Category: Football

(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.


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!

Last night the 2010 Brownlow Medal count was held, and the surprise runaway winner of the coveted award for the best and fairest player of the AFL was Carlton captain Chris Judd. Judd’s whopping 30 votes for the season, including 8 three-vote games for best on ground, saw him comfortably lead the medal count from early on, and take it by four votes over Geelong’s Gary Ablett (26 votes) and pre-count favourite Magpie Dane Swan (24 votes).

Judd’s feat was made even more impressive by the fact that he missed the first three games of the season due to a carried-over suspension from the previous year. However, he didn’t let that stop him, with the Carlton star clocking up five consecutive best-on-grounds in his first five games back, to race out to a healthy lead early.

Naturally, with a surprise winner and a favoured Collingwood son not winning the medal the Pies rightfully believe was theirs, there was some controversy regarding the result. There have been many question whether Judd was a truly deserving winner, or whether he simply benefited from being the standout player in a mid-range team. It’s also reignited the age-old debate about whether umpires should be the ones responsible for casting the votes in the Brownlow medal, with the calls against being led by, you guessed it, the Collingwood supporters.

They may have a point. Looking at those first five games for instance, where Judd polled half of his total votes, the statistics don’t really seem to show him having standout games.

  • Round 4 (Carlton 103 def Adelaide 55): 14 kicks, 16 handballs, 30 possessions, 3 marks, 9 tackles, 1 goal
  • Round 5 (Carlton 104 def Geelong 68): 14 kicks, 13 handballs, 27 possessions, 3 marks, 5 tackles, 1 goal 1 behind
  • Round 6 (Collingwood 155 def Carlton 102): 15 kicks, 22 handballs, 37 possessions, 5 marks, 1 tackle, no scores
  • Round 7 (Carlton 129 def St Kilda 68): 15 kicks, 9 handballs, 24 possessions, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 1 goal
  • Round 8 (Carlton 118 def Port Adelaide 92): 16 kicks, 11 handballs, 27 possessions, 6 marks, 8 tackles, 1 goal

Those statistics show him playing good games, but nothing that would straight away indicate a BOG was deserving. He only broke 30 touches in two of the five games, and failed to kick any more than one goal in any of the games. Having said that, statistics often fail to show the impact a player has had in a game, so it’s quite possible he was good, perhaps even best, in those games, but the numbers certainly don’t back up the umpires claims very strongly.

I, however, don’t mind seeing a strange result. I tend to believe that statistics overcomplicate our beautiful game at times, and that the best way to determine who was best on ground is to simply watch the game, start to finish. That’s exactly what the umpires have to do each week, and if they want to say that Chris Judd was the best player on the ground, who am I to argue with them?

So, all up, it was an interesting and certainly entertaining night. Watching Judd’s genuine surprise at being awarded the medal was quite nice, but even more amusing was watching the angry snarl on the face of Collingwood president Eddie McGuire (see left), and Dane Swan’s evident disappointment at not winning the award everyone had been telling him was sure to be his. What a goose (pun fully intended).

I congratulate Chris Judd on winning the 2010 Brownlow Medal, and would love nothing more than for this to be just the first of many disappointments experienced by the Collingwood Football Club this week. For that, however, we will have to wait and see…

This is the end…

With an almighty thud, the 2010 season for the Geelong Football Club came to a rather undignified end on Friday night. Collingwood’s 18.12 (120) was simply too much for the flattering 11.13 (79) Geelong managed.

As much as it pains me to admit, Collingwood were absolutely terrific. Their ability to pressure the opposition ball carrier and force mistakes was unbelievable. As was their ability to seemingly make the absolute most of their possession. They are in superb form, and not at all looking in danger of being beaten by anyone. Geelong were made to look second rate, too slow and simply not up to the level of Collingwood. With the exception of Gary Ablett, who starred in what could have been his last game as a Cat, every Collingwood player beat their Geelong opponent on the night. They even managed to kick straight – a scary sign that perhaps their one weakness may even be improving.

So, yes, I’m bitterly disappointed. I don’t know whether I’m most disappointed about my side’s poor showing, or about Collingwood just about being guaranteed to win the premiership this year. Had Geelong managed to challenge them on Friday, maybe some doubts would have slipped into the Magpie minds. Maybe they would have started to question whether they could do it. Unfortunately, there were absolutely no questions left to be asked after their display. They are the best team in the competition and will more likely than not win the Grand Final, and now believe in themselves that they can do it.

So what next for Geelong? Well, there might be a bit of soul searching, but in the end what’s done is done and the team must all move on from it. There are a few question marks hanging over the heads of some key players at the Cattery: Gary Ablett looks incredibly likely to be heading north to the Gold Coast, and there will be some questions posed about the playing futures of veterans like Darren Milburn, Matthew Scarlett, Brad Ottens and Cam Mooney in the weeks to come. All are over 30 years of age, and seem to be nearing the twilight of their careers. All have been fantastic servants of the club over many years, and if they retire or are “retired” they will all be missed, but there comes a point where the team will need to start blooding some young players to regenerate what it already the oldest list in the AFL. Every game played by Ablett, Milburn, Ottens or Mooney is a game not played by Mitch Duncan, Taylor Hunt, Dawson Simpson or Daniel Menzel. Let there be no question, those players are the future of the Geelong Football Club. It’s just a case of managing their development as well as the careers of the older players.

Believe me, I’m not calling for the heads of these older players. All are still incredibly valuable to the team when playing well, which they still seem to be doing. But there will be questions asked, no doubt, and I would not be surprised if one or more of them do not remain at the club for next season, especially with the elusive “premiership window” seeming now behind the team.

In season 2011, I don’t see doom and gloom for the Cats like some commentators do. However, I do think that there will be a more concerted effort being put into the development of the next bunch of Cats to take the club to a premiership. This is the team that has finished second for the last two seasons, and first for the two seasons before that. There is most certainly talent in the list, no one doubts that, but with the emergence of powerhouses like Collingwood and St Kilda, who’ve both redeveloped their lists in the past few years from the early to mid 2000s while Geelong was on top, it’s not going to be easy to win premierships in the next few years. I certainly still think this team will be playing finals next year, with or without the aforementioned potential losses, and at its best is most certainly still capable of going the whole way, but it would be poor management to keep putting the same aging team on the field at the expense of developing youth who will (hopefully) in time become the next group to lead Geelong to premiership success.

As for the Grand Final next week, well I think I’ve made my thoughts fairly clear on the matter. Collingwood are just too good. I hate saying it, I hate thinking it, but it’s true. St Kilda played a great third quarter last night to get on top of the Bulldogs and end the career of a true champion in Brad Johnson, but they’ll need to play that well for the whole game, or at the very least employ some of their dour shutdown tactics to stop Collingwood from running away with the game. I think the game on Saturday will be far from a free-flowing spectacle, but could be a gripping and engaging contest, much like the Grand Finals of 2005 and 2006 with a Sydney team who played much like St Kilda do locking horns with the brilliant run of that West Coast team.

So it should be interesting, if not hugely entertaining to watch. If Collingwood maintain the form they’ve had for the past few months then I find it hard to predict anything but a Pies victory, but if St Kilda get control of the game and dictate terms, as they do so very well, then they are half a chance of capturing their second ever flag. It really all depends on how it plays out on the day.

I’ll be watching, and unlike in 2005, I won’t feel cheated that my team’s not there. They weren’t good enough this time around. I’m not going to mope, I’ve accepted it, and am already ready for next season. I hope for the sake of society’s survival that St Kilda do get over Collingwood, and may actually bring myself to cheer for them. But for the first time in a few years, I won’t be emotionally attached to the outcome. I’m sure many of you think it’s about time we Geelong fans got a taste of what it’s like for the rest of the footy world, and I’ll be honest, it probably is.

So, bring on Saturday, and then come on cricket season!