Jump Ball Sports
AFL Grand Final edition.
Time ticking on Tiger goodwill
For the first 35-odd years of my life the Tigers were a punchline.
At best mediocre, more often than not bad and always culturally flawed.
And unlike fellow battler St Kilda (and Matthew Richardson aside), Richmond lacked any real romance to compensate for their lack of success.
Even the club’s glory days seemed to fade into the gloom that cloaked Punt Road during Richmond’s interminable decline.
All that is something you get used to.
And then suddenly this fallen giant – with no more notice than the obvious talent of Dusty Martin, Alex Rance and Trent Cotchin – woke up and won a flag and it blew my mind.
Everything I thought I knew about football and sport, I wasn’t so sure about anymore.
Because if the Tigers could win a flag and then make a grand final two years later, all the while spruiking the club’s wonderful culture, then nothing is certain.
Maybe that’s a good thing.
But this ’19 Tigers run has used up the last of my 35 year’s of sympathetic goodwill for the yellow and black.
Win now because you have lost me forever.
It happens every few years and generally dawns on many at about this stage of proceedings...that a relatively unfancied team is destined to win the flag.
The unfancied title is most often the product of a team being considered not ready – think Hawks ’08, not the best team – think ugly duckling Swans ’05, having suffered significant injuries – think Bulldogs ’16, and/or the feeling that a team has squandered its window – think Power ‘04.
The question is whether this GWS incarnation is a team of destiny.
Certainly, the Giants qualify for all four grounds when you consider they boast a still relatively young line-up, are up against the dynasty-chasing Tigers, are sans the likes of Callum Ward, Brett Deledio and potentially Lachie Whitfield and Stephen Coniglio, and are on the clock given past failures and a growing list of players heading for the exit doors.
The significance is of course that destiny trumps any rational football factor as to the winner of a grand final, meaning that if GWS is in fact destined then you may as well hand the cup over now because nothing can stop them.
I received an invitation to a pre-grand final lunch this week.
Reading through the usual line-up of past player entertainment, the name of the “special guest” jumped off the page, none other than grand final umpire Ray “Razor” Chamberlain.
Now Razor is widely panned in some quarters as an attention seeker, which is regarded by many as a mortal sin for a “should be seen but not heard” member of the umpiring team.
Noting my understanding that the lunch in question is not an official AFL event to which Razor may have been required to attend by his employer – but rather a commercial money-making enterprise for which Razor is likely paid – it struck me that this appearance could be used by some as a stick to beat him with.
Which raises the question of whether the umpires charged with officiating the game should be able to build and/or exploit their profile in a similar vein to players who presumably earn far more than whistle blowers.
A major consideration – which is particularly relevant for Razor – is whether to do so, exposes umpires to claims that their style of umpiring is informed by maintaining a certain profile.
You only have to wait for Razor to blow his whistle this Saturday to hear cries of “FFS, it’s not about you Razor” ringing around the ground.
Anyway it’s an interesting one.
A moment for the vanquished
The Cats couldn’t be at a more fascinating juncture.
There doesn’t appear to be any sense that the club will deviate from its win now / lateral recruiting approach that has made it a September mainstay for years now.
The issue though is that while the club may be able to offset the exit or drop off of Gary Ablett Junior and Harry Taylor by landing the likes of Jack Steven and Josh Jenkins, the potential loss of star Tim Kelly may prove too much to maintain the rage.
For Geelong leans so heavily on its stars to compensate for its relative lack of depth, that a Kelly departure could be crippling.
To the other side of the finals bracket and the Pies do not require nearly as much of the third degree.
It simply wasn’t their year.
They owed their top 4 finish to the all-time bizarro Eagles final round home loss to the Hawks, were again hobbled by injuries – particularly to Mason Cox, Dayne Beams and critically later to Jordan De Goey – and, last quarter comeback aside, effectively laid an egg against the Giants in the preliminary final.
They may lose a couple – Jamie Elliott perhaps the one to watch here – but they will be back again and shouldn’t be too far off the pace.
Storm v Roosters redux
This is the presumptive NRL grand final match-up a week early, thanks to the Storm’s shock loss to the Raiders in the first week of the finals.
The Storm then laid a redemptive smack down on the Eels while the Roosters enjoyed a week off following their first up finals demolition job on old rivals, the Rabbitohs.
Of course, the Roosters upset the Storm in last year’s decider with former Storm favourite son Cooper Cronk’s heroic performance to play through serious injury rubbing added salt.
The Roosters will be without suspended superstar forward Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who tore shreds off Melbourne in the 2018 grand final, but will be able to rely on the rest of their star studded cast headlined by James Tedesco, Luke Keary and Latrell Mitchell.
For Melbourne, much rests on the relatively inexperienced shoulders of the likes of Ryan Papenhuyzen, Jahrome Hughes and Curtis Scott, and whether the regeneration project undertaken in the wake of the Cronk and Billy Slater exits is ready to bloom.
If Melbourne can overcome this formidable Tricolours team, it will go down as one of the club’s greatest victories which is not faint praise given the club’s glorious past.