WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SWANS?

Having now had a little over forty-eight hours to ponder the above question, one that has tormented many a footy pundit since the final siren of 2014 sounded, I think we might usefully split the search for answers into two areas: the general, covering any overall theme that may have affected Sydney; and the specific; players, coaches, injuries etc .

I believe that in this case it is the general theme that might bear the most fruit. Specifically, in the qualifying rounds the Swans were too good for their own good, leaving them in a situation five weeks ago where they were already guaranteed of a home final. Apart from the epic game against Hawthorn at the MCG in round 18 which they LOST by 10 points, the Swans were hardly extended in the last 9 weeks of the season. Hawthorn on the other hand were biting and scratching against Freo and Geelong to ensure they did not have to travel. The Swans rested five top-line players in their round 23 home defeat by Richmond but still finished on top. They then met an undermanned Fremantle who pressed them for a half, had a week off, and played the sixth ranked team, North to make the GF.
When they duly walloped North there was a lot of media focus on the young players like Cunningham, Rohan and Luke Parker, there was a lot of talk of people “playing their roles” but the fact was it was five to six weeks since this team had to play for their lives. They played liked they had forgotten how hard it is to beat a good team, like a batsman’s first hit out in a test after a bunch of 20-20 games, like a team who thought it was more important to ‘play their role’ than win the ball.

Nobody should have been surprised Hawthorn won. The fact they started 6/4 underdogs was ludicrous. I’ll admit I backed them myself. Since the 2012 GF the Swans had played Hawthorn at the MCG three times losing all three times, and perhaps significantly they lost by 54 points in last year’s qualifying final. They almost lost to Richmond at the MCG this year. So it is no surprise Hawthorn won – it was after all a HOME GAME for Hawthorn, not just a home-state game but a game played on their actual home ground. Make no mistake the system that allows a Victorian team to always play the Grand Final on their home ground irrespective of their season ranking, is a corrupt and deficient system. David King surprised many of us some weeks ago when he came up with a stat that showed that among the top five teams playing each other interstate, only 1 game in about 20 had been won by the visiting team – Swans v Port. In the finals Port doubled this number by beating a depleted Fremantle but the stark fact is that in 2014 playing at home was a significant advantage for good sides against other good sides from interstate. In fact the Hawks themselves were unable to beat either Fremantle or Sydney on THEIR home turf. King seemed to forget all this when he tipped the Swans to win by 10 goals.

So I think it is fair to ask, had the Swans and Hawks played in Sydney would the result have been the same? Well the Hawks were good enough to beat Sydney in round 23 of 2013 in Sydney so there’s a fair chance they would have won but would there have been such a blowout?
Perhaps that is where we can go to the specifics of the game and ask would Jetta and Rohan have played as appallingly as they did at the MCG? Probably. Rohan is starting from a long way back and making progress week by week but I doubt he was ready for the pressure of the occasion. Jetta copped a couple of whacks but whether that was why he looked like he was in the pre-game warm-up who knows. The Swans would still have lacked muscle in the ruck, Longmire would still have reacted too slowly as he habitually does, Grundy would still have looked like he was playing with an injury and McVeigh would have played as he had for the last month; in the worst form of his career, whether by injury or mental exhaustion who knows. On the other hand I can’t believe Jack, McGlynn and Parker would have been as poor had they been allowed to prepare under the same routine as the previous month.

The point of course is moot, we will never know because the game was played in Melbourne on the home ground of last year’s premiers who, by the way, got that flag by beating another interstate team in the GF – at least last year they qualified higher.
Yes there will be those who point out that the Swans beat the Hawks in 2012 on the MCG but that is beginning to look like the anomaly not the rule. The Hawks got the Eagles in 91 at Waverly, Geelong in 08, Fremantle in 13 and now the Swans in 14 so 4 out of 5 ain’t bad.

Here’s my conclusion to the question I posed at the outset. The Swans lost because they weren’t good enough to beat a champion team on their home turf. They lost by ten goals instead of three because they were softened up by their own success. Footy to be frank is not about “playing one’s role” so much as winning the ball. But no matter how well Hawthorn played, it in no way justifies the current system. Non-Victorian clubs should not just lay down and accept the nonsense churned out every year by those ex-players and media personalities with their snout in the AFL trough who blithely announce “The MCG is the home of the football and the grand final should always be played there.” David Parkin and Dermot Brereton trotted out this tired old gelding on League Teams, the two ex-Hawks agreeing with one another that there was no advantage to their team in having a home GF. What a surprise! It smacks of the America’s Cup and those who thought it should always be sailed at Newport.
At least the issue was raised on League Teams in a mumble as a passing aside.
Eddie McGuire, the self-appointed champion of fairness and equalisation in football has had plenty to say on everything from COLA to the Swans’ academy but I have yet to hear him once raise the question as to why Victorian teams who finish behind their counterparts over the course of a season should be granted such an advantage as home ground grand final. Oh that’s right, he’s president of Collingwood and that’s their home ground too.

It is possible for non-Vic teams to win grand-finals against Victorian teams but that is not the point. In a season where home ground advantage was shown to be everything the Hawks should have been given the opportunity to prove themselves to truly be the team of the century by beating Sydney in Sydney. Maybe then we all would have had a lot more satisfying game.

WESTBROOK SCREENS THURSDAY AUG28 ON C.I.

Westbrook, the two-part docudrama I worked on for producer Graham McNeice screens on FOX this week and I’ll be watching it with great interest. I was not aware of the notorious Westbrook boys’ home near Toowoomba before my involvement on the project but this is a story that truly needed to be told. From the 50s young Queensland offenders, some just little boys, were sentenced to what amounted to our very own prison camp. It was a harrowing time with the boys brutalised and half-starved in what at best were misguided efforts to reform them. Once in the system the boys were swallowed up and could languish for years before release. Boys were terribly beaten for the most minor of indiscretions, assaulted by fellow inmates and fed maggot riddled food. While many of these boys never shook off the demons of Westbrook, the amazing thing is that some did, risking all for daring escapes or quietly enduring the suffering to emerge as successful men. Graham McNeice was passionate to tell this story and do the right thing by the men who suffered. Good luck to Graham and the men of Westbrook and may it be a lesson to all of us on potential failures within the justice system.

BOGAN GAGS

Going through some old files I found material from the stand-up stuff Johnny Ryan and I did in the early 80s. Here’s a sample.

Q: Which piece of attire would not be found on a true bogan?
A: Black t-shirt
B: White belt
C: Ripped sneakers
D: Crucifix earring

ANS: A – the black t-shirt would have already been ripped off in a fight.

Q: Which sticker would be out of place on a bogan car?
A: Baby on Board
B: Angels Rule
C: Oils Rule
D: INXS Rule

Ans: Not A – one of your bogan mates would have put that on for a joke, D: Michael Hutchence’s skin’s too good.

Q: Where would a bogan prefer to go on a night out?
A: McDonalds
B: Rollerskating
C: Speedway
D: The Opera

Ans A: Spider’s having his 21st there

Q: Which film star is the bogan favourite?
A: Arnold Schwartzenagger
B: Charles Brosnan
C: Chuck Norris
D: Rachel Ward

Ans: D – we’re not poofters and who wouldn’t want to go to bed with Brian Brown

REAL SCOURGE OF FOOTY IS NOT THE BUMP PART 3

In answer to my own question posed in the previous blog in my series about the push in the back, the answer as to who would suffer the next serious injury would appear to be Daniel Cross who has suffered a broken leg because of the cowardly and stupid action of his teammate Tom McDonald in shoving Drew Petrie in the back into Cross.  Cross will now miss at least four weeks maybe double that. One has to ask why McDonald should not be cited for his reckless act, even if the injured player was his own teammate.  This, all against the backdrop of Jaeger O’Meara being checked for shoving Christensen into a collision with Dixon and being let off because Dixon was also shoved in the back by Jared Rivers!  Why weren’t they both Rivers and O’Meara found guilty of reckless play and at least given a suspended sentence? As with the bump, the point isn’t whether they meant to hurt somebody but if somebody is hurt as a result of their reckless actions they deserve to pay the penalty.

REAL SCOURGE OF FOOTY IS NOT THE BUMP PART 2

Proving the point I made in my previous post comes news Josh Kennedy has a fractured cheekbone caused by the canon effect of Nic Nat being shoved in the back by Firrito.  Nic Nat flew, Firrito chose to stay on the ground and shove in the back.  We have serious injuries being caused by this cowardly act and it is time players who choose this action and cause injury face the same consequences as those who do similar via a bump.  Riewoldt, Judd, Lynch now Kennedy, who’s next?

THE REAL SCOURGE OF AFL FOOTY IS NOT THE BUMP

Recent events have highlighted the dark, dangerous action which threatens severe and permanent injury to players. I do not refer to the bump but to that refuge of the desperate, beaten hack, the shove in the back.
Adelaide’s Tom Lynch copped a broken jaw, Nick Riewoldt was KO’d on the field and another champion Chris Judd had his comeback scuppered, all in incidents where they were propelled from behind. In my fifty years of watching footy I have seen many of the worst injuries caused by the shove in the back which is particularly dangerous in a marking contest where a player has left his feet and finds himself catapulted into an elbow or head with no chance of protection. Yet the joke is this cowardly act is rarely even penalised. In any game on any given weekend you can be sure there’ll be an occasion where a player running into an open goal is shoved in the back by some loser in pursuit, causing him to miss. Commentators generally blame the player shooting, “oh he sprayed that” or praise the pursuer “wonderful chase and pressure.” Hey, news morons, it is not “pressure” to shove a player in the back it is an illegal act that should be penalised. I remember a game a couple of years ago where three times Rioli shoved Fremantle players in the back each time resulting in a Hawthorn goal. The commentators were in raptures.
But the player shoved in the back is much more deserving of a free kick than those who duck or leave their feet and are then paid free kicks for incidental high contact. In those instances the disadvantage is self-inflicted but the one area where a player cannot inflict the damage on himself is a shove in the back. On the rare occasion where a bold umpire actually upholds the rule and pays the free you can guarantee he’ll be scoffed at as “soft.” There was nothing soft about the injury Judd received, and he wasn’t even paid a free. Thankfully, from what I can see of the Tom Lynch incident it looks like an unfortunate accident. Yes, Georgiou is propelling him from behind but it is more acceleration and body pressure, not a violent shove. However Riewoldt is shoved in the back and cops a terrible hit to the head so my question is, why isn’t Rowe, the offender cited for reckless or careless conduct? What’s the difference between a player contesting the ball with a bump and causing an unintentional injury, and a player shoving from behind causing the identical injury? The only difference I can see is that the player shoving isn’t even in the contest and has therefore no defence.
The AFL can’t have it both ways. If they are going to protect players from injury by charging players for careless or reckless acts that may be unintentional then players who cause those injuries by a shove in the back, by diving at the feet of a running player or by tripping, are equally culpable. At the very least let’s have umpires bold enough to pay free kicks to players who are shoved in the back running into an open goal and commentators smart enough to recognise that’s the right call.

THE BEST 50 FOOTBALLERS TO PLAY FOR WA TEAMS

BEST FIFTY PLAYERS FOR WA TEAMS: WAFL, STATE, EAGLES and DOCKERS.

I have been following footy since 1961 when I first listened avidly to the calls of Ollie Drake Brockman, Frank Sparrow and others on Perth radio. In those days there would be a small amount of filmed footage of the WAFL games shown on Saturday nights. Nearly always they showed Polly Farmer leaping in the air for a ruck knock. By 1963 I was actually attending the occasional footy match and from 1964 onwards became a regular. These days of course one can follow all the AFL games via Fox and I virtually never miss seeing a Dockers or Eagles game this way. This background is to help explain my very personal criteria for judging the top 50 players who have represented WA teams, be they state teams, WA-based AFL clubs or WAFL teams. I have made judgments on all the players I have seen live, on TV or listened to descriptions of via radio from 1961 to the present day. This means that I was exposed to only the tip of the iceberg of some players like Jack Clarke and Polly Farmer, so I have been unable to rank them as high as their entire career may well deserve. Originally I attempted to rank the players from 1 (the very best) through to 50 but it became too hard and arbitrary. Instead I have grouped my top 50 into three groups. Two players make the first group by a half-length to the second group and there’s only a lip then to the third group.
I don’t expect anybody to agree with me, not totally anyway. It’s a very personal judgement, how do you compare brilliance with durability and so on. I’ve decided to leave out a few players of enormous skill who I felt left WA too early in their career to make the list. Also, I left out some WA legends who played vast numbers of wonderful WAFL games but I felt didn’t quite have the class to edge their way in.
I look forward to the inevitable abuse and some discussion and urge others to put down their top 50 players.
Just to clarify the criteria – players who between 1961 and 2014 have played for WAFL clubs, State games for WA, or for the Eagles and Dockers. The players do not have to have been born in WA to qualify.

GROUP A – THE MASTERS

CABLE
PEAKE

GROUP B – CHAMPIONS

PAVLICH, D GREEN, M RIOLI, G JACKOVIC, MELROSE, D COX, ROBERTSON, MOSS, PETER MATERA, B COUSINS, KERR, GLENDINNING, MCAULEY, MCKENNA, JOHN MCINTOSH, MALAXOS, BREHAUT, WILEY, WALKER, S MICHAEL, CURTIS, WATLING, JUDD

GROUP C – SUPERB

MAINWARING, WORSFOLD, SLATER, HUNTER, FEATHERBY, SHIELDS, M BROWN, P NARKLE, KEMP, ATWELL, BRENNAN, BAGLEY, F LEWIS, D MARSHALL, M RANCE, SORREL, RALPH, JUDGE, SUMICH, HARDIE, BUCKENARA, JACK CLARKE, G FARMER, DEMPSEY, SANDILANDS
There are of course numerous great players I couldn’t fit in. Here are a few –

HASELBY, HOLLINS, HEADY, BELL, WHINNEN, EAKINS, COUPER, MALARKY, BUHAGIAR, KRAKOUERS, BEASLEY, GEROVICH, SCOTT, YOUNG, FRANCE, PARKER, GIBELLINI, WILSON, IAN MILLER, HARDING, BOUCHER, GNEESHAM, GLASS, PMETROPOLIS, GIBBS, MODRA, MCMANUS, BOSUSTOW, MCPHARLIN. CICCOTOSTO, MAGRO, RANDALL, MONTEATH