John Harms believes the Hawks are worthy premiership favourites after last weekend. Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au/Herald Sun
AFL Round 3 - Harmsy's Handle
Friday afternoon and I’m with former umpire Derek Humphery-Smith – the bloke who got the bouncing yips – and retired to the sort of legal career which affords him a lot of time on the golf course. We’re at Victoria Golf Club where I once saw Tiger play, although he went around conservatively (pushing 4 irons here and there off the tee), leaving all things cavalier for the suite back at the hotel that infamous weekend.
We play with golf pro James McLean (Geelong supporter), who had a brilliant College career before spending a few years on various tours around the world. He is known for his ability to hit the ball very long distances.
If you have never seen a ball struck 340 metres while standing a metre from the bloke with the axe in his hands, just do it. It is supersonic. The upside is how spectacular it is. How powerful. How skilful. The downside is how it makes you feel when your very best flushed Taylor Made finishes 100 metres behind. Yes, 100 metres!
You cannot but question your own virility.
Which is something quite a few fans will be questioning about the blokes who ran out for their footy club on the weekend.
Round 3 looked like a fixture of possibility, where a few upsets were on the cards. Interestingly, it proved to go the other way with favourites doing the job. And in the case of Richmond, not doing the job.
It’s great being a Banana Bender in the south where generations of VFL supporters cling to imperial Melbourne as the centre of the footy universe, the empire built on a foundation laid by Carlton, Collingwood, Richmond, Melbourne (back in the day!) et al.
So it’s going to be a big week for footy on Melbourne talkback radio. So many are going to cop a barrage and have their virility, energy, and commitment questioned.
From Carlton: Mick Malthouse, Daisy Thomas, Bryce Gibbs and even Sticks Kernahan. The Carlton faithful (that should read ‘semi-faithful’) will wonder whether Mick is a Collingwood plant at Princes Park; same for Daisy; they’ll be speculating about which heart surgeon operated on B. Gibbs and whether the utility (generous term?) should be sold to an Adelaide club now before he slaughters his own price (possibly only Henley Beach would be offering anyway); and Sticks will be a target for letting it happen under his watch.
From Collingwood: the anti-Buckley, Mick-was-better campaign will blaze; Travis Cloke will cop it (as will the umps); Dane Swan, much-loved, may be less-loved; even Eddie, the most exquisite salesman in footy, might come under the microscope.
But that’s nothing compared to how Tigers fans are reacting following their stumble at the paws of the Bullies. (Super effort from the Dogs, by the way, and good value at the 3-goal line, to get out early and make the favoured side feel the weight of expectation.) This was Richmond’s year (what price the flag now?), the season when those champions like B. Deledio and D. Martin were at the age and level of experience to dominate – and now they’ve lost to the Gold Coast (really, is there a team up there?) And they should have lost to Carlton! Work that form line into your future calculations.
As for Melbourne: they’re just sad.
Adelaide and Brisbane haven’t won either, but things are ‘concerning’ there, not ‘grim’.
But what of the winners?
The Hawks were huge. Scary. There hasn’t been an opening riff like that since Mick Jagger met a gin-soaked bar room queen in Memphis. Cyril and co took Freo upstairs alright. Brilliant movement of the footy. Precise skills. Periods where they were unbeatable. Look out. They are legitimate premiership faves.
That speaks volumes for Essendon, who should have knocked them over in Round 2. The Bombers smashed Carlton, and then cruised in the second half. Keep an eye on their price v Freo this weekend.
Geelong beat the Pies because they minimised the influence of Collingwood’s best performers. Sydney got away from the Crows at the end – there may be a fade-out issue for Adelaide.
The game of the round was North and Port. Both have the capacity to flow. They will play in entertaining games all year.
The Q-Clash told us that the Suns are learning how to win; how to play a really honest brand of footy – and they have G. Ablett.
This coming weekend we’ll learn a fair bit more: about Geelong and West Coast when they meet at Simonds Stadium, and about Essendon when they travel to Perth.
But, for now, I’m going to turn the radio on, and be entertained. There’s something compelling about Mario from Carlton starting with, “I’ve been a member for 40 years and…”
The caller will be motivated by the deepest psychological concern: that his footy club has lost its virility and that means, by extension, he has as well.
John Harms is editor of footyalmanac.com.au