JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.



Saving the season

Date

Two great finals have helped rescue Andrew Demetriou's annus horribilis.

Travis Varcoe is tackled by Brad Sewell during Friday night's epic sudden-death final.

Travis Varcoe is tackled by Brad Sewell during Friday night's epic sudden-death final. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

The football year started with the unprecedented punishment of a club for striving to lose games, and was nearly concluded by the time another club was punished for taking extreme measures to win.

Melbourne's tanking wounded the game, then Essendon's exotic supplements turned those wounds into gangrenous sores. Meanwhile, not to be outdone on the scandal score, the St Kilda Football Club's playing group contributed a rape charge and the burning of a dwarf on a Monday that wasn't so much ''mad' as completely brain dead.

I cannot remember a game in which there was more riding on the outcome for the Hawks, who were destined to be cast as footy's Greg Norman had they lost. 

As the season progressed, it was sadly soon apparent that a flat-out Melbourne still wasn't good enough to win, or even to get within eight goals of most teams. That club was so weak that it was placed under AFL supervision, as if it was a child in custodial care. As the finals began, the Demons had found their saviour, but the question remained: Would the finals be the saviour of Andrew Demetriou's annus horribilis?

If Essendon had been taken out of the finals, would the finals - spring time for a battered game - ''take out'' the Essendon story? Could the finals produce contests, subplots and excitement sufficient to salve the wounds that Essendon, plus other catastrophes, had created.

The answer is a qualified ''yes.'' Two games, in particular, have provided a measure of redemption for the AFL.

On the Sunday of the first finals weekend, the long-dormant Richmond Football Club confronted its most hated rival, the Blues, who had come to this game with an asterix affixed to their name, having finished as the lucky ''ninth'' and thus qualified as the substitute.

Nearly 95,000 people flocked to the MCG for this heavily tribal contest. In many ways, this mass rally was really a throwback to the old VFL of the '70s and '80s when the brutal Tigers terrorised the competition and the ruthless Blues had the kind of winning aura and self-confidence that exists at Geelong today.

Richmond, true to type, jumped out and was overrun. Carlton's hold on Richmond - a second-tier version of the Kennett curse - was evident in the third quarter, when its champion Chris Judd, despite a sore knee and depleted athleticism, led the charge.

Carlton's so-so season - 11 home-and-away wins and clearly beneath expectations - was seemingly redeemed in one half.

Criticism of the club for the replacement of Brett Ratten by Mick Malthouse and calls for shake-ups abruptly ceased.

Collingwood had suffered the reverse the night before against the season's Cinderella, Port Adelaide. The Pies' season had been on course for par - the top six, despite injuries and eight debutants - but ended in dissatisfaction and disquiet, with a clamour for cultural change. A couple of goals here and there could change an entire club's outlook, it seemed.

Carlton folk didn't care about where their club stood in relation to Malthouse's premiership clock on that sunny Sunday. They were able to revel in the intoxicating moment. Richmond v Carlton, really, was a celebration of footy's tribalism. The highlight wasn't a mark, goal or even the comeback. It was the roaring goose-bump atmosphere - all the more celebrated for the fact that it cannot be replicated at the AFL's shamefully corporatised and neutralised grand final.

If Carlton v Richmond was a great occasion, Friday evening's preliminary final was just a great game. Alastair Clarkson struck the right note in comparing Hawthorn and Geelong to Federer v Nadal. There was recognition from both clubs that they have elevated one another's station. Without Hawthorn to conquer, Geelong would be the lesser and vice versa.

I cannot remember a game in which there was more riding on the outcome for the Hawks, who were destined to be cast as footy's Greg Norman had they lost. Who knows what scars and consequences might have ensued? Clarkson, not known for his appreciation of the Divinyls, astutely remarked on the ''fine line between pleasure and pain''. For Hawthorn, this was a great and glorious escape. To win a grand final berth from 20 points behind at three-quarter time, while fighting collective anxiety and a formidable adversary, takes some character. Sam Mitchell and Shaun Burgoyne were the steady hands that steered the ship to safety.

Geelong had entered the game without great form or Corey Enright, yet with that Olympian self-belief - especially in relation to Hawthorn - intact. The Cats' advantage was in their greater composure and speed, but they tired in the final quarter, as Hawthorn took complete ownership of the ball. The extra game for Geelong (and the week's break for the Hawks) surely was decisive. The Cats will need to sort out their rucks, which cost them the Fremantle final and thus, in all probability, a grand final berth.

That the Hawks were clearly jittery - missing targets by foot and relatively easy shots - added to the drama and the sense that this was a match that would define their legacy. A defeat would have completed the journey from ''kill the shark'' (Clarkson's famed pre-game address in the 2008 grand final) to becoming football's Shark (as in Norman). Still, if they lose next week, though, it will be for naught. The Hawks are the only club for which a premiership is the pass mark in 2013.

This was not the case for the Cats, whose astonishing, rapid rebuild continues while they compete for the premiership. The Cats will lose more veterans. Josh Hunt, unfortunately, played one game too many. His replacement by Josh Caddy was timely and nearly won the night. The performances of Caddy, Jordan Murdoch and the electric Steven Motlop underscored that the Cats need to shove a couple of veterans in order to make room for the next batch, in what is a very tricky balancing act.

Hawthorn's victory gives it an opportunity for a day of atonement on Saturday. For the AFL, Friday night's curse-killer - and the Richmond-Carlton classic - have already atoned a little for a season lost.

12 comments so far

  • "If Essendon had been taken out of the finals, would the finals - spring time for a battered game - ''take out'' the Essendon story? Could the finals produce contests, subplots and excitement sufficient to salve the wounds that Essendon, plus other catastrophes, had created."

    Not if your star reporter CW has anything to do with it. Like a bitter dog with a bone she'll continue bring the game into disrepute long after the issue is closed.
    Too bad she is not as keen to find out why the AFL don't want the issue to go to court.

    Commenter
    CCC
    Location
    CCC
    Date and time
    September 22, 2013, 6:15PM
    • CCC she is in fact very keen to find that out. The AFL won't leak it to her though.

      Commenter
      Laki
      Location
      Windy Hill
      Date and time
      September 22, 2013, 8:52PM
    • CCC like a dog with a bone the jaded folk continue to bemoan CW. Move on.

      Jake pleased to see the Tigers back in the finals no matter how short it was.

      Commenter
      ljb
      Date and time
      September 22, 2013, 9:38PM
  • Well may you say "God save the Queen", because nothing will save the AFL Commission!!!

    Commenter
    Gordie
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    September 22, 2013, 8:08PM
    • LOL, you took the words out of my mouth you rotten so and so :)

      Commenter
      Gough
      Date and time
      September 22, 2013, 9:37PM
  • Jake - I think you have the allocation of your asterisk's all mixed up.

    Carlton is not the football club with the asterisk, that honour belongs solely and fairly and squarely with Essendon.

    Commenter
    Michael
    Location
    Sunbury
    Date and time
    September 22, 2013, 8:22PM
    • Cats v Collingwood 2007 prelim was the grand final.

      Commenter
      gauge501
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      September 22, 2013, 8:24PM
      • on the money gauge501, it was Geelong's GF and the following week was their parade!

        Commenter
        Vic Mick
        Date and time
        September 22, 2013, 8:33PM
    • My lingering memory of the season is how the media who seemed particularly well informed about the progress of an ostensibly confidential enquiry, and the 17 other clubs bullied Essendon and three of its four officials into accepting a settlement which defied the concepts of natural justice. The AFL capitulation when Dr Reid pursued his court action was breathtaking, and sufficient to cast doubt on the severity of the sentences imposed upon the other parties involved.

      Commenter
      TF Siaf
      Location
      Cheltenham 3192
      Date and time
      September 22, 2013, 9:12PM
      • CCC, calling CW a 'bitter dog' reflects very poorly on you. I think you will find that every person who is not a moronic Essendon fan can't really believe that they still trying to destroy themselves. Employing someone who has just ruined the club for th next 5 years-genius!

        Commenter
        SimonERickson
        Location
        WA
        Date and time
        September 22, 2013, 10:20PM

        More comments

        Make a comment

        You are logged in as [Logout]

        All information entered below may be published.

        Error: Please enter your screen name.

        Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

        Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

        Error: Please enter your comment.

        Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

        Post to

        You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

        Thank you

        Your comment has been submitted for approval.

        Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

        HuffPost Australia

        AFL 2016

        Round 1
        Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
        RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
        Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
        MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
        GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
        NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
        SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
        Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
        WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
        PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
        WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
        Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
        GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
        View All Fixtures
        Round 2
        Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
        COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
        Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
        ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
        ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
        BRI vs NTH 16:35G
        STK vs WBU 19:25ES
        FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
        GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
        HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
        CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
        View All Fixtures
        Round 3
        Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
        PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
        Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
        STK vs COL 13:45MCG
        RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
        SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
        GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
        WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
        NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
        WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
        GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
        View All Fixtures
        Round 4
        Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
        WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
        Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
        HAW vs STK 14:10AS
        BRI vs GCF 16:35G
        CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
        ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
        GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
        COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
        NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
        View All Fixtures
        Round 5
        Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
        HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
        Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
        GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
        WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
        PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
        STK vs GWS 13:10ES
        FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
        MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
        Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
        COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
        View All Fixtures
        Round 6
        Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
        NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
        Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs STK 13:45ES
        ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
        GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
        RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
        GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
        Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs SYD 13:10G
        CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
        WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 7
        Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
        RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
        Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
        COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
        GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
        SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
        GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
        WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
        FRE vs GWS 20:10Domain Stadium
        Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
        STK vs NTH 15:20ES
        PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
        View All Fixtures
        Round 8
        Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
        ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
        Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
        HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
        GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
        BRI vs COL 19:25G
        RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
        Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
        MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
        WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 9
        Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
        HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
        Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
        COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
        GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
        PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
        NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
        FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
        GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
        STK vs ESS 16:40ES
        View All Fixtures
        Round 10
        Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
        Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs HAW 13:45G
        MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
        STK vs FRE 16:35ES
        ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
        ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
        COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
        WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 11
        Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
        NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
        Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
        HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
        CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
        GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
        GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
        FRE vs ESS 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
        COL vs PTA 13:10MCG
        WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
        ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
        View All Fixtures
        Round 12
        Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
        Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
        PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
        BRI vs FRE 16:35G
        GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
        WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
        STK vs CAR 13:10ES
        RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
        GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
        Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
        View All Fixtures
        Round 13
        Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
        NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
        Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs WCE 13:40G
        FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
        WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
        Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs MEL 13:10SCG
        ESS vs GWS 16:40ES
        View All Fixtures
        Round 14
        Thu, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
        ADE vs NTH 19:50Adelaide Oval
        Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
        COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
        Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
        RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
        GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
        STK vs GEE 19:25ES
        Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
        HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
        View All Fixtures
        Round 15
        Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
        WCE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
        Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
        PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
        Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
        GCF vs STK 13:40MS
        SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
        CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
        Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
        View All Fixtures
        Round 16
        Thu, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
        PTA vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
        Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
        GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
        Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
        GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
        GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
        WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
        MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
        Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
        WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
        ESS vs STK 16:40ES
        View All Fixtures
        Round 17
        Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
        Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
        FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
        Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
        RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
        NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
        WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
        ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
        STK vs MEL 15:20ES
        BRI vs GWS 16:40G
        View All Fixtures
        Round 18
        Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
        COL vs NTH 19:50ES
        Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
        GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
        WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
        WBU vs STK 19:25ES
        GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
        Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
        HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
        PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
        View All Fixtures
        Round 19
        Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
        GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
        Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
        GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
        HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
        COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
        BRI vs PTA 19:25G
        NTH vs STK 19:25ES
        Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
        FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
        ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
        View All Fixtures
        Round 20
        Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
        RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
        Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
        MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
        GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
        WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
        ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
        GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
        FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 21
        Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
        WBU vs COL 19:50ES
        Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs CAR 13:45G
        HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
        GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
        STK vs SYD 19:25ES
        PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
        RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
        FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 22
        Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
        WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
        Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
        NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
        RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
        GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
        COL vs GCF 19:25ES
        PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
        BRI vs GEE 15:20G
        ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
        View All Fixtures
        Round 23
        Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
        HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
        STK vs BRI 12:00ES
        ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
        GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
        SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
        NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
        GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
        ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
        FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        AFL 2015
        Overall standings
        Team P W L D % Pts
        Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
        Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
        Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
        Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
        Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
        Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
        Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
        Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
        View all
         

        Follow Us on Facebook

        Featured advertisers