Onballers Friday Drinks: Round 18

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

Time for Richmond to go in for the kill

Ryan Buckland: A team almost universally predicted to miss this year’s top eight now looks almost sure to lose another elimination final. Richmond’s overhauled game plan and a few structural tweaks are making the most of the team’s best player assets; the club’s relatively kind draw has been turned into an advantage. They’re already on ten wins, and with few outright challenging assignments to come that total could push the coach Damien Hardwick reign 15 win peaks of 2013 and 2015.

Yet, there’s still something fishy going on. Can you trust a tiger with no fangs? Why hasn’t Richmond mauled anyone yet?

Other than the undeserving West Coast Eagles, Richmond has the lowest average winning margin (25.8 points) and lowest average winning score (96.8 points) of any team currently in the top eight. In fact, the Tigers possess the third lowest average winning score in the competition. Richmond’s biggest winning margin in 2017 was against the Brisbane Lions, and lord knows anyone can blow out the Lions.

Facing the GWS Giants, whose list is buckling under the strain of both quantity and quality of injured players, on their own home ground where the Giants haven’t played for close to a year and a half, is an opportune time to make a statement.

Hardwick famously said earlier this year that you’ll never see his current Richmond team blow teams out of the water, or see them be blown out themselves. That’s fine, but in a season where the best teams can run up three digits in their sleep, it won’t be enough.

Let’s Write Hot-Takes About Shaun Hampson

Ken Sakata: Patrick Dangerfield put on a staggering performance last week, kicking five goals after injuring his foot in the opening quarter. Almost immediately, prospective fireman-turned-pundit Kane Cornes claimed Dangerfield had a history of exaggerating injuries. This hot-take shocked many.

It shouldn’t. This is textbook punditry. People appreciate him as an ex-player, but Cornes needed to announce himself as a media entity. Last year, ex-player Brian Lake called for much-beloved Bulldogs captain Bob Murphy to retire after an ACL rupture. Now Brian Lake has a job at Fox Footy. Textbook.

As an up-and-coming player in the media game myself, I’m keen to catalyse my career progression too. It’s imperative I start this process immediately.

To manufacture opinions, you need ingredients. You need (A) a much-beloved player, (B) a topical situation and (C) an inflammatory opinion. Put that together and I should be at this year’s Fox Footy Christmas party.

I wrote out the names of players I’ve covered in the past on cards and picked one at random.

Well, shit. Looks like we’re writing hot-takes about ruckman Shaun Hampson, who is currently on the long-term injury list at Richmond.

These are the things I know about Shaun Hampson: He plays OK football for an OK team. He hasn’t played at all this year. He is going to have a second child with model girlfriend Megan Gale. He’s very tall.

We’ll be using these in a word salad to create our inflammatory opinions.

It’ll work out better if I have a catchy name for the piece. Maybe a cute infographic. Let’s try this.

I wonder if I’ll get to meet Neroli Meadows at the party.

A warm journey from completely irrelevant to a little less irrelevant

Jay Croucher: Before the season, ‘Round 18 – Brisbane vs. Carlton’ loomed as a sort of sad, masochistic voyage to football hell. But now, almost inspiringly, it’s just a trip to some shit diner.

Two bad teams have revealed themselves to be less bad than we thought. The Blues, especially, at this stage, might be closer to ‘good’ than ‘bad’ – which is an incredible sentence. It has been 12 weeks since they played a truly ‘bad’ game.

Such consistency eludes the Lions, who have nevertheless upped the Gallant Meter since their bye. They have gone from unwatchable to watchable, the first giant step that any young team must make.

This game has taken the same step. It will be meaningless in an immediate sense, but full of meaning for those with patience. Those who tune in will get to enjoy the raw dynamism of Eric Hipwood and Charlie Curnow, glimpses of the future in the narrow frame of the former and the broad frame of the latter. They’ll get to see a bevy of revitalised big name veterans in Marc Murphy, Matthew Kreuzer, Dale Thomas, Dayne Beams and Tom Rockliff, given life by fresh context, fuelled by the knowledge that their touches count for something again, beyond just a little gloss over the abyss. They’ll get to see Dayne Zorko, one of league’s 15 best players, an undiscovered joy finally being discovered.

Will I be watching the game? No, of course not, it’s Brisbane vs. Carlton in round 18. I’ll be watching a replay of Richmond vs. GWS. But those who do tune in won’t have to brave some atrocity. They’ll just be watching a game of football, which will resemble the other games of football from this weekend, and that, without being patronising, is a genuine achievement for these teams.