, despite the eventual goalless scoreline.

What I didn’t see at the time, but was brought to my attention by the media this morning, was the disturbing sight of Serbian supporters choosing to use the football game as a public forum to vent their disgusting ultra-nationalist political views. Banners expressing support for Serbian General Ratko Mladic, even calling for his release, were displayed to the horror of some of the crowd and the wider public.

A brief history lesson here: General Mladic was responsible for ordering the execution of over 8,000 Bosniaks (aka Bosnian Muslims) in the massacres at Srebrenica in 1995. By execution, I don’t mean causing the death of soldiers during combat, but the capture and murder of unarmed civilians in an act that is best described as cold-blooded genocide.

I unashamedly admit that my views on this debate are somewhat coloured by my Croatian heritage. My grandfather was born in what is now defined as Bosnia and Herzegovina, and until the declaration of independence by Croatia was not able to return to his homeland without fear of being taken a political prisoner by the Serb-controlled government at the time.

However, even the objective observer the situation for what it is. Mladic is a war criminal, and I find the notion that anyone, Serb or otherwise, could support his actions utterly despicable. Additionally, I find the need for these people to openly express this horrific view in public at, of all places, a football game just disgusting. Sport is about many things – competition, skill, and even national pride – but not politics. If you support Mladic, while I may not agree or approve, that’s your choice. But to ruin the spectacle of an international friendly match by marching this racist political agenda out all over it detracts from the beauty that is sport.

Take for instance the cricket world cup match between Pakistan and India a few weeks back. Pakistan and India hate each other – they are practically at war and political enemies, despite their neighbouring geographical locations. Yet, for the cricket match, the politics was put on hold. The Pakistani team and Indian team put their differences aside to compete in a sporting match. It was passionate, it was hard-fought, and it was a truly great sporting spectacle. It was so because the politics had been checked at the door. The Pakistanis and Indians arguably hate each other even more than the Serbs and the Bosnians/Croatians/Albanians/Macedonians/Kosovars do, but they acknowledged that their differences had no place on the sporting field.

Sadly, the Serbs (and I acknowledge the Croatians too) do not take this mentality. The riots at the Australian Open tennis a few years ago show this. While we understand the hatred you both have for each other, is there any need to let it develop into a fist fight at a public sporting event? Additionally, given the age of the perpetrators at both the football and the tennis, it’s highly unlikely that any of them were even involved in the Balkans wars of the 1990s – they are most likely descendants of the generation of immigrants who left Europe in the 1950s and 60s (a bit like me). While it appals me to learn of the crimes committed in those wars, I have no desire to bring these battles to of all places a sporting event. My grandfather left Yugoslavia (as it was then) to avoid these wars – to enjoy a life of freedom instead of one of conflict. Why their descendants can’t do the same confuses and disappoints me.

Take your politics somewhere else, and let sport be the great contest that it is.

Australia burned in Ashes contest

Well, Australia are only six wickets away from being dismissed, and given that they’re still 300 runs behind, I think it’s safe to say that the Ashes will once again remain in the motherland. I’d love to say that Australia fought hard and just came up short, or that they were robbed, but the reality is that none of the above were the case. Australia were in almost every way completely and utterly outclassed at almost every point (excluding day one in Brisbane and a few days in Perth). Take as some examples, the following events that have occurred in the test series thus far:

In fact, you could almost relate Australia’s demise thus far to the similar fate experienced by England in the 2006-07 series that they lost 5-0. Our bowling has been completely ineffective, our batting woefully weak, and our fielding rather poor by our usual high standards. Worse yet, when things were going against us, and when we really needed at least someone to stand up, that was when the most catastrophic of failures occurred.

Scene One: Brisbane, Day Four. Starting the day 202 runs ahead and needing only to restrict England to a chaseable target, our bowlers failed. They took just one wicket for the entire day, and turned the test from being well within Australia’s grasp to being a guaranteed draw. Dropped catches also cost the side dearly.

Scene Two: Adelaide, Day Two. Another catastrophic failure by our bowlers and fielders. This time the tally of wickets taken during the entire day was all double that of Day Four in Brisbane, yet almost just as poor. Admittedly, the task had been made difficult by our batsmen not doing that well the day before, yet the bowling here made our batting performance look positively brilliant in comparison.

Scene Three: Adelaide, Day Five. This time our batsmen get a dishonourable mention. To be fair, the scene actually started just before the end of Day Four, where Michael Clarke lost his wicket just minutes before stumps was to be called. Having said that, Australia arrived at the ground on the morning of Day Five with six wickets still in hand, and having seen the weather forecast showing a massive storm on its way to Adelaide that was sure to end any chance of play not long after lunch. Despite knowing that they only had two hours between them and a very lucky draw, they failed miserably, losing 6 for 66 (ooh, spooky) and the match all before the lunch break could be called. Sure enough, not an hour or two later, Adelaide Oval was pissed on from a great height, leaving the surface resembling more of a lake than a cricket field.

Scene Four: Melbourne, Day One. I can describe this in just two characters: 98. All out for less than a hundred runs before tea on Day One. Knowing that a loss in this test match would hand The Ashes back to England, not one of the eleven Australian batsmen scored more than 20 runs in their first innings. And if that pathetic batting display was not enough, England managed to accumulate 157 runs in just one session without losing a single wicket! If you wanted to summarise how bad a summer Australia have had as a cricket team, that one day of play would probably explain it all.

You’ve got to give full credit to England – their bowling has been excellent, both their quicks and spinner Graeme Swann. Their batting has been resilient and shown no mercy to the Australian bowling attack, and remained solid on almost every occasion it was required. They will return to England full of pride and confidence, and full deserving winners of this series.

For Australia, you’ve got to start looking at the future. This is something we have failed at for some time now, and the results of clinging onto an ageing team for too long are now painfully evident. At age 36, Ricky Ponting’s future as both captain and a batsman in the Australian team will come into question. Having only broken 50 once this series, with that being in the dead rubber innings in Brisbane, his form as a player is certainly off. His captaincy both in terms of his field placings and use of bowlers throughout both this series and his entire captaincy career have long been questioned by many. He certainly has been the victim of a lot of bad luck this series, but even so the onus is on him to prove himself worthy of retaining his spot in the team.

Having said that, if Ponting were to no longer remain captain, an even tougher question would be who should replace him. The vice-captain Michael Clarke would be the logical choice, having been groomed for the role since his appointment in the test side. However, his form has been little better than Ponting’s this series, and the last thing the Australian team would want is to appoint a captain who is a dud with the bat.

If Clarke is not also an option for captain, then the cupboard certainly starts to look bare. Mike Hussey is getting on in age too (he turns 36 mid next year), and while he has struck some form this series, coming into this series his place in the side was also under scrutiny. Appointing Hussey would be a short-term move only, knowing that you’d need another captain in a few years time.

However, there may be some merit in that move. Hussey is definitely experienced enough to be able to do the job, and in the time he is captain you could regenerate the team and perhaps train up the next future captain. There are some candidates waiting in the ranks, but they would all need time in the test side to gain the necessary experience. In addition to Clarke, the names I’m thinking are Cameron White, Shaun Marsh or even a Steve Smith or Phil Hughes (given the appropriate time).

I sincerely hope that the Australian selectors and the Cricket Board learn a lot from this hammering England have inflicted upon us. It’s not the first time this has happened to Australian cricket, and last time it happened the end product was a team that went on to become world beaters for the best part of twenty years. Handled well, the next Australian “dynasty” can commence being formed, and soon enough the Australian team can become a strong, successful team once again.

Not that any of that helps with the pain we Australian fans are feeling right now though…

Well, call me sceptical, but was that not the shortest period of burnout any AFL coach has experienced? On October 4, this blogger filed this report regarding then Geelong coach Mark Thompson’s announcement that he was feeling “burnt-out” and was requesting a break from coaching, and an exit from his remaining year as the Geelong senior coach. Fast-forward just over a month, and all of a sudden he’s no longer “burnt-out”, and decides that he wants to join James Hird’s coaching panel at Essendon as an assistant. Funny how quickly things change, isn’t it?

Now, as a Geelong supporter, you might think I’d have every right and every desire to get stuck straight in to “Bomber”, and my immediate impulse is to do exactly that. However, upon a moment of considered reflection, I start to question why I have any reason to be angry with him.

Let’s look at the history: Mark Thompson joined Geelong as senior coach in 2000, from when he started a rebuild of the football club. He, along with new CEO Brian Cook and President Frank Costa undertook the massive task of turning Geelong from a failing and debt-ridden club, into a prosperous and successful club that its supporters were able to be proud of. Thompson built the playing list from the ground up, recruiting in his early years the likes of Cameron Ling, Corey Enright, Joel Corey, James Bartel (as he was then known), James Kelly, Steve Johnson, Andrew Mackie and so on. He took us to two finals appearances in 2004 and 2005 with the youngest list in the AFL, and after a less-than-enjoyable 2006, got us the big one, and led our charge to the 2007 premiership. He then oversaw the team throughout one of the most successful periods in terms of win/loss record in Geelong and VFL/AFL history, as well as making four consecutive finals series, three consecutive grand finals and winning two premierships.

He now has decided that he doesn’t feel up to the task of taking this team further. That list which was the youngest in the league six years ago is now the oldest in the league, and before long it will come time where a renewal and regeneration will be required. That is no short-term thing, it often takes teams the best part of five years to fully regenerate an AFL list, and it also requires a coach willing to stick out some lean times. Bomber had previously said he never wanted to coach Geelong beyond 2011, and seeing the drubbing we copped at the hands of Collingwood this year, it would appear that the redevelopment phase may need to begin sooner rather than later. By walking away, all he’s done is admitted that he’s not fully committed to seeing this process through, and given the Geelong Football Club the opportunity to find someone better who is. That man will be Chris Scott, whom I’m of the belief will be a successful coach that will lead our great club into its next era of success.

As for Bomber’s defection, well it really comes as no surprise. As an assistant at Essendon, he can take a back-seat role. All he has to do is turn up and give Hird and his team a few pointers from the back of the box. He can help Hird find his feet in the big league, and will probably jump ship in a few years time when that is done. And while I do think it sucks a bit that he was happy to renege on a contract at Geelong for a similar position at Essendon, the reality is that he will be in a very different job at Windy Hill, and he may even have handed the reins over to a successor at just the right time. As much as I was disappointed to see him leave, the fact he did could prove mutually beneficial for both Geelong and Mark Thompson.

So I don’t wish him all the best at Essendon, I’m not quite that nice about it. However, I do thank “Bomber” for the eleven years of service he provided Geelong, and for the two flags most Cats fans thought they’d never see in their lifetime. And most of all, I am actually looking forward to seeing what season 2011 has in store for both the Geelong Football Club, and the Essendon Football Club.

We’ve probably by now all seen the stir caused by former AFL player Peter “Spida” Everitt and his comments regarding the alleged victims of sexual assault perpetrated by footballers, after allegations of the nature were made against two Collingwood players in the hours following the Grand Final on Saturday. In case you haven’t heard, the following comments were made by the former player on his Twitter site yesterday:

“Yet another alleged girl, making alleged allegations, after she awoke with an alleged hangover and I take it an alleged guilty conscience,”

“Girls!! When will you learn! At 3am when you are blind drunk & you decide to go home with a guy ITS NOT FOR A CUP OF MILO! Allegedly……”

His comments have attracted almost universal criticism, with many accusing Everitt of excusing acts of rape or sexual assault being committed by elite footballers.

However, the allegations and the comments pose some interesting societal questions that I have began to ponder. We all know the laws when it comes to consent to sexual intercourse, but what defines consent? How does one know if consent has been obtained? Has a woman already consented to sex just by returning with a man to his or her place, or do the couple need to officially recognise that they both consent before any acts are instigated?

The laws are that if consent is not given by the woman (or the man, it does work both ways), the male would be committing sexual assault. Similarly, if she resists either physically or verbally any advances, it is the duty of the male to respect that, or he is committing a crime. In my opinion, that’s fairly clear – if in doubt, don’t assume, just ask. If you try to make a move and she resists, it means “no”. If she agrees to sleep with you but hesitates when you then try to invite your team mates to join in, that also means “no”. If she straight-out says “no”, it means “no”. Basically, it means that any semi-responsible male can easily and accurately determine whether he has the consent of his potential partner or not. Pretty simple really.

Evidently not to some. Old “Spida” seems to think that by leaving a club with a guy, that means you’ve agreed to sleep with him, and do whatever he wants. While leaving a club with a guy may in many cases be a precursor to sex, and let’s not beat around the bush (no pun intended) it does happen often, doing so does not mean either party gives up their right to withhold or withdraw consent at any point.  If consent is withheld at any point, it’s pretty clear that it’s the responsibility of the other party to stop, end of story. Regardless of the circumstances, “no” means “no”.

There seems to be a contingent out there that is of the belief the women who speak up about sexual assault are just “sluts” who wake up the next day regretting what they’ve done the night before. In a typically misogynistic manner, they attempt to impart the blame for the assault on the victim. There is no doubt that there is responsibility on both sides: if a woman does give consent, she must also take responsibility for her decision. If she does not, it is the responsibility of the male to ensure he commits no act of sexual assault.

If we were to say that “yeah guys, it’s fine to take a drunk chick home and do what you like to her”, we would be condoning drugging and rape, neither of which are in any way condonable. It’s not “fine” to do either, and men with such notoriety such as AFL footballers, who have all received extensive “respect for women” training, should be able to determine that.

I’m not going to say whether the Collingwood players did or did not sexually assault that girl – I don’t know. What I do believe is that if they were responsible and obtained consent appropriately, then they are innocent of any alleged sexual assault, and deserve to be cleared. If they did not, then they fully deserve to be prosecuted and punished for what is in my view a terrible crime.

So, back to Everitt’s comments. The truth in them is that, if a male invites a woman home at 3AM, chances are his intentions aren’t just to share a cup of Milo. However, his intentions are not by any means exclusively related to reality. So while the inference may be that he wants to have sex, her agreeing to return with him and her agreeing to have sex with him are by no means the same thing.

Sexual assault is a horrific and devastating crime that has deep and profound impacts on its victims. We as a society should be doing everything to prevent it ever happening. It is, however, a crime committed by a small percentage of irresponsible individuals who have no regard for their victims wishes or welfare, and that minority deserve to be punished for whatever crimes they commit.

No means No. You’d think it’s not that hard to understand.

Can things get any worse for Geelong?

We get pumped by Collingwood in the preliminary final, allowing them to win the premiership. Our star Ablett leaves for the Gold Coast, and now, after recent speculation, Mark Thompson has confirmed today that he no longer will remain coach of the Geelong Football Club. In what was a high-spirited while still sad press conference today at Skilled Stadium, “Bomber” confirmed that he had simply lost the desire to continue coaching, and felt it best to leave his position now, even with another year left to run on his contract.

Bomber joyfully reflected on his successful eleven year reign as senior coach at Geelong, and expressed his great pride in the achievements made by the football club during his time there. He has every right to do so – two premierships, three grand finals and seven finals appearances in eleven years is quite an impressive record.

The most unfortunate thing about this announcement will probably be the inevitable links that will be made between Bomber and a position at Essendon. He refused to rule out a move there today, and the club has indicated that while it would be disappointed to see him go there, they will not do anything to stop him should he choose to do so.

Personally, I think the man is just spent – he’s always come across as someone who has never quite had the same passion or desire for the job as some, he’s just dutifully turned up and done his job every week for the past eleven years as you or I would our jobs in life. He’s now reached a point where he doesn’t need to keep doing it any more – he will have made a significant amount over his past eleven years, and is said to be involved in a lucrative property deal to develop a new suburb on Geelong’s fringe, so the financial motivation is probably far weaker than it ever was. Topped off by the fact that it appears that Geelong is going to have to look at renewing its playing list over the coming seasons, and I think he’s just realised that both parties might be better off if he just finished up now.

If that was his mode of thinking, then I commend him highly. His era has been one of the best in the club’s history, and he, along with the team involved over the past four or more years will be remembered for many years to come. Now it appears that it may be time to look at refreshing the place, and that he may not be the best man to do the job. He’s put the club’s best interest before his own, and for that he should be praised.

However, it does leave the Geelong Football Club with yet another gaping wound to cover before preparations being for season 2011. We now have no senior coach going into trade week, though it would appear that Geelong is unlikely to be hugely active in it. And while I’m sure the recruiting staff will dutifully go about their task in the upcoming drafts, it’d be good for the club to have a coaching structure set in place before pre-season commences later in the year, if not earlier.

The candidates for the role so far include Brenton Sanderson (former Geelong player and current assistant coach), Ken Hinkley (former Geelong player and assistant coach, and current Gold Coast assistant coach), and potentially even Mark Neeld (current Collingwood assistant coach and Geelong resident). All three have significant experience with coaching at different levels and different clubs, and would each most likely be good choices. Personally, I have no preference – I think the panel will choose a coach they believe able to lead this club into a new era and hopefully to ultimate success once again.

One thing is for certain – the new coach would be well advised to take a leaf from his predecessor’s book and develop a team of honest, hard-working players that are united in their efforts to win a premiership. The ethos Thompson brought to the club was exactly that, and he recruited accordingly. The result was a determined unit that was skilfully led both on and off the field and was ultimately very successful. Follow that basic blueprint again, and you too will achieve success.

As for Bomber, this blogger and Cats’ fan would just like to thank him for his services to the Geelong Football Club, and recognise just what he has managed to achieve during his time here. I will never forget those two premierships, and I will never forget the team and coach that made them happen. Thanks mate, and good luck with whatever your future beholds.

This is a site that most of the footy world really did not want to see yesterday:

For the toothless army, this was a joyous sight not seen since 1990. For the rest of us it meant that moving overseas was once again starting to look like a good idea. Unfortunately it was Collingwood reigned supreme on the First Saturday of October (it doesn’t have the same ring saying that though).

The sequel was, unlike Anthony Hudson described in 2006, this time not as good as the original. After last week’s amazing match that went winnerless, this time it was the very determined Collingwood team that realistically dominated from start to finish, and recorded the club’s 15th premiership. St Kilda, who were brave and gallant in last week’s drawn epic, struggled to match the Pies’ speed and intensity, and were wasteful in the brief moments that they did.

Like last week, Collingwood started really well. They had their first forward entry and mark inside 50 within the first 20 seconds of the game. They established an early lead. Early on, this game had all the signs that it was going to be a thumping. Yet after the Saints’ efforts of the previous week, there was an air of cautious optimism that the boys from Moorabbin could still get up.

The point (literally) where things started going really bad was evident not in the three goals Collingwood had kicked to quarter time, but the two horrible misses by Saints’ captain Nick Riewoldt. The Saints had won a rare inside 50 and somehow the ball had found its way to their captain who stood alone not ten metres from the goal line. However, Riewoldt carelessly played on after marking the ball, and was denied a goal by a desperate and in all ways excellent smother from Heath Shaw. This smother was critical in the playout of the game as it signalled two important facts: Collingwood were on in a big way, and St Kilda most certainly weren’t. This was compounded by another miss from Captain Nick later in the quarter.

This trend of bad kicking continued for St Kilda in the second quarter, and in many ways saw the end of any hopes that the Saints had for winning the match. They had been walloped in terms of possessions and inside-50s in the first term, but early in the second looked to finally have found some run. Swingman Sam Gilbert had been moved forward, and suddenly the Saints were finding it easier to win the ball and move it forward. Yet for as influential as Gilbert was up forward, his inability to convert any of his three shots on goal significantly harmed St Kilda both mentally as well as on the scoreboard. Despite being the dominant team of the quarter and having seven scoring shots to five, the Saints were outscored by Collingwood 3.2.20 to 1.6.12. Ironic considering that all the focus prior to the Grand Final was on whether Collingwood’s previously inaccurate goal kicking would be a problem for them.

The second half was largely boring and depressing unless you were a Magpies fan. Collingwood regained control, and made it count on the scoreboard. They turned the 41-14 half-time score into 74-33 at three quarter time, and extended their lead to win 16.12.108 to 7.10.52. They had the game won before three quarter time, and had the good fortune of just being able to do what they liked towards the end.

So for Mick Malthouse and Collingwood, the heartache is over. The bad memories of ’02 and ’03 are now eased somewhat. Malthouse has proven to any doubters that he is the best coach in the AFL, and his side has proven that they were the best side of season 2010, which upon reflection of the season itself is probably quite accurate. Collingwood’s form for the majority of the season has been simply superb, and their finals campaign, complete with drubbings handed out to the Western Bulldogs and Geelong, saw them enter the Grand Final as strong favourites. Some may say justice was done to the best team in this replay, but that doesn’t make it easier for any non-Collingwood fan to take.

St Kilda would be bitterly disappointed with their performance yesterday. To show the class and determination they did in the first game, yet be so comprehensively and embarrassingly beaten in the second would be devastating. This makes it two grand final losses in as many years, and although they knew it was gone well before the end, that still doesn’t make the pain of defeat any easier to handle. Questions will start to be asked of them: are they good enough, do they have the players to win a flag, do they have the mental strength to win a flag, or are they just simply not up to it?

In time, all these questions will be answered. Unfortunately for all of us, right now we must bow down and admit that Collingwood are the greatest team of all, and hope that the cockiness enthusiasm of the Collingwood fans in victory is not too much to bear.

Bring on Season 2011!

Farewell Mr Ablett

Well, it looks as if the worst kept secret in the AFL is about to be confirmed today, and Gary Ablett, the dual premiership player and Brownlow medallist will leave the Geelong Football Club to join the AFL’s newest franchise, the Gold Coast Suns.

Am I shocked? No, not really. Am I disappointed? Perhaps a little. Would I have made the same decision if I were in his shoes? Absolutely.

There’s no question that it would have been hard to turn down such a lucrative offer from the cashed-up Suns. If the reports are to be believed, he could be on up to $10 million dollars for his five-year deal with the new team. I’d suggest he’d be lucky to earn a quarter of that should he have stayed with the Cats.

So I’m not about the pass moral judgement on Ablett for leaving the team that supported him for the last eight years. As a Geelong fan, obviously I’m hurt by losing arguably our best player, but I certainly don’t go blaming Gary for the predicament he found himself in.

No, I think this is entirely the AFL’s doing. It has been painfully clear since the plans for a 17th team were first announced, that the AFL was prepared to do anything, and give anything to make this new team a success. Even if it was to the detriment of the existing teams, the AFL was happy providing it gave the Gold Coast every possible chance to hit the ground running in what is an already highly competitive and crowded professional sporting market in South East Queensland.

Just look at the concessions: a higher salary cap, a multitude of early draft picks, access to an uncontracted player from each of the 16 existing clubs, exclusive access to 17-year-olds in the previous draft, not to mention the extensive financial subsidies that will undoubtedly be granted while this new team finds its feet. Andrew Demetriou and the AFL are hell-bent on making the Gold Coast an instant success in the vain hope that this will translate itself into bums-on-seats at Gold Coast games, and some desperately needed viewers of the game north of the Murray. Hell, if Demetriou could promise them a premiership in their first season, he’d probably do that too. Thankfully he can’t (not directly anyway), so he’s done just about everything else he can to aid that cause.

I’ll go as far as to agree that just dropping a new team in a foreign market with no start or no support is a bad idea. The AFL (or then VFL) did exactly that when the Brisbane Bears were formed in the late 80s. They were terrible, earning the nickname “The Bad News Bears”, and for some time not even being based in Brisbane, but playing out of Carrara on the Gold Coast, exactly where the new team will be based. The Bears were handled terribly, and to their credit the AFL has learned from this, and made the effort to not see a repeat of that debacle by offering this new team some significant subsidies. But by the same token, they’ve turned the rest of the competition on its head, and they’ve in effect taken away the one very thing that sets the AFL apart from so many other professional sporting codes – the level playing field.

Think about it – in the AFL, if your team is struggling, there’s still hope. There’s the draft, where you can rebuild your list. There’s the salary cap, where the teams with the stars are forced to limit how much they can pay them, or even risk losing some of them to other teams. All of these are fantastic things, and they contribute to the evenness of the competition. Yet all of these have been compromised in the AFL’s quest to assure the Gold Coast of immediate success. They’ve effectively instilled two sets of rules for the competition – one which all the other teams have to play by, and one which the new team gets to play by. In my opinion, it’s ludicrous. It’d be like changing the rules on the field – like saying that when Geelong plays the Gold Coast, only the Geelong players can be penalised for holding the ball or hands in the back, and the Gold Coast are free to get away with it. I think it undermines the integrity of our competition, and I want to see it stopped.

So apart from that rant about the AFL’s double standards, I’ve accepted that Gary will now move on to supposedly greener pastures. I’m not sure if they will be or not – I think he’ll find it a very different ball game up there without the unquestioned support of his very talented team mates down here, and I think come the end of season 2011 he’ll have a new-found respect for the likes of Chris Judd, who is forced to take the attention week in, week out that comes with being the stand out star player in a side. But I do wish him all the best –  I have no doubt that he’ll still be a very good player at the Gold Coast, and I think his performance will be the key to the Gold Coast achieving that success the AFL so desire for that club.

I’d also like to express my thanks to Gary Ablett for the years of service he has provided this club. He has been a key component in the years of success and deserves the respect of the Geelong community. I do hope his move is successful for him, but I do have one parting thought. Have fun up there in the sun, but don’t forget that those two premiership medals came from Geelong, that Brownlow medal was only possible through the support of your Geelong team mates, and when you’re done, you will still inevitably be linked with, and forever a part of the Geelong Football Club, and the Geelong community. As bitter as it might sound, you’ll still always be the son of God, the boy from “Moda“.

You might be able to take the boy out of Geelong, but you can never take the Geelong out of the boy. And boy do I know it!

The end of a great era?

Well, it’s all happened a bit quickly for my liking. Only two weeks ago the Geelong Football Club was one game away from making its fourth consecutive AFL Grand Final, after having demolished Fremantle in a one-sided semi final. Yet now the club’s resembling a disaster zone – we were totally outclassed and outplayed by Collingwood in the preliminary final, Frank Costa has finally retired from the presidency after a magnificent tenure, Gazza’s looking likely to leave for the Gold Coast, several of our veterans are questioning whether or not to play on, and now to top it all off, our coach is requesting time away from the game, with the possibility of him not ever returning looking quite likely.

This is a very significant blow to the club. It already appears to most that Geelong has reached the crossroads in terms of where it wants to take the team going forward. Do they hang on with the coach and players they currently have and give one more premiership a shot, or do they move on the veterans of what it already the oldest playing squad in the league and aim to rebuild for another period of success in a few years? It would appear equally evident that to attempt the former option, the club would need to keep its core group together and united. If the senior coach were to decide that it’s all too much and that his best interests would not be served if he fulfilled the final year of his contract, it’d be almost impossible to convince the Milburns, Scarletts and Abletts of the team that any short-term success would be likely. That would most likely spell the end of one or more, if not all of their careers at the Geelong Football Club, which would be a very sad thing for any supporter who has enjoyed watching them dominate over the last four years.

Having said that, without any disrespect to Bomber, who has undoubtedly done a fantastic job rebuilding this football club and turning it into the champion team it has been, his departure could present an opportunity for renewal that would not have otherwise arisen. Accepting the likely scenario that if he left so would a number of the key older players, we would be forced to go down the path of rebuilding. All of a sudden, instead of watching Darren Milburn, Matthew Scarlett, Brad Ottens, Cameron Mooney and Gary Ablett run around in the blue and white hoops, you’d instead be watching Taylor Hunt, Jeremy Laidler, Dawson Simpson, Mitch Brown and Daniel Menzel. Combine their youth with the undoubted experience and talent of Jimmy Bartel, Joel Corey, Cameron Ling, Corey Enright and Paul Chapman, and you’d certainly have the right environment for breeding another batch of stars, much like the Geelong team of the past few years.

I’m not saying it’s a perfect, rosy solution where Geelong bounces back with its team of youngsters to win the 2011 premiership – I think that would be highly unlikely. However, it does better position the club for the future years than we would be should the older brigade keep soldiering on for a year or two more. It means that in 2 or 3 years time, those kids that can’t get a game now might be leading our next charge to the finals, with the assistance of maybe a couple of the experienced guys whose bodies have held up better than most. It’s not that hard to picture to be honest – imagine in 2013, that crop of young players whom I’ve listed earlier filling the vacancies left by the retiring veterans, with someone like Joel Selwood (then aged 25) captaining the side, the back line being held firm by Harry Taylor (then aged 27), with a couple of midfield veterans like Jimmy Bartel and James Kelly (both then aged 29), and a forward line whose key component is the ever-improving Tom Hawkins (then aged 25), it’s still a rather strong looking line-up, even with all those current stars missing.

So, what I’m getting at is maybe all is not lost if Bomber decides to hang up the headset. Of course I’d love him to stay and coach out his contract, but I’ll admire him for making the call to leave early if he chooses to do so. He may not be in many people’s minds the most brilliant coach, but the success he has brought this club, and the joy he brought its supporters after so many years of heartache and agonising defeats will never be forgotten. Thanks to that man, I have seen my club win not just a premiership, but two premierships, and have enjoyed watching my club go through one of its most successful spells in its history. That I will never forget, and as such if Mark Thompson decides to call it a day, I will feel nothing but great admiration and thanks for the amazing achievements he has led this football club to in his tenure as senior coach.

AFL Grand Final 2010: Part One

Yesterday, as I’m sure you’re all well aware, we witnessed a tied result in the 2010 AFL Grand Final. For only the third time in VFL/AFL history, the two grand final teams will be forced to return next Saturday to re-contest who will be premiers for season 2010.

Apart from the lack of a result, the game was in just about every way exactly what you’d hope for in a grand final. The game was close for the majority of the match, and it was an incredible and fiercely contested game. I don’t think anyone could question the commitment of either team – both played some fantastic football, and both looked very determined and very hungry for victory.

The significant majority of the match was played with Collingwood in front on the scoreboard. The Magpies started the game very well, and at one stage in the first quarter were leading by 19 points, and led at half time by 24. Only inaccurate kicking prevented the Pies from having an even bigger lead, as they were without doubt the better team of the first half.

The second half was a different story altogether. St Kilda showed a renewed determination and it paid off for them. They also managed to make good of their opportunities in front of goal, unlike the Pies who only managed 5 points in the third term. The Saints seemed re-energised and really took the game to Collingwood the second half. Even with Collingwood kicking the first goal of the final term, St Kilda kept running, and it was truly fitting that a Brendon Goddard specky saw St Kilda take the lead for the first time in the match.

Collingwood struck back with a well-executed play that saw Travis Cloke nail a goal from barely any distance out and give Collingwood a one point lead with only about three minutes remaining. However, St Kilda battled on, and Lenny Hayes brilliantly won a clearance for his team, getting the ball forward to a one-on-one with Stephen Milne. Unfortunately for the Saint, the kick took a remarkable deflection after bouncing in front of both him and the goal, and bounced over the goal line for a behind, putting the scores level with little over a minute remaining. No team created a further chance, which saw the final siren sound with no difference between the two teams, and a grand final replay become reality.

I’ve thought for a number of weeks now that Collingwood have simply had everything go their way. Everything from fortuitous bounces to risks paying off, Collingwood to me have looked almost like they’ve had the assistance of divine intervention help them in their quest to win a flag. That weird bounce to level the scores almost convinced me that it was the case, as if the ball had bounced in any way predictably, Stephen Milne would have most likely had a shot on goal, as he seemed to have his opponent beat.

As a whole, it really was a fantastic game. It was a gripping and entertaining contest, and as corny as it sounds, the result probably showed that neither team really deserved to lose. Collingwood were in my opinion the more dominant team, yet as many predicted, the ghosts of their poor goal kicking continued to haunt them on the big day. Travis Cloke was back to his usual worst after a few improved weeks, missing some absolute gimmies in front of goal.

In my opinion, this result is far better for St Kilda than it is for Collingwood. Many (myself included) had predicted that Collingwood would simply ride this wave of momentum they’ve been enjoying and cruise to victory yesterday. However, that advantage has now all but been sapped, as they’re going to have to go again next week literally from level pegging. St Kilda on the other hand will be buoyed by their performance in the first grand final. They were definite underdogs, yet their grit and determination lifted them from that and a four-goal deficit to even get back in front for a period. Anybody who didn’t fully believe St Kilda could defeat Collingwood will have to think again after their performance yesterday. In my view, the drawn result only increases pressure on Collingwood to win the flag it probably should have won yesterday, while giving great hope to their opposition, who now have proof and belief that they can match it with the team that has undoubtedly been the best team in the league this season.

So who will win? Well, I initially tipped Collingwood, and given that the teams playing will not change, I don’t believe my tip should either. However I tip Collingwood with far less enthusiasm (if that was possible) or confidence than I did prior to yesterday’s game. The game yesterday proved that St Kilda are most certainly capable of winning next week, and possibly more importantly (and concerning for a Magpie fan) is that Collingwood are capable of losing. I don’t expect the result to be much different to the first grand final, but I do think that the mental stakes will be for St Kilda, and against Collingwood. How much that affects the final scores next week is anyone’s guess, but with the two teams so evenly matched already, any boost to one side is likely to have a major impact.

After feeling rather flat and somewhat confused yesterday afternoon, I’m now just waiting, eagerly anticipating the rematch of what was the closest grand final in 33 years. Bring on next Saturday!