John Harms Talks Footy

It is with some relief that I am able to report that footy is back this weekend. That is, Australian rules football as administered by the AFL. Because for a while there it looked like it was the end of the footy world as we knew it.

It will come as some relief to administrators that it’s back on. But it comes as enormous relief to fans. What happens on the ground is what matters to fans and to see the tanned bodies of footballers who have been running all summer take to the winter stadiums in 35 degree heat is just the antidote required.

The punt is always an intellectual puzzle, but you’d need Cracker and Colombo put together to work out a pre-season competition. You have to work out levels of motivation and also need to interpret the intersection of the football department, the medical department, the marketing department and the form of the on-ballers before launching into the NAB Cup.

I can’t imagine too many of the old stagers at Geelong keen on climbing into the plane to cross the Nullarbor to take on the two Perth sides in the heat. That’s one for the work experience kids. But I can imagine Freo looking to have a big March. And a big April. Freo will be one to watch.

I can imagine a few of the newer coaches in the improving sides needing to put their stamp on the club, and on the supporters. Ken Hinkley at Port Adelaide will be hoping for a tidy performance as will the coaches of the Bulldogs and St Kilda.

It all opens with the club in the spotlight, Essendon, taking on the Pies and the Dogs in the first of the triangular fixtures. It will be interesting to see how they react to the pressure of recent times. The Pies are one of the interesting ones this year. From all reports, they are trialling a further tweaking of the Buckley Approach. Mates of mine called Collingwood under Malthouse ‘The Buffalo Girls’ because they went ‘round the outside’. This season they plan to go, in old fashion Australian footy parlance, ‘up the guts’. Nathan Buckley and a couple of his coaching colleagues are mid-debate on whether offensive initiatives generate changes to defensive patterns, or whether the game is now being led by the defensive thinkers. They are the catalysts, the energy, and that new attacking strategies are merely a necessary response.

We might get a hint of that in the NAB Cup although a quick look at the weather map says that teams may have to take it easy else the damage of huge effort in mega-heat will take its toll.

In having a little dabble I’m looking for a young team on the rise. It was Adelaide last year (I don’t think they’re going too hard in the NAB Cup this year). I don’t have the confidence in either of the new clubs, they’re still finding their way.

I’m looking at Richmond. And I really hope it’s Richmond. Because there is much fun to be had in Richmond fans on the march in March. The magnificent confidence they find on the back of a win in a trial at Goolwa or Gosford is good for football. The idea that they can beat Carlton in the first fixture of the season (by (10 goals) is also good for football.

And at the moment we need thing which are good for football.