John Harms is impressed by the power in Port. Image courtesy of foxsports.com.au/Sarah Reed/News Limited
AFL Round 8 - Harmsy's Handle
It’s Monday night and I am zombie-like in front of the TV. The working week is a whole one day old yet I feel like I’m at the 38 kilometre mark of a marathon. I’m not thinking too straight, just sipping coffee, working my way through a packet of Monte Carlos, letting St Kilda v Carlton wash over me. I have the mind of an addict: there’s footy on, so I am watching to it.
I’m happy to concede addiction. After all, Carlton are six goals up and the Saints don’t have a forward line, yet nothing will move me from the TV.
Poor old Nick Riewoldt is trying his heart out, trying to run a series of thuggish opponents into the ground. But he’s the only likely target, in a team that looks like it could be lining up in an inter-school lightning premiership. And that’s how they play at times.
The Blues aren’t much better, choosing poor options, missing targets with skill errors. As the caffeine kicks in, and my consciousness starts to return, I find myself barracking for the drama; barracking for the hope we’ll see Mick Malthouse at his most histrionic. Go Sainters.
I could be doing so many other things, like cleaning the bathroom, or getting the kids clothes organised, but I’m not. The footy’s got me again.
I think that’s what the AFL are cashing in on: that Australia has an addictive national personality. It’s a bet based on sound research. If we can be sucked into shows about the boiling of water (spring water from the western slopes of Mt. Gravatt) and the drizzling of jus (mulberry jus from trees fertilised by thoroughbred horsey-do in the Scone Valley), and other shows about the wallpapering of walls and matching of bathroom fittings with the handle on the chook pen door out the back, then we really are a nation which will buy the idea that Carlton v St Kilda on a Monday night is compulsory viewing. We will salivate at the prospect of Dennis Armfield on Arryn Sippos or the return to the mic of Sandy Roberts (whose career we’ve grown up with, since the days he hosted It’s Academic on Adelaide TV).
But when I look at the draw I am moved to think that is how the fixture-makers think. Keep feeding the addicts. Why else would the AFL spread six games across four days, making West Coast v GWS (in Perth mind you) the only game on a Sunday.
Sure Sydney and Hawthorn was a pretty good game, and it won significant TV ratings (those who plan these things would have had their vindication-fix by the time the ratings hit their desks on Saturday morning). It was all us addicts and those drawn to the prospect of a good game. But, with players out (and there was some money for the home side to win – the momentum for the Swans gathered on Friday, and was explained when finally those of us outside the know were told that Luke Hodge wouldn’t play), there was already a sense that Hawthorn wasn’t playing for their season. They’ll be top four anyway. There are so many just-OK sides (and worse) in the competition that the Hawks will register the number of wins required, without much trouble. So, Friday night’s game was more about the combination of Sydney’s talls, which worked. Indeed, Sydney, through Hannebery and Kennedy and the under-rated Parker sent the competition a reminder that they are in it.
Thank goodness for Port Adelaide. Yet again they have been the highlight of the weekend in a season which is waiting for Wile E. Coyote to light the fuse. Don’t forget that Fremantle were the talk of the footy commentariat before the start of the season, a team of the super-strong on the rise, ready to follow Ross Lyon through a door upon which he has been knocking for some time. But Port ran away from them – spectacularly.
And in style. If anything will slap you around the face of your couch-stupor it is Port Adelaide moving the Sherrin from the back pocket to full forward in a sleight-of-hand way that makes opponents look like the Washington Generals. If anything will make you alert to the beauty of the world it is Chad Wingard. He doesn’t need to do much more than stand in a forward line and I am wide-eyed and expectant.
Port are on top of the ladder, and legitimately so. They are second favourites for the flag, behind Hawthorn. The test will be in the grind of the season; that they don’t get weighed down by the potential drudgery of it all; that they aren’t worn out early.
And as for those of us hooked on footy, we only have to wait a couple of days for our next fix. Here’s to the Crows and the Pies on (wait for it) Thursday night.
John Harms is editor of footyalmanac.com.au