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Premierships now a long time coming


Jake Niall

Marc Murphy.

Marc Murphy. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

RON Barassi was mocked when he unveiled a five-year plan for Melbourne in the early '80s. The five-year plan was fine for Chairman Mao, but to the impatient football fan, it seemed an intolerably long time span for seeking a premiership.

Yet, in 2012, five years undersells the period it takes to build a premiership from scratch. On recent trends, it takes a minimum of seven or eight years to win a premiership if a club doesn't have a strong base of ''residual'' senior players on which to build.

In round one, we were reminded of how far Melbourne and Richmond still have to travel on their journey to premiership contention, much less to a drought-breaking flag. The Demons really began their total rebuild in 2008 when they bottomed out; Richmond, which had even fewer senior players who might be around for the good times, were probably in year zero when Damien Hardwick took over in 2009 and half a dozen veterans were culled. The Tigers, fortunately, had already uncovered three pillars in Trent Cotchin, Brett Deledio and Jack Riewoldt.

Thus, unless free agency dramatically accelerates the cycles, the Demons and Tigers will not be in contention for a flag until 2015 at best, and that's assuming they make the right calls; Melbourne arguably has been pushed back another year or two by losing Tom Scully, since the first-round draft picks the Demons received for Scully have yet to be utilised - that will happen in this year's draft, when they pick up father-son recruit Jack Viney.

When Mark Thompson arrived at Geelong after the 1999 season, the Cats had a declining core. By the time they'd smashed Port in the 2007 grand final, en route to an extraordinary era, only five players from that 1999 list remained in the premiership 22: Matthew Scarlett, Tom Harley, David Wojcinski, Darren Milburn and former captain Steven King.

''Certainly Geelong's experience was seven years [until contention],'' said Cats football operations chief Neil Balme. ''That's probably as good an indication.''

Carlton bottomed out in 2002 and 2003, but were denied early draft picks in those years (with the exception of one choice) due to the draconian penalties for salary cap cheating; hence, for the Blues, year zero didn't arrive until 2005, when Marc Murphy and Josh Kennedy were selected at picks No. 1 and No. 4 in the same draft. Seven years have passed, Bryce Gibbs, Matthew Kreuzer, Chris Yarran and Chris Judd have joined Murphy (with Kennedy traded for Judd) and, for the first time in more than a decade, the Blues are regarded as a bona fide flag contender.

Carlton was similar to the Tigers and Demons in that it didn't have much of a foundation of senior players, or even 22 to 23-year-olds, on whom to construct a contending team.

This is in contrast to Hawthorn, which won the 2008 premiership in year four for Alastair Clarkson, Lance Franklin, Jarryd Roughead and Jordan Lewis. The Hawks, however, had actually started the process in 2001, when they traded Trent Croad, picked up Luke Hodge with pick No. 1 and pulled off a blinder by selecting a small, slow VFL midfielder called Sam Mitchell.

That flag team was equally divided 11-11 between players from Peter Schwab's five-year term as coach and Clarkson's. Collingwood, which lost grand finals in 2002-03, dived down - some would say semi-intentionally - in 2005 and snared Dale Thomas and Scott Pendlebury. The Pies are seen by rival clubs as a different case, having a longer chronological spread of players, over a decade, while adding Darren Jolly and Luke Ball and expediting their premiership.

Jolly and Ball were tantamount to free-agent acquisitions, which raises the question - and hope for the Tigers, Demons and even the new expansion clubs - that the process can be sped up by free agency. ''These are things that may well change with the freeing up of the market,'' said Balme.

11 comments so far

  • Carlton's punishment for cheating the system was 'draconian' ??
    They should have been stripped of a premiership, they got off very lightly.

    Jesse Pinkman
    Date and time
    April 04, 2012, 9:42AM
    • How can you say "draconian penalties for salary cap cheating". The penalties were justified. In fact, they were way too soft if you ask me. Carlton should have also been stripped of their 1995 Premiership as well. CHEATS !

      John D - 1968
      Date and time
      April 04, 2012, 11:44AM
      • Well, read the articles and coverage, 'The Age' loves Carlton!

        Date and time
        April 04, 2012, 12:53PM
        • Yup, and as the AFL continues to add more teams, it get statistically even harder to win a premiership.

          f every team was going to win a premiership, and allowing that a team will be top two material for 3 years, it works out the occurrence of winning a premiership is greater than once every 20 years

          When Barassi said 5 years, there were only 12 teams.

          The 18 we've got now is far too many. There needs to be more reward for fans.

          I suggest a two "draws" concept - kinda like tennis with its two sided draws - and with seeding to balance the draws each year so one draw doesn't get loaded with strong teams.

          Add a a couple more teams so there's two draws of 10, and every team in each draw could play each other twice (18 rounds) then you have a finals series of 4 weekends to determine two premiers - thus fans and sponsors are rewarded more often, and take the top two from each side and run them thru a final 4 system to get the all Australia champion.

          With the two "draws" system, it would still take 20 plus years to win an all-Australia final, but much less to win a premiership.

          And for the AFL, they get 7 weekends of finals and 25 weekends of footy - and the two grand finals wouldn't have to be played at the MCG.

          Seems to me, everyone would be happier!

          Date and time
          April 04, 2012, 1:30PM
          • Good article. There are many fans out there that need to be realistic at thier clubs chances of reaching the Grand Final let alone winning one.

            Date and time
            April 04, 2012, 2:14PM
            • As far as AFL Investigations into Salary Cap rorting are concerned - the AFL fully investigated Carlton and found there was no salary cap breaches in relation to the 1995 Premiership.

              In fact the only AFL Club to be guilty of Salary Cap breaches in a Premiership Year is Essendon in 1993 - so if any club should be stripped of a premiership its Essendon not Carlton.

              Date and time
              April 04, 2012, 3:56PM
              • Agree with @Jesse and @JohnD. Penalties for Carlton were entirely fair.

                This sounds a little biased Jake.

                As an aside, if you're reading these comments, what should have the penalties have been if the ones instituted were "draconian"?

                Date and time
                April 04, 2012, 4:04PM
                • In 1993 Essendon became the only club to have been found guilty of cheating the salary cap in a premiership year.

                  Carlton were found not to have been cheating the cap the year they won in 1995.

                  Have a nice day.

                  Date and time
                  April 04, 2012, 4:10PM
                  • "Free Agency" works both ways, and top players will not go to rubbish clubs with no hope of success unless they are paid WAY over the odds - which will then cripple the lower clubs who do not have money to throw around.

                    Only when clubs have everything going for them will they improve on their direct competitors, and history has shown us that the strugglers just don't do well enough in every required area to make significant progress.

                    The new franchises have more chance of a Premiership in the next decade than the perennial stand-alone Melbourne based "Make up the numbers" clubs.

                    Date and time
                    April 04, 2012, 5:45PM
                    • I tihnk you have your communist leaders mixed up; it was Stalin who is best known for his five-year plans, not Chairman Mao.

                      Date and time
                      April 04, 2012, 6:21PM

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