The Suns gave Essendon a fright on Saturday night. Photo: Getty Images
THE EARLY crow. We should be used to it in an environment where an "exclusive" can constitute someone talking publicly for the first time in five minutes, and a "crisis" is one defeat, let alone a string of them. But that doesn't make it any less annoying.
There's something about the opening salvos of an AFL season that has both the pundits and public alike elbowing each other out of the way, desperate to make the definitive and dramatic call. And 2012 has already had more than its share.
Take just this handful. Collingwood? Gone already. Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney? An effective bye and an unfair fixturing advantage to those who play them twice. Scores? Going through the roof, the scoreboards struggling to keep up.
Left: the Bulldogs were kept to only five goals against St Kilda. Right: Collingwood can cover for Luke Ball. Photo: Getty Images, Sebastian Costanzo
Let's calmly try to argue the case for a little more considered thinking, as unfashionable as that often now appears. And cite some examples, all recent enough to help those with more goldfish-like memories, as evidence of the dangers of the leap to judgment.
Collingwood, first of all. Yes, the Magpies' start to the year has been ordinary, and yes, injuries are taking a toll. But how can anyone say with certainty that the Pies definitely can't win this year's premiership?
Of course Luke Ball is a big loss to the Magpie midfield. But wasn't it about this time two years ago, in his first season with Collingwood when, after an only so-so start to the season, that people were questioning the wisdom of his recruitment?
Aren't there a few reasonable other parts to the midfield machine? Like a Brownlow medallist in Dane Swan? Another considered among the best handful in the competition in Scott Pendlebury?
Does Dale Thomas ring a bell? Or Sharrod Wellingham and Steele Sidebottom? Or a range of players who can pinch-hit in the midfield with at least some impact - Jarryd Blair or Heath Shaw perhaps? The Pies have hardly been left completely bereft.
Ball is the Pies' third season-long casualty. That hurts. But Andrew Krakouer wasn't there when Collingwood won in 2010. And yes, Brent Macaffer would have been a regular in 2012. But he played only four times last year. That's hardly indispensable.
Incidentally, Collingwood plays Port Adelaide, Essendon, Western Bulldogs and Brisbane Lions over the next month. Would anyone claim it's not a serious chance to win all four and head into round eight with a 5-2 scoreline?
It's all more than a little reminiscent of this same round two years ago, when St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt tore his hamstring tendon from the bone. That was supposed to be ''bye-bye Saints''. Indeed, not only could they not win the flag, they'd be lucky to reach the finals.
Remember how that one panned out? Let's just say one errant bounce of a football late in a drawn grand final five months later certainly saved a score of doomsayers an awful amount of embarrassment.
Now to Gold Coast and GWS. The latter is clearly miles off the pace. For now. But the Suns, as poor as their opening two games were, are somewhat closer. So close that on Saturday night they were still a realistic winning chance against Essendon, a finalist of last season, with less than five minutes to play.
Interestingly, GWS's average losing margin in its first three games is 91. That's less than the 93-point average of the Suns' first three losses in their 2011 debut.
And what happened in Gold Coast's fourth game? That's right. That was the afternoon the Suns gave up a seven-goal start to Port Adelaide away from home and mowed it down to win by three points.
That's not to say GWS is going to similarly stun Adelaide next week. But it should at least send a cautionary note. And the Suns' effort against Essendon might remind a few people that there are no byes in the AFL, and that, at the very least, Gold Coast can be competitive and, at its best, clearly a lot more.
Finally, those cricket scores in 2012? Not a narrative that fitted with the slogs that were Saturday's Fremantle-Brisbane Lions game (13 goals in total), the Bulldogs' five goals on Saturday night, or six single-figure goal scorelines in round two. Indeed, round two produced a lower average score than did round two last year. And after three rounds, the average scoreline in 2012 is just six points up on last year.
Of course, the doozy of all early crows came five years ago when Geelong, with a 2-3 win-loss record, was popularly condemned to mediocrity amid renewed calls for the sacking of coach Mark Thompson.
You'd have to agree three premierships, four grand finals, and 104 wins from 123 subsequent games was a pretty effective retort to that suggestion.
As they sang in Where Have All The Flowers Gone; "When will they ever learn?" Not bloody soon enough for my liking.