Four big questions facing footy
At the start of every footy season, there are a host of big questions we can’t wait to be answered.
This year’s poser is will we see Round 1 – and how long will we get before the coronavirus situation puts the season on hold.
Most importantly, footy is secondary to the health concerns of people around the world. It’s vital that we respect the decisions made by those in charge of keeping us all as safe as possible, even in the face of such uncertainty for fans and footballers.
I’ve watched the landscape change dramatically and put myself inside a footy club through these never-before-seen times.
I have taken a look at the impact of coronavirus on the competition, and a couple of other burning questions, as we draw closer to the start of the most bizarre AFL season in history.
How does coronavirus impact season?
As we stand right now, nothing is certain in the world, let alone the world of footy. It looks as if we will get footy this week. Any delay to the start of the AFL season would certainly have an impact on players and teams.
Clubs employ an army of fitness staff and medical experts to ensure players hit Round 1 ready to play. Moving that start line around would be very difficult to cater for but still could happen as things change hourly.
Footy is secondary to the health concerns of people around the world. If we were to lose time, however, and adjust the season to 17 games then it would be an interesting study in the evening up of the competition’s draw. At the moment, the draw is the most unfair advantage or disadvantage a team can get. We really need to play 17 games or 34 games per season to balance it out.
A delayed start to the season would probably hurt those lower-ranked teams from last year the most because the likes of Gold Coast and Melbourne are ready to play now. The teams who played deeper into the finals might get some time to catch up on fitness and start on a level playing field.
At the moment, we expect things to start with no fans. I watched the NBL finals series without the crowd allowed in and thought that it had no impact on the quality or motivation of the players on the court. They, like the AFL players, were ready to go and did their job. It’s been a hard and intense series and they just went at it really professionally.
You know you’ve got fans, media and coaches watching, so you’re going to get all-out effort from players. I think the biggest impact would come for teams like Melbourne heading to play West Coast in Perth. Usually that crowd is very influential for the home team so it will be a benefit for teams visiting, you would think.
Will the real Dees please stand up?
Last year for Melbourne was unacceptable. If they had won 11 games and missed the finals, then I think with all their injuries it would have been a disappointment, but a pass. The way they plummeted is why so many questions were asked and why they are probably the team under most pressure heading into the new season.
They’ve got the talent and list to be that preliminary final team they were in 2018, so there’s really no excuses this year. They’ve got a coach in his fourth year in Simon Goodwin who, if they don’t make the finals this year, is going to be under enormous pressure.
I haven’t spoken to Goody over the summer but you can see the structure around him this season is different. Alan Richardson has come in and will be a great person to have in the footy club. Richo is a steady hand and I think Goody himself would have learned a lot last year, so I am fascinated to watch how they play in 2020.
I’ll back Goody and the team to bounce back in 2020.
The best player is …
It’s very difficult to just settle on one. Every team has standout players and they are elevated by their side’s ability to not allow the individuals weaknesses to be exposed.
Dustin Martin is an outstanding talent and being in the Richmond side has allowed him to play his destructive and attacking way. We have got a great batch of superstars spread across the competition in 2020 and that has always been the case.
I would love to see the impact and numbers of Robert Harvey, Nathan Buckley or Greg Williams if they weren’t getting tagged.
The fact that some of these elite modern midfielders get to play on their own terms baffles me. It is ridiculous coaching.
Ben Jacobs at North Melbourne was doing an incredible job quelling the best player in the opposition every week, George Hewett started doing it for Sydney with great effect last year, and every team should be doing it.
We are lucky to have so many brilliant players across the game but they’re also lucky to be getting so much time and space to strut their stuff.
Do we need to find more goals in the game?
That’s always an interesting one we focus on. What I do know is that talent can kick goals but discipline wins you big games and grand finals.
Last year, early on, the Hawks couldn’t score because their talent, or best players, weren’t available. Clarko didn’t panic and stuck to his style and all of a sudden they are kicking scores again in the back half of the year.
Sydney was in the same boat. They lost 10 games by 22 points or less. Now, that was on the back of their system. If they get Lance Franklin back and playing well they probably win half of those 10 and have a really competitive season again.
The game is, and always will, evolve. The coaches at the moment who can get their team to kick 12-16 goals with a strong defensive mindset will be the ones who are most successful. And fans want success more than scores.