John Harms can't wait for the Swans/Port battle in Round 13. Image courtesy of news.com.au/Adam Head/Gold Coast Bulletin
It’s turned all wintry here in the Deep South which means aching cheeks and scarves (not just a footy affectation) and overcoats and the sound of tyres on wet roads. We all look enviously to Stradbroke weather (Island and Handicap) and wish that the second Boom (Spirit) had snuck past the favourite to give us the trifecta. Bummer!
But the cold weather is not all bad. The natural habitat of the Melburnian is home in front of the fire with the footy on, or in the pub in front of the fire with the footy on, or actually braving the elements at the footy (except at Etihad, which is like a possum’s nest).
And we’re all very thankful to Her Majesty for the extra day off, although watching the Melbourne-Collingwood fixture did not raise the pulse at all. Hers or ours. She used to have her own room at the MCG you know – kitted out for her visit to watch Richmond and Footscray back in about 1970. It had a heated floor, which still functioned until the old stand was demolished about a decade ago. I sat in it once, with warm feet.
I suppose when you think of what Melbourne did to her majesty’s birthday, you can argue that coaches are entitled to keep their sides in the game. Although it’s not my favourite argument. I remember Choco Williams trying to engineer a nil-all draw at three quarter time at Kardinia Park one afternoon when the Cats were in their pomp, in the hope his Port boys could pour on the pressure and snag an unlikely win. It very nearly worked. And so, Paul Roos had a crack at the same approach. In the spirit of the World Cup minnows (Australia?), it was a matter of keeping the finger in the dike. And it very nearly was 0-0 at three quarter time.
Compare that with the charismatic Power performance against battling St Kilda: Hamish Hartlett kicking the Sherrin the lazy 70 metres on the run; Brad Ebert looking like he can be the equal of his celebrated Uncle Russell; Jarman Impey improving by the week; and Chad Wingard. Did you see Chad? Not just the classic speccie. What about when he went into the mid-field and just broke the game open in about two minutes!
I recall first hearing about Chad Wingard from a meteorologist mate of mine called BD. BD is a Sturt supporter but, being form the South Australian Mallee, he keeps an eye on country footy. The whisper was that there was a kid at Murray Bridge who was going to be anything. When Wingard went to Sturt, BD used to send me links to the SANFL site with: “Check the package from 28.15” (referring to the timer on the highlights video). That’s how the game can be played. (Jeremy Howe will be looking for a free-agency move to Port)
But I suppose the point is there are many ways to play the game. Some play with control and discipline (Sydney, Freo); some free-wheel it (old Geelong, Port); some play a combination of both (Hawthorn, Collingwood, new Geelong).
And then there is Richmond.
On a cold Sunday afternoon I cooked a roast, which is a two-beer and one corkscrew job (to let the red breathe), while listening to Freo and Adelaide. Family dinner went well and when the TV was turned on the North-Richmond game had been going for 15 minutes. I felt like someone had spiked my Rockford Frugal Farmers red. The game was manic. It had the pressure of a final – albeit sixth v seventh. The Tiges kept the intensity going throughout the second quarter. Yet, somehow I thought there would be a twist. No team can maintain those levels and it took just a couple North goals to create a run on. The Tiges were popped. Eight goals to the Kangas and it was all over.
How does that happen? How can Monday afternoon look like it does, yet 19 minutes of footy the night before produce such mayhem. What would P. Roos have done if he we were D. Hardwick? Or is P. Roos so clever he’d never agree to a job at Tigerland?
And then there was Friday night. I was at Docklands with The People’s Elbow, a disgruntled Carlton fan and Footy Almanac columnist (http://www.footyalmanac.com.au/afl-round-12-geelong-v-carlton-the-peoples-elbow-puzzle-page/). It was a game where sides played in patches and Carlton had the better patch late in the game – and looked the winner. But Carlton is now Geelong, as it was in the late twentieth century, and the Blues can find a way to lose. The People’s Elbow took it in his stride – surprisingly. Hardly a Geelong supporter sang the song. It was very flat all round, as people trudged back along the footbridge to the train and the tram, and eventually their fireplaces.
So what to make of a wintry weekend?
The wooden spoon is as open as the premiership. The Swans are still looking powerful and she’ll be a cracker this weekend against Port – both sides look to headed for the third week in September, and maybe beyond. The Gold Coast Suns will have a say in the make-up of the eight, whether as winners, or in knocking off challengers. The Hawks may ride on the back of their very innocent coaches’ exuberance, which may take them a fair way. The Cats are a mile off, but have a good draw. And Port remain a joy to watch.
It all points to another cracking weekend in front of the fire.
John Harms is editor of footyalmanac.com.au