Halfway Report and Thoughts from Arden Fast
The Old Blue Stager's Half-time Review
With 11 rounds completed, it is an opportune time to look at season 2006 from the unique (15th on the ladder) perspective of a Carlton supporter. As the crude old joke has it : "We're a cure for constipation, everyone ***** on us. For Carlton the season has been mostly dismal. The shock victory over Melbourne in round 1, when the Demons were clearly caught off guard, seemed to promise a better season.
Since then only the satisfying defeat of an injury-hit second-string Essendon has interrupted the sequence of defeats. They've come in a variety of forms. St. Kilda took Carlton to the cleaners. The 92 point margin flattered the Blues rather than the Saints, so comprehensive was their dominance. Collingwood made a similar mess of the Blues (72 points), but they only took a half to do the job - Carlton led at half-time. Port Adelaide and Adelaide toyed with Carlton. There was a dismal effort against Hawthorn, who were travelling well at the time before their form slump. Narrow but decisive losses were suffered against Sydney, Richmond, Fremantle and West Coast. So neither Carlton's past, present nor immediate future warrants much comment.
Looking to the competition as a whole, Adelaide and West Coast appear to be the stand-out teams. Both appear to be capable of playing through poor spells - whether within a single match or over a sequence of games. They also seem to have sufficient depth to cope with all but catastrophic injuries*. The next line of possible contenders are Sydney, St. Kilda, Melbourne and Collingwood. The ability of each of these teams to mount a serious challenge to Adelaide and West Coast depends on their ability to keep their best side playing and on whether they can maintain consistent good form.
The final two spots in the eight involve up to six teams - Western Bulldogs, Port Adelaide, Fremantle, Richmond, Brisbane and Geelong. It's difficult to see any of these teams being able to finish higher than 7th. In the Bulldogs' case, it's due to the impact of injuries on their limited list; for the others inconsistency as much as the shortcomings of their playing lists are the issue.It's possible one of these teams will find a vein of form, and one of my putative top 6 will drop off, but at present there seems to be significant quality gap between "the 6" and the rest.
The bottom four seems settled, it's difficult to see how things might improve in the short-term for Hawthorn, the Kangaroos, Carlton and Essendon. When they play each other, one side has to win, and doubtless any of them may fluke a game when they catch one of the next level off guard, but otherwise these four teams will be looking to draft day rather than September.
For the record, I think it will be Adelaide's year, with West Coast probably their GF opponent. If St. Kilda sneak into the top four (I frankly doubt that they will), I would suggest that they would reach the Grand Final.Of my "mediocre 6", I think Western Bulldogs and Brisbane will be the two to make up the numbers in the finals.
* By catastrophic injuries, I mean losing a top player for the season (e.g. a Chris Judd) or multiple players for an extended period (St. Kilda's experience with Hamill, Hayes, Kositchzke or the Bulldogs with Darcy, Murphy, Grant are examples).
Some Comments from Arden Fast
"In two aspects North Melbourne stands second to none. One is the loyalty of its supporters. The other is the determination to carry on despite disadvantages. In the face of adversity, which might well have broken the spirit of other men,we find that from the earliest days there were always enthusiasts to fight for North Melbourne."
The Australasian 15 June 1940
An interesting site of amusing football trivia.
An extract from a piece on North Melbourne
North supporters had seen the light and were now glowing in its energy and life, as a host of superstars dominated the competition as true Warriors of the Shinboner Spirit. Dench, Cable, Barassi, Schimmelbusch, Greig, Crosswell, Keenan, Kekovich et al. were not only supremely talented, but their contributions were deified by the Spirit that had chosen them to reveal to the world Her glory and Her power. All were courageous. All were brilliant. But, at the same time, all were humble - it had been the Spirit who had been the source of their capacity to captivate the football world. Even Malcolm Blight, the greatest South Australian (and, by definition, Australian) ever, would readily concede that only the majesty and righteousness of the Shinboner Spirit could match anything the greatest state in the world had to offer. By the way, Glenn Archer will always be the Shinboner of the Millennium, but even the Spirit recognises that Malcolm Blight is bigger than even the greatest accolade ever awarded for a league footballer, for He is immortal. And the Spirit also created Mick Nolan to remind all of us that gasometers are indeed beautiful too.