Friday, June 09, 2006

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.

Round 11

My Selections

8 0ut of 8 last week.

This week

Geelong over Essendon
Richmond over the Kangaroos
Adelaide over the Lions
Sydney Swans over St Kilda (an eight point game for the top four)
Port over Hawthorn (risky, Port are due for a bad game)
Bulldogs over Fremantle
West Coast over Carlton
Melbourne over Collingwood (optimistic again)

The Bomber Preview

This week Essendon are playing Geelong, who hopefully will be demoralized after losing against West Coast after seeming to have the game sown up. Essendon will have to improve a lot. One of the worrying things against Adelaide was Essendon’s lack of ability to win in the centre square and at bounce downs around the ground—this is critical in modern football. Another thing that Essendon must improve on is their kicking for goal from set shots—they have missed a lot of very gettable shots in the last two weeks.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Round Ten

Some risky tips this week, only three results seem assured although the Collingwood crowd would say four.

My selections

Adelaide over Essendon
West Coast Eagles over Geelong
Western Bulldogs over Hawthorn (Hawks due for a good game)
Collingwood over Brisbane Lions (Lions sending out warning signals lately)
Fremantle over Richmond (risky).
Swans over North Melbourne
Port over Carlton (if Port can play four quarters)
Melbourne over St Kilda (optimisitic)

A clean sweep!!

Port vs Carlton from the Old Blue Stager

Carlton 84 lost to Port Adelaide 118

After a brief yelp early, Carlton succumbed so completely, that the game was over by quarter time. A few weeks earlier Port Adelaide had looked like genuine members of the once mighty now hopeless sector of the AFL (Essendon and Carlton are the full members); then they had run into form against the easy beats. Here they validated the adage "form is temporary, class is permanent", as players like C. Cornes, Dew (how come he is often dropped?) and Pearce revealed the gulf in skill level which has left Carlton floundering so often in recent years.

It's the more galling for this characteristic having been the trade mark of Carlton sides for most of the previous forty years.In any case, a meaningless last quarter rally reduced the margin from 10 goals to an absurdly flattering 34 points.

In his dominant years at North Melbourne, Denis Pagan often referred to such scoring as junk time goals. Sadly for the Blues, these days junk time often begins at the half-time interval, and on particularly dire days like this one at quarter-time.The usual suspects were the chief contributors - Murphy, our shining light in this bleak era, Whitnall, Scotland, Fevola and Thornton.

The Bomber Report

The less said about the match against Adelaide the better. It was a debacle— they never gave up, but were simply outclassed. I have been following Essendon since 1951 and have never seen a worse performance. The only thing that comes close to it was a match we saw against Melbourne at the MCG in 1956 when Essendon was held goal less in the first half. However, that was simply one of those days and in any case the Melbourne teams of that era were truly great sides. Essendon went on to play in the 1957 and 1959 grand finals against Melbourne, both of which they lost. You could get long odds about Essendon playing in a grand final in the next three seasons.

The Richmond Report

Richmond have been ugly but magnificent over the past few matches following their caning at the hands of the incumbent premiers.Widely criticized for their tactics of playing "keepings off", otherise know as "tempo football", the Tigers have made more than expected out of a list of players low in skill, experience, and big game hardening.They have shown great character and discipline, and have been quickly blooding new young players who appear to have potential.

The performance against Fremantle was creditable. Without Richardson, Delidio and Brown we still were competitive, and just ran out of legs and skill under pressure at the end. Again our midfield was good. Coghlan had his best game of the year, and Tuck was his usual reliable self. The umpiring certainly favoured the home side. All up, however, the best team strode over the line first.I look forward to watching the upcoming Richmond games now. We will, it seems, give as good as we can each week.'Eat em alive"

The Bomber Preview

This week Essendon play Adelaide on Friday night in Adelaide. The signs are not good. The best chance of beating Adelaide in Adelaide is to jump them. Adelaide supporters are a weak bunch and make very little noise if Adelaide is behind—on the other hand if they hit the front they go beserk. The main injury risk around Football Park in Adelaide is tripping over all the hand bags around the place

Round nine

Last week, six out of eight after the first two selections went down.


Western Bulldogs to beat Collingwood (WB lost a key player in the first half)
Geeloing to beat Richmond (call for a swab!)
Adelaide to beat Carlton
Port to beat Essendon (just too many leading players not on deck)
Sydney Swans to beat the Hawks
Brisbane to beat Freo
St Kilda to beat the Kangaroos
Western Eagles to beat Melbourne (not by much!)

The Bomber Report

Watching the game against Port Adelaide was not a pleasant experience for Essendon supporters. Up until half time they were quite competitive and if they had kicked straight Essendon would have been at least level with Port Adelaide. Some strange umpiring decisions did not help either. After half time it was a bit of a debacle. Once again there was some odd coaching particularly in the first quarter when Hille was left stranded in the forward line at the same time the very youing Essendon rucks were being flogged in the centre.

The Old Blue Stager Report

Adelaide 124 d. Carlton 60

Ho hum! another week, another comprehensive regulation loss by the Blues. Even the pattern of the match was familiar. Carlton make a strenuous effort for a while - this week a spirited second quarter. However, the class gap eventually takes its toll, the superior opponents exploit the Blues' abysmal ball usage, and with Andrew McLeod showing some of his Norm Smith medal form, together with the wizardry of Goodwin and Burton, the second half took its inevitable course.

Matthew Lappin who has had a nightmare season showed glimpses of his best, Lance Whitnall worked effectively at both ends and Heath Scotland was a fine player. However, Carlton had too many passengers, even if there was no lack of application.

The Club is in dreadful straits, a spiral of poor results, disaffected support, straitened financial circumstances which are progressively deteriorating, and no turning point in sight. Supporters of other Victorian Clubs (at least) are enjoying the schadenfreude of Carlton's torment. Meantime the Blues who lack even a memory of such a sustained bleak period seem also to lack the resources to turn things around.

This week brings Port Adelaide to Telstra Dome to face the Blues. Arch-rivals Essendon have conveniently played the Power back into form, so that this game which had seeemed eminently winnable now is probably a bridge too far.