Onballers: Friday Night Sesh (Round 17)

These are the Friday night drinks talking points you’ve been looking for. Want to sound like a well-read football fan? We’ve got you fam.

Flex the damn fixture before it’s too late

Come 10:00PM Eastern Standard Time on Saturday night, the shape of the top eight could be dramatically different to where the status quo sits today. First and fifth place, and second and eighth, are scheduled to face off in two delightful duets sure to satisfy our souls.

But doesn’t AFL House have a sick sense of humour. Once more, the two most important games of the round have been scheduled on top of each other. Melbourne host Adelaide at Alice Springs, while the second Sydney Derby of the year is played in Sydney’s west. There’s a 15 minute window where the Giants and Swans will be performing a two man show, but otherwise we’re faced with an indelible dilemma.

Or are we? Why can’t the AFL introduce a bit of flex into its fixture for occasions like this?

We’ve known for some time that the Swans strapped a rocket to their back and were surging up the ladder, and that the Giants were going to be thereabouts. Since Round Eight, the return match up between Adelaide and Melbourne has loomed as large on the fixture as any game in the run home.

The Dees-Crows match is being played at the barely-utilised TIO Stadium in Darwin. Earlier in the day, Gold Coast host Collingwood at Metricon Stadium, a similarly underutilised stadium asset. The former is currently being hosted by Channel 7, the latter by Foxtel. Who cares, just swap the commentary teams around.

It’s a no-brainer right? Swap Dees-Crows for Suns-Pies, and everyone wins. We football aficionados get a nine hour 12 course football feast: the Hawks-Cats entrees rolling into Dees-Crows for the mains and Giants-Swans as the sweetener to end the gorging. What’s not to like? It’s not too late you know.

Do it Simon. No need to thank me.

Who the hell are the Saints?

Somewhere between the team that lost three games in a row by 40+ points and the team that showed us last weekend what Mad Max: Fury Road would look like on a football oval, lies the 2017 Saints.

92-10 at halftime is AFL Valhalla. It’s rare that dominance rises to levels of unreality in football, but last Saturday night was not of this world. Darren Aronofsky described Requiem for a Dream as falling from a building, hitting the pavement, then continuing the journey down. In Requiem for a Sound Defensive Outfit, Richmond were Jared Leto without his left arm, and St. Kilda were the inverse of Aronofsky’s vision, ascending further, and further, and further.

They came in relentless, crushing waves of force and speed, not finished until the game was put to bed, put into a coma, and put to death. Their pace felt immeasurable and their control at the clearances felt cruel, to the point of comical (how does one team get the ball every single time? Ha!).

But this is the same team that a month ago, coming off two straight beltings, looked totally disinterested against Adelaide, and seemed to play with the shameful game-plan of stacking numbers behind the ball without worrying about the small concept of ‘scoring themselves’. They played that game with the goal of losing 110-50 instead of 140-80.

Since then, though, they have ripped off a four-game winning streak, and thrust themselves into September calculations. But their four wins have come against the worst team in the competition, Gold Coast without Ablett, Fremantle without Sandilands, and the first team to ever arrive at an AFL game drunk, to a man.

The Saints are for real, in the sense that they’re a strong, young talented side with a bright future. But tonight, against an Essendon team with its season on the line, we get to see whether ‘real’ is right now, and how sharp its edges are.

Ken’s talking point blew up into a proper science experiment.