Monthly Archives: February 2008

The Excitement Builds…

Screw the preseason…bring on the big boys!

Yeah, it’s building alright…about as slowly as it has taken authorities to find Pumpkin’s dad! Two Victorian sides clash tonight for the right to play off for the NAP Cup…though it would probably mean a trip to Adelaide if the Crows beat Hawthorn. Hmmm, is the three-hundred grand prize money really worth it?

Probably not, but who needs to watch football when we have footy ‘news’ to read about instead! Try these gems on for size…

Telstra Dome, Melbourne- 7:40pm (local): Essendon v St Kilda (Ch7)

The Bombers are having a kick-ass February on the field and trying to say the right things off it – they are really, really focused on the first real game of the season…but really, really want to win the NAP Cup too.

Well, you can’t have everything…and they won’t have two of their best players tonight, or their most photographed, for tonight’s semi final. But if they do manage to win, what we will have is a freakin’ overload of Baby Bombers references to look forward to next week…that never gets old!

St Kilda will be pleased with their preseason as well; two wins and most of their players have managed to walk from the ground unassisted and injury-free. No, seriously, Fraser Gehrig was the only casualty from their trip to Canberra. Kosi is fine, Maxy is fine…ok!

Big news for the Saints is that Nick Riewoldt has been picked to play and we all know how ready he is…but as long as he gets through the match without as much as a limp or a hobble, that would be way bigger than a NAP Cup final berth.

 


 

 

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We Have The Technology To Rebuild This Swan (Media Street)

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(Nick Malceski will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.)

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(Source: Sebastian Costanzo – The Age) 

Knees are all the rage in the footy media at the moment – but most of the knee news is of the ‘bad’ variety. Unfortunately, there has been a spate of season-ending knee injuries during the preseason (don’t be fooled by this ‘Dick Surgery’ headline – it is actually about a knee!) and the race is on to determine who or what is to blame.

Are there too many semi-serious matches during a month-long preseason? Is it the quality of playing surfaces at grounds in regional venues?  Scrapping the NAP Cup entirely to extend the regular season is a view shared by some; although this idea would not significantly reduce knee injuries anyway (since only two of the seven knee victims this year has been the result of an actual NAP Cup match), plus it would only barely improve the heavily-compromised draw situation.

But, most importantly to the League, what major sponsor would throw mega-bucks at a two-week practice match series that nobody would watch? As long as companies like NAB are prepared to pay for a nationally-televised four-week preseason comp, even though most clubs don’t care about the results or lifting a nifty trophy at the end, it is here to stay.

But the most interesting news comes from Sydney, where Nick Malceski has undergone a radical procedure that may allow him to take the field again this year – and as early as mid-May. The procedure is deemed to be risky and is even banned in France (which must be a big deal, I guess) but if it is successful, you can be sure that other clubs will consider the Steve Austin bionic-knee option in the future. Hopefully, the surgery includes the built-in bionic man sound effect

But in ‘good-knee’ news, Adelaide’s Trent Hentschel is getting closer to a return to football after a shocking knee injury in late 2006 that would have even made Steve Austin’s eyes water. The Crows have done pretty well this NAP Cup and the prospect of his return might just make Neil Craig’s top lip curl upwards ever so slightly. Well, there’s more chance of every footballer installing bionic knees than getting the hint of a smile out of this guy…

Care Factor Rising…Slowly

Carlton well beaten, injuries strike again at St Kilda, Campbell Brown overdoes it a little…sounds just like your regular AFL season, doesn’t it? Yet, we are just two weeks into the preseason and it’s still another 24 days until Carlton and Richmond kick off the 2008 season.

But, if it is possible for a competition where nobody picks their best team or places players in their correct positions to have a ‘business end’, we are now kinda getting close to it. Friday night will see Essendon and St Kilda play off for the right to pretend like they care for an extra week against the winner of Hawthorn and Adelaide, who took their sweet time to beat Fremantle yesterday.

The Bombers are generating some excitement with their style of play and promising youngsters, though the old ‘Baby Bombers’ label is slapped around any time two or more Essendon players under the age of 27 play well in the same game. St Kilda just seem to be generating more work for their medical staff but regardless of whether he is injured again or not,  Kossie will be rested this week….but he’s not injured again, ok…honest.

Adelaide’s victory has left Fremantle counting the cost of another failed preseason campaign…pffft, like they give a crap! But it means that the Crows are in the box seat to host the NAP Cup final provided they out-care Hawthorn on Saturday night.

The four week preseason is too long by half for Dean Laidley, the North Melbourne coach feeling his side did not get much value from their Off-Broadway hit-out with Brisbane.

“I don’t really know if that sort of footy and these games help your preparation. I like the NRL idea of two games and you’re into it,” said Laidley, though I imagine his tune would change slightly if his side had actually won those two games and were still playing off for a six-figure payday.

But perhaps an NRL-related concept could help enliven these practice matches between first-round NAP Cup losers…how about some boxing? According to Ricky Nixon, the occasional manager of Ben Cousins (it depends on how much trouble he’s in), Anthony Mundine may have been exploiting the ‘AFL-Britney’ Ben Cousins by adding him to the undercard of his next bout

Exploited to make money? Yes, I can barely believe it either! Why Nixon had to wait two weeks after the press conference/drug forum/media circus was held to reveal this is a little puzzling…but it seems that Cousins has now withdrawn from the event that he never agreed to

But now that Mundine has snapped back at Nixon, and there is this great desire out there for bouts pitting NRL verses AFL, halftime at preseason games would be the perfect time. Imagine if Mundine and Nixon donned the gloves at halftime between North Melbourne and Brisbane…that might have inspired Dean Laidley a little.

Or what about NRL bonehead Willie Mason taking on Wayne Carey? And, with the current administrators of both codes declaring war on the expansion of the game, why not have the ultimate matchup – NRL’s Gallop v AFL’s Demetriou…and the loser has their franchise driven out of the Gold Coast! David Gallop may not look like the brawniest guy but if anybody is taking swings at Andy D…there will be big interest.

Build it, and they will come…

Ding Dong – The NAP Cup Witch Is Dead!

Oh crap…what have I done? 

Oh crap…what have I done? 

Carlton’s reign as champions of the game’s biggest irrelevant competition has come to an end! It was looking pretty freaking ugly for a while and not even the overwhelming power of Chris Judd’s leadership aura could save them! The Blues did fight back after everybody else lost interest but at least it gave Brett Ratten valuable experience on working out how many goals to concede early before realising your team is not switched on. Apparently, it’s four!

The Hawks should be happy with some of their young players, particularly this famous football name, but watching brave Campbell Brown get reported for charging through a rookie would have pleased no-one…except for maybe his dad. A suspension for Brown would mean that four of their best players start the season on the sidelines…a prospect that leaves Alistair Clarkson ‘worried’. And by ‘worried’, Clarkson means ‘totally pissed off’!

Meanwhile at Manuka Oval in Canberra (what the heck is a Manuka?), it’s the Upset of the Season! Is it too early to say Premiership Hangover? Of course it is, and there were quite a few absentees, but Geelong has not lost anything for a long time…

Even if the result is somewhat of a surprise, the Saints experiencing injury problems is not. The ‘comeback kid’ will be grounded until round one while Justin Koschitzke and Max Hudghton are not actually injured…they were just practicing hobbling off the ground in preparation for the regular season.

AAMI Stadium, Adelaide- 4:40pm (local): Adelaide v Fremantle (FOX)

Adelaide may have won big in the desert two weeks ago but feel that this clash with Fremantle will be a better indicator on how well prepared they are for 2008. What’s this? Refusing to revel in a flogging of Collingwood? That’s no fun!

Well, maybe that’s the whole point for Neil Craig’s Crows. Since Adelaide have returned from Dubai, the coach has pushed for a ban on alcohol and the club is looking to introduce a tougher stance on drugs…no wonder former Crow Scott Welsh reckons it’s no fun playing in Adelaide!

As for playing at Fremantle, you could never describe that experience as boring…though Paul Haselby will unfortunately be left twiddling his thumbs for the next twelve months. But it is up to Mark Harvey to find a suitable replacement…that is, when he is not channeling his former mentor Kevin Sheedy.

Will it be the oft-maligned former Bomber Kepler Bradley? Harvs reckoned he earned the respect of everybody at Fremantle by getting knocked out cold in South Africa…does that mean he will be a walk-up start for round one if he gets carted off on a stretched in the NAP Cup? We may yet find out…though it’s probably better for everyone that he makes it by playing well and staying awake.

Knightmare for Robert Walls

With his opening breath of last night’s radio broadcast of the Essendon-Bulldogs NAP Cup match, 3AW commentator Robert Walls wasted little time in dusting off his trusty old vaudeville-style I-hate-the-Bombers act, expressing his frustration at the flood of Windy Hill-related media recently. Every second day it seems, Wallsy has had to put up with pesky Essendon content in the paper…clearly breaking the run of Carlton/Judd/Twigley references he looks forward to every other day…

Well, Wallsy will have to put up with some Essendon excess for another week at least, the Bombers advancing to the semi-finals and looking somewhat impressive in the process. The Dogs may have contributed to that impression with a sluggish performance – and they may well have been affected by the trip to Darwin last week – but, honestly, they played like their flight home had been circling above Tullamarine for six days and they had walked off the plane ten minutes before the bounce…

For all their promise so far this preseason, Essendon have yet to face a team that is a) really good, or b) well prepared. That will change next week when they face either Geelong (most likely) or St Kilda so the Matthew Knights revolution will face its biggest test very soon. Robbie Walls can hardly wait…

Manuka Oval, Canberra- 3:40pm (local): St Kilda v Geelong (FOX)

The St Kilda “half-decent ruckmen” experiment was due to continue in Canberra today but Steven King is definitely sitting out, and the fragile Michael Gardiner is no certainty either. Perhaps they can substitute those big guys with life-size cardboard cut-outs…nobody in Canberra will know the difference!

But the Saints have been able to use this preseason to fine-tune their game plan for handling countless request about injury-prone players, if their Nick Riewoldt knee injury rumour mill treatment is any indication. Unless that was a cardboard cut-out as well…or CGI.

The Cats did it easy last week and might be on the way to breaking the hearts of bookies everywhere – not that anybody is getting carried away with the preseason or anything. The highlight of this match for Geelong would have been watching Cam Mooney talk rubbish to premiership teammate turned Saint Steven King. King won’t be there (coincidence?) so the Cats will have to be content with cruising to victory.

Telstra Dome, Melbourne – 7:10pm (local): Hawthorn v Carlton (TEN)

The Hawks managed to squeak past a traditionally uninterested Sydney in last week’s NAP Cup opener but a slightly more interested Carlton at the Dome will be a greater challenge. Not that Hawthorn is out to win at all costs either, the coach is clearly towing the preseason party line.

Oh my God, oh my God…a new recruit and premiership midfielder will debut for Carlton tonight! Yes yes yes!! Oh, settle down Blues fans, not Him…it’s just Richard Hadley. While Hadley’s debut will be worth checking out, of more interest will be how Carlton plans to cover the loss of Brad Fisher – particularly if they give this young fella a go. That first kick of his last week was pretty classy…

Mascots Bite Back!

Well, this would have to be a first. A rookie player fresh out of the under 18’s competition, and on the morning of what could have been his first run for an AFL club, is stung by a stingray? Yep, this is exactly what happened to Western Bulldogs first year player Jarrad Grant during an early morning swim session at Port Melbourne! And, in case you are still yelling ‘Are You Shitting Me?’, it gets crazier. Grant was selected at pick five in the National Draft from…the Dandenong Stingrays!

Danger! Danger!

How many times has a footballer missed a game after a run in with the mascot of a current or former club? Imagine if fellow rookies Callan Ward (Western Jets) or Guy O’Keefe (Geelong Falcons) suffered the same fate…

In non-animal-attack news; tonight sees the first of four quarter-finals in the NAP Cup and the weekend will allow us to see which teams are taking the preseason really seriously. Our tip is Fremantle; newish coach Mark Harvey has been waiting a long time to bust out some Sheedy-style mind game madness and he’s certainly getting in early.

So unless you were planning on checking out the latest DVD releases, here’s what to look forward to in footy tonight:

Telstra Dome, Melbourne – 7:40pm (local): Western Bulldogs v Essendon (Ch7)

The Bulldogs may have played in energy-sapping conditions last Friday in Darwin but it won’t really affect the players too much tonight. Snapping your fibula, on the other hand, might set you back a bit…and now taking a dip at Port Melbourne is fraught with danger too!

On a positive note, Robert Murphy and Wil Minson look set to put injury problems behind them. And no former greats have tried to sack any members of the current administration so far this week…that’s got to be a good thing.

The Essendon hype machine is starting to gain momentum after last week’s win on the Gold Coast, with string bean forward Scott Gumbleton the only downer on the night. Add to this the high membership and potential sponsorship boost, the Bombers look set for an improved season.

But it will take more than a handy win against a half-strength Brisbane before anybody should get too excited. But tonight will be a good chance to see if promising young’uns like Angus Monfries are ready for the big time. Plus the return of Scott Lucas will be fun too…the guy plays every match like a goal from outside fifty is worth nine points!

 

The Next TV Rights Will Be Worth…One Billion Dollars!!! (Media Street)

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Why am I surrounded by frickin’ idiots?

Andrew Demetriou, the League’s Dr. Evil, was forced to surface from his underground lair this week to address the issue of an expanded 18-team competition being put into place in time for the next TV rights agreement, as let slip revealed over the weekend by League Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick , who then must be the League’s Frau Farbissina? Or maybe Mr. Bigglesworth?

AFL Heavyweight

Of course, there might be one billion reasons why the League is very keen to produce nine matches a week for TV expand the competition into the developing markets. But the revelation has prompted an eruption of discussion pieces on the issue, sprouting opinions from various journos and frothy-mouthed presidents; see here, here, here, and here.

So how has the League responded to all this? “We told youse all last year…” So did sixteen club presidents all fall asleep during this presentation? Did they all tune out once Adrian Anderson started speaking?

One thing is certain…if the Gold Coast hope to make an immediate impact, they probably need this guy on board. As far as Kevin Sheedy for the Gold Coast, don’t count on it. But the Herald Sun will pump up the legendary coach at every opportunity that arises…not that they want to keep one of their own columnists in the news all year…oh no. Just wait and see what happens if (or when) Richmond suck it up early on…

One week into the NAP Cup and there has been a fair bit of injury carnage for Sydney and Fremantle already. But there are a few clubs counting the cost this week, though they have yet to find a way of blaming the new interchange limit rule.

The Bulldogs, in particular, seem to be promoting their injury woes…which, in reality, is just a late start to the season for Farren Ray and that’s all. But it does allow for some nice Dogs-bare bones-young pups story work.

It has taken three months for Carlton to finally announce that Chris Judd has been named as Carlton captain – a decision that would have taken approximately 0.12 seconds to make after finalising the trade. The Blues did their absolute best to stress that it was a close thing between he and Nick Stevens…and Stevens certainly had a good case. But it was always going to be Judd…

By the way, no Judd groin update…in case you were that interested. No, I didn’t think so.