On the nose: Melbourne was humiliated again at the weekend.

On the nose: Melbourne was humiliated again at the weekend. Photo: Joe Armao

It wasn't a great weekend for AFL football. Friday night's top-of-the-table clash between Hawthorn and Essendon proved a mismatch, and from there things got worse, on and off the field.

Saturday's games proved uninspiring and, in a couple of instances, woeful, the enormous gap between the best and worst football has to offer made apparent again, and for the stragglers, the last month of an unsuccessful season looking an eternity.

Then came the shock of the resignation of Essendon chairman David Evans, the cue for another round of the angst, spite and hand-wringing which is increasingly becoming part of the drugs saga.

James Podsiadly takes a screamer in the second quarter against St Kilda.

James Podsiadly takes a screamer in the second quarter against St Kilda. Photo: Pat Scala

As the invective flew again, AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou, to the raised eyebrows of many, was setting off for New York, leaving behind a sea of discontent, and a season which, to be frank, isn't going that swimmingly.

The timing of Demetriou's excursion, along with four club presidents and AFL Players Association boss Matt Finnis, to meet representatives from the NFL, the NBA and MLB is going to cause more anger.

Not that the intentions aren't good. The topic up for discussion is equalisation strategies, and a look at how US professional sports go about maintaining consistently competitive leagues. Is it, though, a case of fiddling while Rome burns? Even on that topic.

There are enough examples – Port Adelaide this year for one – that the link between off-field prosperity and on-field success isn't necessarily inextricable. I'm more concerned that the football community is being conditioned to accept a lack of competitiveness in the shorter term, from game to game.

The fact that club supporters have in recent years condoned the concept of tanking for more or more favourable draft picks is a concern in itself. But in an even more immediate sense, so were a couple of things that happened on Saturday.

I attended a game of junior football that morning, and felt I was still watching one during the Melbourne-North Melbourne clash at Etihad Stadium.

Seven minutes into the second quarter, Melbourne had, incredibly, gone inside its forward 50 twice for the game. At AFL level, that is a complete joke.

The final wash-up wasn't a lot more flattering, North Melbourne not necessarily even playing that well yet still winning by 122 points.

The Demons managed four goals for a game in perfect conditions and conceded 18 of the last 19.

The same evening at Geelong, St Kilda also lost by more than 100 points, failing to kick a goal after the 15-minute mark of the second quarter and conceding the final 15 of the match.

The Saints lost James Gwilt, Lenny Hayes and Nick Riewoldt, and with them all semblance of resistance, the scoreline more in keeping with the mid-1980s when St Kilda won four wooden spoons in a row.

Could it really have been only four years previously the same two teams had slugged out one of the greatest home and away games we have been privileged to see and an epic grand final in which six points separated them when the final siren rang?

Perhaps even 10 years ago, any side turning in a goalless half, or one barely able to move the ball beyond the centre line, would have been the subject of all sorts of inquisition. These days, there seems barely the batting of an eyelid.

For Melbourne, it was merely a return to the sort of dross the Demons had served up on a weekly basis earlier in the season. “It gives you a real reality check of where we're actually at as a club,” said caretaker coach Neil Craig, as if his side had somehow got ahead of itself on the back of one victory and a couple of reasonable, competitive defeats.

St Kilda coach Scott Watters summed up the Saints thus: “Ultimately to survive in this type of competition you have got to take that. But that has got to drive your training, drive your pre-season and drive your improvement as a club.”

But shouldn't it drive you just a little while the humiliation is in process? Enough even to register a token goal? Or are AFL players of today more prepared to accept “one of those days”. And have the ritual Gold Coast and now Greater Western Sydney beltings of the past few seasons made abject defeat seem more the norm?

There's half a competition now who, with finals chances gone, are just seeing out time, those clubs' coaches and administrations already thinking more about next year than this one. The AFL trip to the US makes it look like central administration is looking even further ahead than that.

Perhaps that accounts for the unmistakeable feeling that it remains somehow oblivious to the here and now which, at the moment for many people who love the game, is a little on the nose.