Wooden spoon battle.
The AFL is set in the second half of the year to embrace its inner school athletics carnival by staging what looms as a fiercely contested egg and spoon race.
It just so happens that the spoon is wooden, and the egg is prized, and in the form of a number one draft choice.
All 18 teams have now played 11 games. The Giants have two wins, while five clubs have three victories each. Carlton and West Coast are a further rung ahead, having both claimed four scalps, although the Eagles have a sizeable percentage break on the 12th-placed Blues.
Potential number one pick Peter Wright (left) in action for Vic Metro in May. Photo: Joe Armao
What that all means is there is no shortage of sides clambering for bottom spot.
Richmond has had a fall from relative grace (only relative given they surrendered what looked a match-winning lead against Carlton in last year’s finals series). The Tigers’ percentage of 94.1 suggests they should be the 3-8 side most likely to push toward respectability in the season’s back end, but it mustn’t be forgotten that that figure was inflated by Jack Riewoldt’s pulverisation of a thinly stocked GWS backline. Tigers football manager Dan Richardson was loath to write off his club’s chances when he spoke with SEN on Monday, but he also acknowledged the pressing need for Richmond to separate the wheat from the chaff ahead of its 2015 campaign.
Joining them in that mass of mediocrity are the Bulldogs, Saints, Demons and Lions. It is a quartet of differing backgrounds and winding paths to their respective current predicaments. Three of the four sides - Melbourne is the odd one out - share a particularly pressing need: finding a commanding young key forward. In the cases of St Kilda and the Lions, the clear dependence on an ageing champion is an addiction that has to be curbed, but as the Dogs and the slightly better positioned Blues know, goalkicking talls are hard to come by. The spectre of potential first pick Peter Wright, a youth apparently capable of parlaying height into majors, adds another layer of intrigue.
Whereas in 2013 there was no way in which a team such as GWS, Melbourne or St Kilda could could be supplanted in the bottom three by a middling outfit, that reality is no longer as clear.
With finals out of the question, an extra loss here or there in a close season could catapult a team four or five places up in the draft pecking order.
That could in turn be the difference between obtaining a solid contributor or a gun capable of fast-tracking a team's rise up the ladder.
In this age of expansion, even a notionally equalised playing field is still a difficult environment in which to pluck a premiership. But while for 18 clubs there is only one premiership, so too is there just one wooden spoon.
It is that corollary which means breaking out of no man’s land is made all that harder. To gain an edge in such a crowded playing field, and with a Giant threat still poised to clog the early picks, what price then a loss in June, July and August?
Let the race for the egg begin.