The strangest season in AFL history is about to get real for the following 10 teams, but only eight of them will play finals football and in turn give themselves a chance to take home the Premiership Cup. AFANA runs the slide rule over where your club can finish after what should be another crazy round of footy. If your team isn’t mentioned below, it’s time to start thinking about next year…
The Collingwood Magpies were surprised by the Fremantle Dockers with a shock defeat at Optus Stadium. The Dockers were harder at the ball and used pace to outrun their more experienced opponents, and recorded their first genuine home victory in this unusual season. A first quarter where a team failed to score would normally have a coach ranting, but Justin Longmuir was impressed with how his young players handled their higher profile opponents. What the young Dockers lacked in skill was compensated with by endeavor. They were first to the ball and won more than their share of contested possessions. A team of hungry committed players will often defeat a better credentialled team, and the Dockers showed that if a team can get enough players to the ball, the chances of winning are increased. A bit of straight kicking also helps.
The high-flying West Coast Eagles dominated fellow premiership favorites, the Collingwood Magpies, in a game that was more of a show for the Eagles than a game of football. While there was no running onto the arena from the inside of an inflatable Eagle and no show girls dancing, there was still plenty of razzle-dazzle as West Coast rang rings around the befuddled Collingwood Magpies. Freak goals from either pocket by Josh Kennedy and a near-certain behind (worth a point) converted to a goal (worth six points) by Oscar Allan (courtesy of a freak bounce of the ball and frozen Collingwood defenders) added to the entertainment. Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley succinctly surmised after the game. "We played our Washington Generals role really well today to the West Coast Globetrotters." The allusion to the Harlem Globetrotters was appropriate, as the Eagles could do nothing wrong and the Pies could do little more than spectate after the early going, as the Eagles put on a demonstration of classic dry weather football.
Geelong supporters usually grumble when their team has to travel an hour to Melbourne to play a "home" game against Collingwood at the MCG. Even in their wildest dreams they couldn't envision their team traveling across the nation to play a home game against Collingwood in Perth. Yet in a football world turned upside-down by COVID-19, that is what just happened; and for the Cats the result was not good. In a cold and wintry Perth night, the Pies seemed right at home in the stadium normally reserved for the Eagles and the Dockers. A crowd of 22,000 braved the elements and entry restrictions, to be treated to moments of sparkling football as Collingwood's Jordan de Goey shone bright in the forward line; and a resurrected Adam Treloar and imperial Scott Pendlebury ruled the midfield. Before this game, the Cats were the most attacking team in the league, but the Pies denied them space and shut them down with fierce tackling and rock solid defense.
A cool winter’s evening with virtually no breeze greeted the two teams that lead the way back for the competition onto the MCG after the long break due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There was no crowd allowed in the massive stadium save for a handful of officials and some artificial crowd cutouts behind the goals. The ground was slippery from a heavy dew. Pre-match saw both teams randomly spread around the center circle and ‘take a knee’ in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. It was almost 3 months ago that round 1 was completed and for players and fans of the game, the long wait was over.
Richmond won the toss and chose to kick to the city end. It was Collingwood who scored first when Taylor Adams roved a boundary throw-in and snapped on the run from 40m out. Tom Phillips followed up with a second for Collingwood with a set shot goal.
Australia's Channel Seven is looking at how it will cover the games once the season resumes. They have announced that commentators would do their work remotely from a studio rather than at the grounds. However, there could still be broadcast team members, such as boundary riders, at the grounds. One member of the that team, Brian Taylor would still conduct postgame interviews with players and do so remotely. According to Seven boss Lewis Martin, they are looking at "... COVID versions of 'Roaming Brian'.''
After the conclusion of the opening, so far only, round of the season a number of SEN listeners called in saying they missed the roar of the crowds and suggested artificial crowd noise. Seven has been trialing the use of artificial crowd noise but Martin said the network " ... would not innovate 'for innovation's sake' ... there's so many ideas. We're certainly looking at a number of innovations." The use of artificial crowd noise was tried for the GWS vs Geelong match. Martin did not think viewers would miss crowd noise if a game scores were tight.
The Supplemental Signing Period (SSP) ran from December 1 through March 13, allowing clubs to sign rookie players provided they had room on their lists and salary caps. A number of clubs took advantage of the period to round out their playing lists.
Concerned with the poor depth in the ruck and up forward with Tom Bellchambers injured and the return of Joe Daniher (groin) still indefinite, the Bombers have signed former swimming champion Henry Crauford under the SSP rules. Crauford, 22 years old and 6'3", competed in swimming at state and national levels before returning to football in 2016. He played for Norwood in the SANFL in 2019 and played 19 games for Norwood's reserves side. Several clubs showed some interest in Crauford but he was overlooked in last year's draft. Athletic and with good endurance for his size, he can play both ruck and as a tall forward.
After the Farmer story broke, former Hawk premiership player and 1987 Brownlow Medalist John Platten spoke on SEN's breakfast show. He said the revelation about Farmer was "pretty scary". Platten said he suffered at least 40 concussions during his 18-year career which began in the SANFL. One of those concussions was suffered during the brutal 1989 Grand Final against Geelong. He was so badly concussed in that game, he remembers very little about it and, to this day, cannot remember receiving his premiership medal.
St Kilda's Paddy McCartin has ruled himself out of the 2020 season due to ongoing concussion issues. McCartin, 23, was the number one selection in the 2014 draft but has played just 35 games since debuting in 2015. He has suffered eight concussions since 2014, the last coming in a 2019 preseason game. Former Saint Nick Dal Santo was a boundary commentator during that game. When the news broke that McCartin would not play in 2020. Dal Santo recalled the incident on SEN Radio, saying it appeared to be a "light brush" of the head, but with McCartin's history, it was enough to put him in a bad way. He has been unable to run or train since then.
This was supposed to be a one sided affair. The in-form Collingwood taking on the injury hit and sixth seeded Greater Western Sydney Giants with the result surely leading to a Richmond vs Collingwood Grand Final, to the delight of the AFL and Melburnians. The only problem with this narrative was that the Giants didn’t read the script.
In one of the biggest surprises in recent Preliminary Final history, GWS stunned the locals by first taking a big lead, then by defending grimly when a late Collingwood surge looked like taking the Magpies back to the Grand Final in consecutive seasons. The end result shows the Giants winning by just 4 points, but so much happened throughout this game. A frantic last quarter, that a crowd of mostly 70,000 strong Collingwood fans were left as empty shells in a roller coaster of a final.