The Godfather: Peter Corris on an unusual season
I finished 44th out of 114 players in my AFL tipping competition. A mediocre result and well below my personal best. The winner of the competition averaged slightly under six correct tips per round, well down on previous winning scores. It was an unusual season, with many upsets, lower ranked teams beating those above them and few, apart from Adelaide, stringing together successive wins. Last year’s premiers, the Western Bulldogs, did not make the finals – again unusual, though not unprecedented. Sydney, grand finalists last year, lost their first six matches but recovered strongly later in the season. By contrast Adelaide, finishing top of the ladder, lost the last two matches of the season, not a good omen for the finals.
The beginning of the women’s competition provided an extra level of interest for aficionados.
The season was, commentators agreed, a tipper’s nightmare, but full of interest. Last year’s runaway Brownlow Medal winner, Patrick Dangerfield of Geelong, was ruled ineligible this year owing to an infringement causing a suspension. This somewhat takes the gloss off this year’s award as Dangerfield was almost certainly in the lead up to that point. Sydney’s Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin, acknowledged as one of the best players in the AFL, lagged behind through the year on the goal-kicking list until he unleashed a ten-goal haul in the last match (an uncommon feat in itself in these days of unanchored full-forwards) to win the Coleman Medal for the fourth time. The other significant award, the Norm Smith Medal for the best player in the Grand Final, is even more up for grabs, with nothing like certainty about the teams in that match.
Surprise club for 2017 was Richmond. Routinely just missing out on the top eight or scraping in only to lose early, Richmond has built up a solid bank of wins to finish third on the ladder and get the double chance. Star player Dustin Martin performed at his best, while Captain Trent Cotchin seemed to reconstitute himself as a player to become a midfield and forward force.
Most pleasing to me was that Essendon, whom I’ve supported for 70 years, made the eight. Severely, and in my view unfairly, penalised for the drug-supplements misadventure in 2014, the Bombers under coach John Worsfold justified the faith of their thousands of loyal supporters.
Commentators also agree that six of the finalists – Adelaide, Geelong, Sydney, Port Adelaide, Richmond and Greater Western Sydney – have strong chances. Essendon and the West Coast are less favoured but could cause upsets along the way. As ever, factors like home-ground advantage and the weather will come into play.
Two matters, both important, remain to be considered. Max Pellicano, aka Elvis to the Max, was spotted at a match in the last round, arousing speculation that he might be the headline act at the Grand Final. I think this would be an excellent choice.
Finally, I feel obliged to take a punt (a drop punt of course) on the winner of the premiership. Wise heads say that to have played in recent Grand Finals is the best indicator of success. This would seem to favour Sydney and Geelong. My guess is that Sydney, desperate to erase the memory of last year, will prevail.