Monthly Archives: March 2009

Round One – Good To Have Ya Back!

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The elbow of Scott Lucas plays on despite a nasty knock…now that’s the gutsiest elbow in footy!

It felt like an age since our last taste of fair dinkum footy (an age filled with endless, boring cricket matches) but all the things we love about the game are back! The bumps, the bruises, the great goals, the baffling umpiring decisions – it all came flooding back over the weekend. We had a little bit of everything in the opening round of the AFL season…a great way to kick things off again.

However, the biggest constant that we can expect to see during the season is my deplorable tipping! It started with backing Richmond on Thursday night (I know, I know…) and ended by pinning my hopes on a good showing at home by Fremantle on Sunday night (I know, I know…) Plus, after hearing the Crows had upset the Pies on Saturday afternoon, I caught the quarter time scores of the Saturday night games as I headed out to dinner. Both the Eagles and Swans were up big and I was all prepared for a Richmond-style opening round disaster!

Fortunately, Saturday night’s games went as planned but it just showed that you cannot guarantee anything in footy. Not wins, not tips and not that a TV remote will not go flying straight into my new plasma TV screen at some point this season. It survived week one…though Essendon’s skill errors tempted fate at times yesterday!

The Games:

Already touched on this one last Friday but just in case you forgot – Carlton…great! Richmond…shit! Ben Cousins…hamstrung. And it’s all his own fault! Seems he has gotten the hang of that whole apologising thing now.

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Here is the obligatory ‘Ben Cousins gets interviewed again’ photo. Seems you are not allowed to write about footy without one…

Hawthorn beat Geelong in the grand final rematch on Friday night…didn’t they? Oh no, apparently they didn’t…my mistake. All the talk about Jeff Kennett and bogy men and Geelong spraying shots at goal because of their fragile mental state. Just assumed that Hawthorn actually won…sorry!

Question: when is losing a free kick count 18-14 deemed to be ‘lopsided’? Answer: when it happens to Collingwood..and they get beaten. It wouldn’t have been because the Crows deserved to win, uncovering some promising youngsters along the way. Oh no…definitely the umps!

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Beating Collingwood at the ‘G? Yep, that’s worth a little cuddle…

Sydney were on fire for about half an hour and then…nothing! They couldn’t buy a goal after quarter time and it wasn’t for lack of trying…or was it? Good start to the season for St Kilda though, who must have done well to charge home without a blinder from Nick Riewoldt. I’m assuming they did well…like you’d voluntarily watch a Saints-Swans game unless you barrack for them!

The Lions make Michael Voss feel like a coaching guru right off the bat, coming from behind to beat the Eagles at the Gabba. And Vossy’s impressions of the coaching caper? Yeah, love it …but hate it!

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Yep, Vossy loves coaching…even though it’s shit!

North Melbourne do what is required to beat last year’s wooden spooners. Taking on last season’s worst team in the opening round and being expected to win handily can be a tricky assignment – and they didn’t have it all their own way. Could have been worse though – they might have had to travel interstate first off…

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Cheer up Demons…for the first time in ages, you’re not dead last! Thanks Richmond.

…like Essendon did!  And Port Adelaide benefitted from a wobbly kicking Bomber outfit to win comfortably in the end. And considering the fans over there can now consume alcohol at their seats, there will have been some interesting celebrations at AAMI Stadium.

Yes…I tipped Fremantle at home. Yes…they were destroyed by the Doggies. No…I will never learn! The Westeern Bulldogs win big in Perth and it seems that the only two people who are surprised by this are me and Rodney Eade.

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One Word Sums It All Up For Richmond…

No – not THAT word! Though you wouldn’t be far wrong…

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Ouch! Thumped by Carlton to the tune of 83 points in a slightly over-hyped season opener…

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Ouch! Celebrity recruit Ben Cousins pings hamstring…can’t run from photographers for at least one month…

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Ouch! Another knee problem for Andrew Raines – screwing fantasy footy teams everywhere! Yes, mine too…

Oh, did I mention that the Tigers play the Cats down at Geelong next week?

OUCH!!!

From First To Worst – Fast Forward To September (AFL Season 2009)

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One week from defending the premiership and what is Hawk Luke Hodge up to? He’s impressing the ladies with the size of his Wii! Is this a bad sign for Hawthorn?

Surely by now, you have checked out many of the 2009 AFL season previews that have been published in print or online. They are all over the damn place! Both Melbourne papers put out season preview magazines over the weekend but the Herald Sun have previews for each team available here. You can also check out previews for all sixteen clubs from Sportal Australia while the official website of the AFL have gone as far as rating players for each team in order to make their guestimates appear better than everybody elses.

But it’s not just the media big-boys that are cranking out good previews for the new season…try checking out some of the other footy sites out there such as The Roar, Contested Footy or Kick 2 Kick. This season, Half Back Flanker has completely run out of time opted against writing previews for each team but instead has peered into the League’s crystal ball to find out who finishes where on the ladder after the home-and-away season.

That’s right – Andy D actually has a crystal ball in his office (honestly, check the book case…it’s hidden behind a framed photo of new Queensland Premier Anna Bligh!) Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the surprise of who wins it all in September, or whether Jason Akermanis finally makes it to 300 games…because Aker is the biggest story of this season, right? Right?

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First To Worst – The Ladder as of Round 22, 2009

1st: Geelong

Redemption from last September and an intense hatred for mouthy Hawk prez Jeff Kennett should be enough of a driving force for Geelong. Jimmy Bartel also revealed in this article that he discovered The Ramones in the off-season…so expect greatness from him!

2nd: Hawthorn

Apart from Luke Hodge’s Wii exploits, the Hawks will find life much more difficult having gone all the way last season. But it won’t stop the likes of Buddy Franklin and this year’s leading goalkicker…Jarryd Roughead!

3rd: Western Bulldogs

The Doggies might have a tough start but if the coach gets big improvement from the current Brownlow Medallist…watch out for the team of the mighty west!

4th: Collingwood

Collingwood will not only play good footy but again dominate the league in off-field discussion. Prepare yourself as our journos indulge in weekly speculation about the current coach, the coach in waiting and the president in everything. And we mean EVERYTHING!

5th: St Kilda

A fast start to the year would certainly help the Saints if they want to return to the top four…as would kicking more goals and keeping Nick Riewoldt forever and ever!

6th: Carlton

Looks like the arrogant Blues are back and finals are a real possibility. If they qualify for September, prey that the match is not broadcast by Channel Ten – Robert Walls, Tim Lane, Andy Maher on the boundary…sheeesh!

7th: North Melbourne

North died in the arse last year so even if they make the most of their Victorian-based opening half to the year, there will be lingering doubts about how far they can progress. The Roos do like having doubters though…

8th: Adelaide

The Crow-bots could easily slide out of finals contention…and it could all hinge on their ability to kick goals via the reconstructed knee of Trent Hentschel and a rebuilt Porpoise.

9th: Port Adelaide

Hard to tell who needs rescuing more – the club by the AFL or the coach by another club that wants to pay top dollar for a footy-obsessed maniac! This season has so-close and yet so-far written all over it…

10th: Richmond

Between Terry Wallace’s contract, Kevin Sheedy’s warblings and the comeback of Ben Cousins, Richmond will be a hot topic this year but too much depends on a 34 year old Richo. At least we don’t have them finishing ninth…

11th: Sydney

The Swans might feel confident that they can defy the critics who say they are too old and qualify for another finals campaign. But we don’t!

12th: Brisbane

Voss is now boss at BrisVegas and has given Jono Brown the captaincy all to himself. But the new coach can’t just order his side to become more skilful…it will be interesting to see how Vossy handles a rare taste of mediocrity.

13th: Fremantle

As if the Fremantle Football Club isn’t weird enough, they appear to be set for a big season of shouting at umpires in order to protect the tallest man in the competition. At least the worst theme song in footy won’t be heard that many times!

14th: Essendon

The Bombers were hoping for an injury-free run in ’09…and that lasted a good few weeks before completely turning to shit! They could do better than bottom four if their players stop break themselves…however, that appears unlikely.

15th: West Coast

The Eagles will try to use the AFL captains poll (where nobody gave them a chance of making the finals) as some type of motivation to play well. But there is a reason nobody thinks they are good enough…it’s because they are not good enough!

16th: Melbourne

After what happened last year, 2009 could only be an improvement, right? Maybe, but optimism seems to be pretty damn low at Demonland. Well, they have some major sponsors now…but it’s hard to see many other positives.

Six Months of Football Madness Starting…NOW!(AFL Season 2009)

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Honestly…how friggin’ lucky are Channel Ten!

Welcome to AFL season 2009 and year two of Half Back Flanker! The last footy-free weekend for six months has passed and now it is just a matter of days until the madness kicks off at the MCG between Chris Judd and Ben Cousins…and whoever it is they play for.

Normally, the free weekend between the NAP Cup final and the opening round allows us footy heads one final opportunity to indulge in some non-AFL activity. You know; some relaxation, a few household chores and meaningful conversation with loved ones – all those activities that fall by the wayside once the season swings into action.

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There were plenty of memorable moments during Channel Seven’s The Essence Of The Game documentary last Friday night. This was NOT one of them!

This year, in a radical departure from recent years, we received something a little extra to help celebrate the oncoming season – some decent footy-based television viewing! If the football documentary The Essence Of The Game that screened on Channel Seven on Friday night didn’t get you all fired up for AFL footy then you must be crazy! Or a Geelong supporter who did not enjoy reliving the events of grand final day 2008…in which case, Sunday’s viewing would not have been that enjoyable either!

After a slow build-up to the new season, that doco has me primed for footy season. Chuck in the unveiling of the kick-ass AFL season launch commercial and that grand final rematch next Friday night can’t come fast enough! The AFL’s biggest stars, some impressive CGI work, the Dropkick Murphys blaring in the background…doesn’t get much better than that!

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Some rare kudos to the AFL’s marketing gurus – the new ad rocks!

So, what can we expect from season 2009? Hawthorn and Geelong will rightly start off as the two favourites to reach the grand final but identifying which team will rise to become their biggest challenger is not so clear cut. The Doggies were the third best side last year but prolonged success is something this club has struggled to achieve. St Kilda have been touted as The Next Big Thing for five years now but we are still waiting, waiting, waiting. They were downright lucky to finish in the top four in ’08 and anywhere between the GF and tenth spot would not surprise me!

North Melbourne are tipped to tumble down the ladder every year but always seem to deliver – they are the anti-Saints! The Crows? The Swans? Both make me sleepy! Collingwood? Can’t bear the thought…but of those teams just outside the top four from last year, they loom as the most likely to challenge. Carlton and Richmond are soooooo hot right now but just making the finals would be a fine achievement.

Which reminds me…should probably have a shot at ranking the sixteen teams in order of ladder position after round twenty two in the next day or so. Though last year I had the Bulldogs in the bottom four…so much for credibility!

NAP Time Is Over…Can We Get Serious Now? (2009 NAP Cup)

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Sorry, missed most of the preseason competition…was kinda busy!

Ok, NOW footy season is here again! No more glorified practice matches or experimental rules…the real stuff is a mere eleven days away! Sure – the NAP Cup; the four-week preseason comp that, for whatever reason, takes seven weeks to play; has been run and won by…not Collingwood! But not even the sadistic prospect of witnessing those wretched Magpies lose another grand final was incentive enough to check out the game. Well, there was also those tickets for the Kings of Leon last Friday night

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Geelong players celebrate the fact they survived the preseason without sustaining a major injury. Well, not all of them

For all of its positives – and, to be fair, there are plenty of benefits from a well organised, televised preseason comp for players, clubs, media and (most importantly) the League’s coffers – it’s just not the same as having two teams slog it out in the depths of winter for four competition points.  It’s not like I deliberately avoided the NAP Cup – in fact, was more than happy to go along to the Essendon-Western Bulldogs Bushfire Appeal match and eat meat pies for charity.

But the game itself did not inspire and after trying to sit through a god-awful second-up win by the Bombers over Brisbane, footy just fell off the radar. Didn’t  feel quite ready for footy season – for one, it was still bloody summer and secondly, I’d only just picked up my copy of Guitar Hero World Tour

But it wasn’t just the actual games of footy that I wasn’t quite prepared for…the intensity of the footy media, even in early February, proved a bit much as well. I know we should all be used to it by now, particularly here in Melbourne, but that Carlton intra-club stouch probably received more coverage than many other vital stories of worldly proportions – like the world economic crisis or Paris Hilton buying some stuff on Chapel Street.

Setanta had barely removed the point of his boot from the rectal area of Cameron Cloke and all these opposing media outlets went into hyper-overdrive as they all attempted to out-apeshit each other on the story.

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Q) What do you call the area between the dick and the arsehole?

A) Setanta O’hAilpin!

Actually, that particular area is called the perineum…and the Match Review Panel handed down a four-match penalty for the mad Irishman’s unprecedented Cloke attack. The Nick Maxwell debacle might leave us uncertain about protection of the head but at least we know for sure that in AFL footy, the perineum is sacrosanct! But, no – Setanta was not sacked and/or deported back to the Emerald Isle. And yes – you did grossly over-react…all of you!

That, combined with the shocking events taking place here in Victoria during February, kinda put me off getting too wrapped up in the goings-on in the AFL – be they of some consequence in the footy world or have no relevance whatsoever. Case in point: “Ben Cousins moves into a house” was a massive news story in the Herald Sun? Yes, a complete joke but then again, yesterday’s front page was dedicated to naked photos of Pauline Hanson…and I know which ‘story’ I ‘d prefer to read whilst attempting to eat breakfast on a Sunday morning!

But now season 2009 is here and the next time we see two blokes in opposing jumpers fight over a footy, it will truly be worth something. Time to get excited. Time to check out how the sixteen clubs are positioned heading into round one and make wild, uneducated guesses as to who will improve this year and who will make the big slide. Time to put some thought into the Half Back Flanker fantasy footy teams. So…let’s get started!

Well, maybe after a couple more songs on Guitar Hero