AFL

Meaningless AFL Preview: Round 7, 2020

Pictured: Greg Hunt demonstrates how to safely avoid watching the Swans

Where is Richmond?

THAT’S IN QUEENSLAND!

Where is Essendon?

THAT’S IN QUEENSLAND!

Where is North Melbourne?

THAT’S IN QUEENSLAND!

Where is the 2020 Grand Final?

THAT’S….. APPARENTLY IN THE BOX SEAT TO BE IN QUEENSLAND!

QUEENSLAND’S EVERYWHEREEEEEE.


Thursday


Geelong (2nd) vs Collingwood (5th) at Optus Stadium, 6:10pm AWST

As we begin Round 7, Geelong kick off the Perth hub by becoming the 4th team in history to play a home game at Optus Stadium, and after Thursday evening, they’ll have played Collingwood in Perth more times than they’ve played Collingwood in Geelong in the 21st Century.

Aside from the WA sides, the other team to play a home game at Optus is the Gold Coast Suns, who effectively sold a home game to Freo via the AFL in 2018 because they couldn’t play at Carrara during the Commonwealth Games.

Now that you have that useless piece of information in your brain…

After mauling the Lions at the SCG, with the most damaging quarter of footy by any team in 2020 – Despite being down 2 players at Quarter Time – Geelong have claimed the weekly title of 2020 Premiership Favourites, which is proving as volatile a title to hold as Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts.

They’ve also jumped in to 2nd spot, and ironically, thanks to the Cats winning last week, teams sitting in 2nd on the ladder are still yet to win a game in 2020.

It carries on that 2nd Place curse from last year, which got so spooky that when Brisbane managed to win from 2nd on the ladder in Round 19… they fell to 3rd.

Meantime, as quickly as they were dumped out of the Top 8 in the midst of a death spiral, Collingwood rocketed straight back up to 5th by disposing of Hawthorn in Sydney, once again doing the damage with a fast start and ending slowly, but the Woodsmen would happily take the 4 points, considering they had only knocked off the Hawks once in 8 years.

The Cats and Pies have made a habit of playing tough, low scoring contests, highlighted by last year’s Qualifying Final, in which Geelong once again burned themselves in a final by starting slowly as the Pies won by 10 points, and boy oh boy, hasn’t Mother Nature prepared the perfect conditions for another low-scoring battle.

Bring your Speedos and flippers, boys.


Friday


Essendon (4th) vs Western Bulldogs (11th) at Metricon Stadium, 7:50pm AEST

The first Friday night game in the history of Carrara, and of course it doesn’t involve the Gold Coast Suns… or the Brisbane Bears.

Despite losing a key player a week to a serious injury, a COVID test or MRO Roulette, Essendon just keep knocking off everything and everyone that sits in front of them with a gritty edge, and it’s a testament to Ben Rutten John Worsfold’s coaching that they’re in 4th, equal with Port Adelaide on the one defeat for the year, with the Melbourne game in hand, just sitting there like a block of Cadbury ready to be devoured.

Meantime, having played under a roof for years, the Bulldogs seem to have developed an aversion to water, much like my own dog, and the rain-affected game last Sunday evening against Carlton validates my biased theory.

To their credit, the Dogs weren’t afraid to take the game on…. the only problem was every 2 out of 3 Inside 50s the ball got out the back, the Blues would mercilessly dry lick them and kick a goal.

The Dogs could have gone to equal 2nd…. instead, they’re 11th… and they conceded 100 points to the Blues for the third meeting in a row.

The only confirmed bit of team news is that Cody Weightman, apparently no relation to Dale ‘The Flea’ Weightman, will become the 4th Bulldog to make his debut in 2020, and in another case of a bogey team, Essendon are still yet to defeat the Luke Beveridge-coached Bulldogs, losing all 5 previous meetings.

Round 21 last year was the cream of the crop for the Dogs, who conceded the opening goal of the game 21 seconds in…

Before kicking 21 goals in a row, the 2nd most consecutive goals in league history.

It became so spectacular that by the time Tippa kicked the Dons second goal 21 minutes into the last term, the Dogs cheersquad stood up and applauded them.

A couple of late goals to the Dons couldn’t prevent the only 100+ point result of 2019.

Anyway, there is hope for a change of fortune for the Dons, given all 5 of those games were at Docklands, and it’s not surprising to tell you this, considering both teams are Docklands tenants, but this is the first game between the Bombers and Dogs to be played outdoors since 1999.


Saturday


GWS Giants (10th) vs Brisbane Lions (3rd) at GIANTS Stadium, 1:45pm AEST

The rematch of the thrilling 2019 Semi Final between the godless Orange Soviet footballers and Fagan’s Lions, who both suffered ‘disappointing’ defeats in Round 6, as Leon Cameron, the man drives the AFL’s Ferrari like an ED Falcon, coaches his 150th game for the Giants.

The Giants went up to the Gold Coast on the back of playing two consecutive games resembling the footy that got them through to the Grand Final, and that feeling of confidence was shattered by Port Adelaide, as it turned out having a worrying lack of Inside 50s can be a bit of a problem when you’re playing the ladder-leaders instead of a deficient team like Hawthorn.

So, as ‘it’ hits the fan in the West of the town once again, Callan Ward is gone for 6 weeks with another knee issue, and there was the claptrap about captain Stephen Conigilio being dropped, such is his lack of impact on the season, but he’ll be safe with Ward’s injury, which is the oerfect chance to slot Tim Taranto straight back in.

Still, if the Giants are that stupid and Cogs does get dropped, it’d be the most shocking dumping of a captain I’ve seen since Richie Vandenberg got dropped by Hawthorn for Easter Monday 2007.

Meantime, the Lions went 22 points up after Lachie Neale’s vintage dribble kick, but a combination of more crap goalkicking, injuries to Hugh McCluggage and Mitch Robinson, plus Geelong mercilessly poaching them in the 2nd Half, saw them give up 7 goals to a behind in the 3rd Quarter, and despite winning 3 out of 4 quarters, they lost by that comfortable 27-point margin.

Last year, the Lions scored their first-ever win at the Showground in Round 16, the first time they’d defeated the Giants since 2013, and while it may resemble a cow paddock, it is ‘lengthier’ and wider than the SCG, and that might just help Brisbane, although GWS are so famously bipolar they’ll randomly respond to last week’s defeat.

Sydney Swans (17th) vs Gold Coast (9th) at the SCG, 4:35pm AEST

The last time the Swans were in this much on-field crap, there were pigs running around at full-forward, and the AFL had to get Ron Barassi out of retirement.

2nd last on the ladder, their season unraveling due to an unending wave of injuries, already no talls to pick from, a gun small forward in Isaac Heeney gone, reliable midfield bull Josh Kennedy gone, and subsequently forced to play so defensively just to give themselves a chance that they can only kick 3 goals a game…

If you thought last Sunday afternoon was an uglier bore to sit through than my weekly Review, well guess what – IT’S GONNA HAPPEN EVERY WEEK NOW.

I can’t wait – 16 in the opposition backline, Tom Papley one out in the forward line, and Nick Blakey spinning in a circle on the wing.

The Suns may have lost their last 2 games to Geelong and Melbourne, but they at least weren’t disgraced, especially given they were only a point down to the Dees halfway into the last quarter, and just when things looked a tad hopeless without Matt Rowell, along comes the long-awaited debut of Izak Rankine, who proved he can pick up a footy with as much grace as he can pick up a guitar and fire out a cover of Fast Car.

12 disposals and 3 goals to earn the most comfortable Rising Star nomination since Rowell in Round 2, and given the Suns once again confirmed they believe in Dewdaism by re-signing Stuart Dew I’d say last week was the Binding Of Izak.

This game being at the SCG seems perfect for the Suns, given it’s ironically the one place on Earth that the Swans utterly hate playing at (6 wins from their last 18 games), and if the visitors want to prove how far they’ve progressed as a team, well, scoring 40 points on a bunch of crippled birds might just help.

Richmond (6th) vs North Melbourne (16th) at Metricon Stadium, 7:40pm AEST

When you think about some of the great successful struggles of the past week, two spring to mind.

Richmond defeating Sydney in driving rain in the lowest scoring game in 24 years..

And Greg Hunt demonstrating how to apply a face mask to your eyes instead of your mouth.

What a great choice – Reduce the impact of COVID-19, or reduce the visual impact of crap footy on our lives.

While the game was so dull to watch that Dimma had a go at John Longmire for playing defensively (Which he apparently apologised for), the Tigers, despite kicking one goal after the opening 12 minutes of the game, got the job done and jumped up to 6th on the back of consecutive wins, although they still look nowhere close to what they’re capable of – For obvious reasons.

As for North, after starting 2-0, they’ve dropped the last 4 games and fallen to 16th, as the continued absence of Ben Cunnington with back issues (Most likely from carrying his teammates), plus Jack Ziebell has blunted North’s midfield, while up forward, Ben Brown has performed like a 3-wheeled shopping trolley.

In short, both teams slightly stink.

Last year’s contest in Round 11 was Rhyce Shaw’s first game as North coach after Brad Scott abruptly stood down, and the Roos enjoyed the new coach bounce by pumping the Tiges by 6 goals, and aside from Brown and Mason Wood creaming Richmond’s key defenders, the trademark from that game was how physical the Roos got with the Tiges, particularly Cam Zurhaar, who put on 11 tackles in a sign of things to come, and based on last week against Essendon, the Bull is well and truly on to send someone back to their hotel in a casket.


Sunday


Carlton (8th) vs Port Adelaide (1st) at the Gabba, 1:05pm AEST

The Gabba might be an unofficial certainty to host the Grand Final, but on Sunday, Carlton and Port Adelaide will face off for the Craig Bradley Cup, named after Braddles, the great South Australian cricketer who played a combined total of 473 games for both clubs.

In a superb performance that was against the trend of 2020 footy, the Blues, despite Patrick Cripps hurting his shoulder early in the evening, demolished the Bulldogs with wave after wave of attack out of the backline, joining Port Adelaide as the only teams to crack the century since the season restart, and the cherry on top was that for the first time since Round 12, 2013, THE BLUES ARE IN THE TOP 8.

If you want to get technical, Carlton were in 8th after Round 23 of 2013 thanks to Essendon’s governance punishments being dished out, but we don’t remember it that way because it sounds funnier laughing at Richmond for losing a final to a 9th placed team.

Also, in a potential historical milestone, Eddie Betts is on 299 goals for Carlton, needing a solitary goal to join Tony Lockett & Buddy Franklin as the only players in league history to kick at least 300 goals for 2 clubs.

The Blues are 2nd for quarters won in 2020, and by sheer luck, the Power team they’re playing has won the most.

After the convincing defeat to the Lions at the Gabba, Port returned to the happy confines of the Carrara Portress, and after a low-scoring tussle that saw the Giants nab the lead early into the last quarter, Port ran them over with the last 4 goals to win by 17 points, which was big for the simple fact that they’d lost the past 5 clashes against the Giants.

Through these opening 6 games, something that’s come to highlight Port is their left-footed roosters – Trent McKenzie is the original Cannon with his ‘Big Bertha’, dating back to his Gold Coast days, and sitting alongside him in the arsenal is Kane Farrell, who continued his rise by launched a beautiful final quarter howitzer against the Giants.

Port have won the last 3 games against the Bluebaggers, but the 2018 and ’19 clashes weren’t decided until the last quarter (Thanks Captain Obvious), and that was WITH Brendan Bolton still coaching, so you’d think that if Cripps is fit that the Blues have got a real live chance, especially with Port being exposed away from the Portress.


Hawthorn (13th) vs Melbourne (15th) at GIANTS Stadium, 3:35pm AEST

Two wild facts for this game between Hawthorn and the only team in history to vote Yes to merging itself out of existence:

This is the first time in the 21st Century that Hawthorn and Melbourne haven’t played each other in a home & away game at the MCG.

The odd reason I bring it up is because even Richmond and Carlton, or even Richmond Melbourne, the two traditional MCG tenants, have played at Docklands in that time.

The other:

Only one current team has a current winning streak of 2+ games against Hawthorn.

The surprising answer?

Melbourne.

That is an absolute fact, which will probably change in the coming weeks for better or worse.


Western Derby 51


Fremantle (14th) vs West Coast (11th) at Optus Stadium, 4:35pm AWST

Typical of Freo to draw the first-ever crowd below 30,000 fans at Optus.

And for a Derby, nonetheless.

Still, a fortnight ago, this game was looking like attracting a worse crowd than 30,000 with how swimmingly the WA teams were travelling on the Gold Coast, but both the Dockers and Eagles finished off their enforced holiday with a wet sail to pump a bag full of air into the lungs of the only ‘AFLM’ Western Derby of the year.

Freo saw off Adelaide to escape the cellar in Round 5, then they promptly went behind by 37 points against a seemingly superior St Kilda, and with 2 players down and Nat Fyfe underdone, the Dockers pulled off the undisputed comeback of the year and won by a goal, after ALMOST blowing a 3-goal lead of their own.

After the 0-4 start on the back of a rather tough draw, the Longmuir-led Purple Hazle is well and truly up and running, and it’ll probably get better, given they probably won’t have to leave WA until 2030.

Praise be to McGowan.

On the other hand, after throwing the toys out the cot when they got to Queensland, the Eagles look like they’re getting their act together, a dodgy assumption I’ve made based on them knocking off the might of the Swans and Crows, and in another major Eagles milestone, for the second time in the past 3 weeks, a Josh Kennedy celebrates his 250th game.

Apparently this one also played in a premiership with lewis Jetta.

With the Eagles winning the last 9 Derbies, a run going back to 2015, the only realistic chance Freo have had of claiming the 4 points over the Eagles has been in the AFLW, where they have the ironic status of being the bigger sibling.

For Freo’s sake, I hope they do a bit better than kicking 2.19 in front of goal.


Monday


Adelaide (18th) vs St Kilda (7th) at the Adelaide Oval, 7:10pm ACST

Monday night locked behind the dark confines of Pay TV.

The Crows really have hit rock bottom.

In another odd fact, the Crows have won the last 10 meetings against the Saints, with their last win coming in Round 18 of 2011, best remembered as the Friday night that finished off Neil Craig’s tenure with the Crows, after kicking their lowest-ever score, as Stephen Milne tore through them like a shark through a whale carcass.

Assuming the Saints don’t wet the bed in the 2nd Half again, that little 9-year run is probably gong to end.

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