Sure, this is the first round without a single game in Melbourne since Round 8 of 1952, but I’d also point out this is the first round of 2020 with every game having a crowd.
In accordance with all Victorian clubs having to get out of the state, surely it’s only appropriate that they be renamed after the places, or suburbs of the places, where they’ve been relocated.
In the case of North Melbourne, probably permanently.
Also, I’d go as far as guaranteeing that there’s going to be players from the Victorian clubs who got sent up to Queensland, who, sometime in the next 5 weeks, will spend at least 5 minutes looking at potential places to retire to.
Because if there’s one place Victorians love retiring to, it’s South East bloody Queensland.
My grandparents would confirm that statement if they were alive.
Marrickville Cats vs Brisbane Lions at the SCG, 7:50pm AEST
I’ve got no idea which suburb the Cats are ‘hubbing’ in when they get to Perth, but this week they were training out at Henson Park in Marrickville, the home of the Newtown Jets, and some apparent connection I’m reaching for is that Newtown is of course, a suburb of Geelong.
With a win against the Suns, the Cats got ahead on the win-loss ledger for the first time in 2020, scoring consecutive wins for the first time in well over a year, although on paper, if you were making a list of teams who lost the most from having to leave Victoria, the Cats would probably make that list, because Captain Obvious would tell you they’re nigh-on unbeatable at Kardinia Park.
The Cats also gave us a human reminder about having to go interstate for 6 weeks, with Gary Ablett Jnr’s announcement about son Levi being diagnosed with a “rare and degenerative disease”, which came barely 24 hours after his 350th game, and the day before he had to leave with the team for Sydney and onwards to Perth.
All I can do is send my well-wishes to Gazza and Jordan.
Meanwhile, the Lions have emerged from the restart as the best-performed team in the league, and not having to leave The Gabba (Aka Fagan’s Fortress) for a month probably helps, but the way they mercilessly cleaved through an unbeaten and supposedly full of confidence Port Adelaide just made me stand up and once again recognise the wonderful and mysterious being that is Chris Fagan.
This year alone, with a simple reading of his footballing parables, the one known as Lord Fagan has helped Lachie Neale ascend from generic All-Australian into a would be Brownlow Medalist, and transformed Harris Andrews from the best key defender in the game to the best key defender in the game.
Still, this week will be different, as the Lions have to make the daunting trip south through Tweed Heads and leave Queensland for the first time since our reality was shattered in March, and we’ll definitely know where they stand with a few games on the road.
This is the rematch of last year’s epic Round 22 top of the table encounter at The Gabba, which the Lions somehow won by a point, thanks to Charlie Cameron not having much of an impact on the game with 5 goals, and Lincoln McCarthy going on The Big Ride to put the Lions in front with 90 seconds left.
That was also Brisbane’s first win over the Cats since the Miracle On Grass in 2013, and of course, that game didn’t make a lick of difference to the minor premiership race, aside from guaranteeing Brisbane a Top 2 finish, because the Lions got lumped with Richmond at the MCG the next week, and Geelong got Carlton at Kardinia Park and finished on top.
One last note, there’s another milestone for the Catters ‘Holy Trinity’ – Patrick Dangerfield plays his 100th game in the hoops, joining that random list of players who have played 100 games for 2 clubs.
Joondalup Magpies vs Coogee Hawks at GIANTS Stadium, 7:50pm AEST
Will Kelly debut?
Yes, Will Kelly, son of 1990 Premiership hero Craig, will debut for the Pies, the latest father-son in the Pies team, joining Moore, Daicos, and the Browns.
I was disappointed when I found out Collingwood had chosen Joondalup as their Perth hub location… Casuarina was sitting right there ready to welcome them with open arms and a pair of handcuffs.
Oddly enough, of the 12 teams who played in that National Day Round in Round 8 of 1952, Collingwood are the only team playing in the same city – They played Richmond at the SCG and won by 6 goals in ’52, although obviously the SCG Trust has no sense of history, because they sent the Pies back to the Showground.
Back to the present, and Collingwood probably wish it was 1952 right now, because there’s a still-burning PR inferno at the Holden Centre, and even Eddie can’t be bothered turning on the hose and trying to put it out.
I briefly saw 7 News last night, as the naughty Magpies were sent to Perth a week early, and I noticed the reporter was trying to get an answer out of Steele Sidebottom with some typical boring arse quesions.
Should’ve gone for something he’d understand, like “Hey Steele, I’ve got a 16 year old Scotch in the truck, want to knock it off with me?”
In the meantime, they have to play at GIANTS Stadium for the second time in 3 games, and it can’t go as disastrously as Round 4, mainly because Jeremy Howe can’t do his knee again.
The Hawks are also back at the Showground after getting whipped by the Giants on Sunday, and having already escaped across the border, the club set up camp in Coogee, obviously because like the suburb of Hawthorn, it’s in the Eastern Suburbs, and it’s full of latte sippers.
And, it’s also a perfect chance to sink a pipeline into what is the apparent heart of the Swans’ fanbase.
While the Hawks losing on Sunday wasn’t a shock, here’s an unusual stat – Aside from getting 2 more Holding The Balls than usual thanks to Clarko’s comments, they had fewer disposals (261) but had more inside 50s (38), and the Giants only recorded 26 Inside 50s from 350 disposals – 26 being the lowest of any team last weekend.
The obvious difference being the Giants made most of them count, given they kicked 13.5 (13.3 if you take out rushed behinds) while the Hawks’ No.1 forward target was Nick Haynes.
It’s easy to see how that could happen – Hawks players haven’t been used to kicking to a key forward since Jarryd Roughead retired.
Still, I should also point out that under Nathan Buckley’s tenure as coach, the Hawks have won 12 of the 13 meetings against the Pies.
On a neutral ground, who the heck knows what could happen.
Southport Dockers vs Noosa Saints at Metricon Stadium, 12:35pm AEST
The last hurrah for the Southport-Fremantle Dockers, who are officially on the board in 2020, before they return to their traditional home of Cockburn, while St Kilda won the Hub Lottery and ended up getting a 5-week holiday in Noosa in the middle of a Melbourne winter.
No bones about it, the Saints will absolutely love Noosa, probably because it’s the first time they’ve been able to have a recovery session at a beach that wasn’t littered with needles.
If there’s one thing that Dockers and Saints have provided us over the years, it’s batshit random moments:
Lazar Vidovic getting rubbed out for 6 weeks in Fremantle’s first pre-season game in 1995, umpire Peter Carey taking a mark in 1999, Justin Longmuir’s goal after the siren in the ‘Whispers In The Sky’ game in 2005, the 2006 Sirengate fiasco in Tasmania, in 2007, Steven Baker hit Jeff Farmer off the ball and every TV camera somehow missed it, then there was part of the external roof at Docklands caving in during a storm during the 2010 NAB Cup Semi, and the most notorious of all was Freo dumping Mark Harvey and signing Ross Lyon without anyone knowing.
And throw in some great shared players like Matty Carr, Heath Black, Zac Dawson, Adrian Fletcher and Dale Kickett, and as recently as last year, Blake Acres was sent to Freo in the trade to get Brad Hill to Moorabbin.
In the unlikely event that things get close in the last quarter, I reckon Longmuir’s going to come charging down from the box, whip on the long sleeves and do this again:
Gold Coast Eagles vs Arundel Crows at The Gabba, 3:05pm AEST
The final Gold Coast Derby for the O.G hub teams, and aren’t the people of Brisvegas spoiled for choice on Saturday evening.
First, they can watch two teams at the Gabba playing in the comforting knowledge that they’ll be going home in a matter of days, then, they can wander over to Lang Park and watch the Bucking Broncos take on Canterbury in the NRL Spoonbowl.
What a world we live in where the Broncos are the 14th best sporting team in Queensland, just ahead of the Crows.
For 3 weeks, the Eagles seemed to be happy living in their hub-enforced misery, then they finally got a rare chance to hang one on the Swans, and it truly is weird how winning can change your outlook, because after sitting at 1-3, the Eagles have the chance to get home at 3-3, with two straight months of games in Perth coming up.
Obviously Luke Shuey (And Jarmaine Jones) went down in the 1st Quarter with a hamstring, but the way they played for the rest of the game would suggest that they can cover the skipper’s absence.
While the Crows… well, the less said about that Spoonbowl against Fremantle, the better, because that was just truly awful.
Now anchored to the bottom, Tex Walker has been sent back to Adelaide ahead of schedule due to an apparent knee problem.
If you ask me, they may as well send the whole team back before Saturday and just give the Eagles the points.
Manly Demons vs ‘Gong Coast Suns at GIANTS Stadium, 6:05pm AEST
Quite ironic that Melbourne would set up their hub in Manly, because there’s nothing Manly about this Dees team.
And, further to it, in a typical Demons moment, they have to weave through Sydney’s traditionally awful traffic all the way to Blacktown… just so they can train.
Obviously the Northern Beaches Council wouldn’t let the Dees grace the hallowed turf of Manly Oval, home of the Manly Marlins, and why would they – the Marlins kick far better in front of the posts than Melbourne.
Meantime, after travelling to Victoria, the Suns have set up camp in Wollongong to avoid the 14-day quarantine period for people returning to Queensland directly from Victoria.
Thus, they are now the Gong Coast.
They’re obviously shattered with the news that Matt Rowell is most likely gone for the season with a dislocated shoulder that requires surgery, which will probably rob him of both the Rising Star and Brownlow, but if the whispers are around the money, this might finally be the week that the once highly touted 2018 No.3 pick Izak Rankine debuts, after some 18 months of repeated hamstring issues.
In the biggest numerical milestone of the Round, Jarrod Harbrow plays his 250th game, after starting out life with the Rodney Eade Bulldogs, before joining the inaugural Suns team, where he’s served and suffered for 9 years.
Probably as a result of their awfulness, Jarrod is mostly remembered for a high speed collision with Jordan Lewis, resulting in one of the ugliest knock outs of recent history for Lewis.
And last week, he also recorded the lowest-ever score in Champion Data’s history of Player Ratings, so that’s something.
Still there’s a random chance he’ll get dropped for that performance, so he can time his 250th with his birthday on July 18th.
Normally you’d write off the Suns after an injury to a player of Rowell’s quality, but, it’s only Melbourne.
Broadbeach Bombers vs Gold Coast Kangaroos at Metricon Stadium, 7:40pm AEST
This week, on We Are Essington:
Whip It goooood.
It was barely a month ago that this happened on a flight to Sydney… The Bombers and Roos were better off just keeping on flying north.
Well, North Melbourne tried valiantly for 13 years, but with James Brayshaw now too busy filming voiceovers for Sportsbet, the AFL finally managed to uproot the Roos from Arden Street and dispatch them to live on the Gold Coast.
It goes to show that Ross Oakley was bang on the money- Having 9 teams in Melbourne just wasn’t sustainable.
Then again, having any teams in Melbourne right now wasn’t sustainable.
Meanwhile, the team formerly known as Essendon had a stellar win against their former rivals Collingwood in the makeshift ANZAC Day game, despite things looking pretty grim a mere 12 minutes in.
Zac Merrett will go straight back in to a Dons midfield that had Dylan Shiel doing the heavy lifting in a fantastic manner, Aaron Francis doing well as a makeshift ruckman but unfortunately though, they can add Jake Stringer to the long term injury list, after he was yet another player to suffer ankle SYNDESMOSIS just the final siren, and with Joe Daniher still gone, that leaves Shaun McKernan and Jacob Townsend to their usual random contribution.
The Roos obviously lack the money to see a doctor, because they made the stupid decision to play an injured Ben Cunnington, who, while being a key player, clearly still hadn’t recovered from his back issues, and it was painful just watching him trying to run and bend down to pick up the ball.
Cunnington barely lasted a quarter, Tarryn Thomas got knocked out, and the Roos promptly suffered an absolutely convincing defeat to Josh Bruce and the Bulldogs, and was a tad concerning of it all was that once again, Ben Brown stepped on a rake and did nothing.
His only goal in the last 2 games was from a dodgy free kick against Hawthorn.
Although, Curtis Taylor did get a Rising Star Nomination, with his 13 disposals and 5 marks and 2 goals being a bright spot on a dim night.
May the marshmallows reign supreme in this one.
Alberton Power vs GWS at Metricon Stadium, 1:05pm AEST
Summing up my own foolishness, I didn’t even realise there’s a locality of the Gold Coast called Alberton, which begs the question as to why Port Adelaide didn’t set their hub there, just so they could claim that their traditional home is Alberton, and their home away from home is Alberton.
They could’ve trained at one of the prawn farms.
Still, it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference up at the Gabba on Saturday night, because as previously mentioned, the Lions licked them dry with brutal efficiency, and for at least that 1st Quarter, Port only have themselves to blame, because they peppered the goals with 1.6 to trail the Lions by a point.
Wouldn’t you know it, 11 minutes into the 2nd Quarter, they were 5 goals down and well on the way to a convincing defeat.
Summing up the Power, Charlie Dixon kicked 6 goals against the Eagles in Round 4… He went up against Harris Andrews on Saturday, and he registered a big fat donut.
Conversely, I think the bigger win for GWS in their thumping of the Hawks is that they got through the game without at least one player suffering a serious injury, although that was apparently saved for Sam Taylor, who was already out with a back injury, which managed to morph into an infection in his joints.
That’s the most unfortunate injury since Ken Griffey developed gigantism after overdosing on brain and nerve tonic in 1992.
That would open a door for Timmy Taranto to play his first game of 2020, after needing a shoulder reconstruction following a dislocation in the JLT Series.
In the old days he’d be missing for 16 games… in the age of COVID, he missed a mere 5.
I’d note that after the defeat to the Lions, a common trend with Port losing their first game of the year is they back it up by losing their second quick smart.
2017: Lost to Adelaide Round 3, lost to GWS the next week
2018: Lost to Essendon Round 4, lost to Geelong the next week
2019: Lost to Brisbane Round 3, lost to Richmond the next week
How convenient that they run in to a GWS team suddenly returning to form.
Robina Tigers vs Sydney Swans at The Gabba, 3:35pm AEST
I can’t tell what’s longer.
The length of the Melbourne lockdown, or Richmond’s list of team changes for this game.
From what I’ve gathered, there’s at least 6:
Captain Trent Cotchin had another hamstring injury, Dion Prestia and Toby Nankervis both suffered ankle SYNDESMOSIS injuries, Tom Lynch played on with a fractured hand, and Shane Edwards and Bachar Houli both stayed in Melbourne to be with their partners + newborns.
In case you’re wondering, no, it would not be a record – That’s held by Fremantle with 13 changes for the 2015 Qualifying Final, after Ross The Boss rested as many players for Round 22, having already secured top spot.
So that said, the likes of Sydney Stack and Marlion Pickett will probably get a game, and don’t be shocked if Damien Hardwick has to pull on the boots just to make up numbers.
Meantime, the South Melbourne Swans have been hubbing in Sydney for 38 years, so this is all nothing new to them.
After last week’s defeat to the Eagles, which just happened to be Luke Parker’s 200th game, Dylan Stephens and Chad Warner, long lost brother of David, will debut.
It’s also a random historical anniversary for Johnny Longmire, with July 7th marking 30 years since Horse kicked a North Melbourne record 14 goals against Melbourne at the MCG, a ground record that only Gary Ablett Snr has equalled.
Of course, Richmond are in luck with the Queensland hub, because if there’s one place they love more than the MCG, it’s the Gabba, where they haven’t lost to the Lions, or anyone for that matter, FOR 16 YEARS.
9 visits since 2005, including last year’s Qualifying Final, and they’ve won them all.
Coolangatta Blues vs Labrador Bulldogs at Metricon Stadium, 6:45pm AEST
Another Sunday night stinker at Carrara sees the team formerly known as Carlton and the Western Bulldogs going at it, and obviously people might get confused watching a team called the Labrador Bulldogs, but I think it’ll catch on.
In their last game before relocation, which was moved from the MCG to Docklands and almost called off thanks to a security guard’s COVID test, the Blues had their colours lowered by a half decent Saints team, and proving old habits die hard, they were always behind thanks to another tardy opening quarter, in another classic Thursday Night Carlton performance.
The Blues will also begin life on the Gold Coast with heavy hearts, after the passing of 1987 Premiership Player and 1991 Margarey Medalist, Mark Naley, one of the many great South Australian players who crossed to Princes Park in the late 1980s, among them Stephen Kernahan, Craig Bradley and Peter Motley.
The black armbands will be out for Nails, who had been suffering from aggressive brain tumours for years before he passed away aged 59.
As for the team formerly based in Footscray, they’re on an absolute roll now, bringing up a hat-trick of wins after the inauspicious start to 2020, and after Aaron Naughton went down against Sydney, Josh Bruce showed why the Dogs got him, banging on a lazy bag of 6 goals against North, almost beating them on his lonesome.
From that team, Hayden Crozier was rubbed out for a dangerous tackle, but a potential key in is Lachie Hunter, whose 4 game ban for his questionable display of driving in April came to an end, although it’s all up to Luke Beveridge, or the lord, that he plays.
This will be the 4th game at Carrara in the span of 36 hours…. the turf will be looking like a Falklands minefield come 9:30 on Sunday evening.