The Godfather: Peter Corris on early days in the AFL season
It’s early days in a long season but the AFL competition has already thrown up some interesting configurations and contradictions. After Hawthorn disappointed supporters and some pundits by failing to achieve a ‘four-peat’ last year, few would have predicted that the team would be winless and bottom of the ladder after three and a bit rounds in 2017.
After solid results sans Dangerfield last year, it’s not surprising to see Adelaide on top, nor to see Geelong hard on their heels. Geelong specialises in winning close matches and looks likely to continue that trend. It’s wearing, though. Conversely, Richmond has had a habit of losing close games but may have turned that around.
It’s somewhat surprising to see Port Adelaide sitting third and the difference may be Paddy Ryder. Nurtured as a forward at Essendon and developed as a ruckman, he could have been set for a stellar season in 2016 but for the shameful supplements scandal that engulfed Essendon after 2014.
That event will continue to have an influence on the Bombers’ performance throughout the season. Predictions of a top four finish now look premature as their round one defeat of Hawthorn comes into context. They exhibited a kind of fragility against Brisbane but, as a lifelong Bombers supporter, I cherish the hope that the loss to Carlton was an aberration, and that it was the foul weather that inhibited their skilful game. A slender thread perhaps but I predict good things under the roof at Docklands.
Early fancies GWS and West Coast look likely to keep up a good win/loss ratio but much will depend on the draw. Melbourne’s future seems to be bound up in the rehabilitation of its ruckman. Good luck, Max.
Collingwood’s victory over Sydney will have secured Nathan Buckley’s position as coach, for a time at least. His relief at the win was obvious and two rounds are far too early to consign a coach to the scrapheap. Similarly, three rounds are not enough to lock him in.
Sydney have had their worst start in many years, reminiscent of the pre-Barassi days when a win was a rarity. The hard-as-nails midfielders – Hanneberry, Parker, Jack – have been underperforming, putting pressure on the backs and forwards. Lance Franklin had an off night against the Pies, but there was an obvious lack of belief in the team’s play. Call in the head-shrinkers.
According to some TV experts, Gold Coast players were content merely to be AFL footballers and were not playing for the team or the coach. A team they were, though, against Hawthorn, but, as mentioned, a win against Hawthorn may not mean as much as it once did.
Another development which will affect all games and teams throughout the season is the changes in the rules, notably that every effort must be made to keep the ball in play and ruckmen have to nominate their intention to participate. I can’t say that I fully understand the application of these changes but I’ll keep watching. How could you not watch the football game that eclipses all others for hand, foot and eye coordination, athleticism, score excitement and spectacle?