So much incredible stuff happens across an AFL weekend. It’s impossible to keep up with it all. The Onballers crew – and some of our friends – are here to bring you a view on the stuff you saw and other gear you might have missed. This is the Onballers Quick Hands, our round in review.
Geelong stares mortality in the face
Ryan Buckland: The night started ominously. Luke Parker took a flying shot for goal from Sydney’s left attacking flank, the ball cutting through the tense Geelong air like a ruthless dagger. By the time it had less than 10 metres to travel, the ball was half a metre of the ground, still travelling fast but well within reach of a waiting Cat defender. There was no Cat defender waiting. It was the nine minute mark of the first quarter, Sydney were up 18 to seven on the road. A further nine minutes into the evening and the margin had stretched to 25, Geelong absent any answers and asking the same question on the whole league’s lips: is Patrick Dangerfield really this important to us?
He is, and he isn’t. Football is a game played between two teams of 18 players – ultimately there is only one ball. Sydney is an insatiable football force when everything clicks, attacking footballers dotting every line and a hardy defence that could stop a rocket ship. The Swans made every post a winner, attacking the Cats with a rare incisiveness and taking risks few teams dare conceive at Kardina Park.
The numbers will say Geelong won the contested possession count by five, and the clearances by 11, and broke even on the inside 50 count. They’ll say Geelong held the ball for an extra seven minutes, and took 27 extra uncontested marks. But in what was our first glimpse of Geelong sans its superstar midfielder, one’s mind could not go beyond the simple. Geelong looked impotent without their glistening stallion galloping through the middle of the ground, Joel Selwood and Mitch Duncan only able to do so much to make up for the middling talent of those not in their holy trinity.
Geelong are no different to any team. Take the patty out of a cheeseburger and you’re left with pickles, cheese, bread and condiments. Some teams can get by on these complementary pieces, but as almost everyone in the opinion-driven football world suspected – or hoped – Geelong are so influenced by those who sit at the top of their pyramid. The Cats’ defence was exposed for speed and decision making once more, and the youth given game time melted under the glaring Friday night lights.
It didn’t end there. Geelong’s captain, the hitherto invincible Selwood is set to miss between three (Geelong’s doctors) and six (every other doctor) weeks with a high ankle sprain that requires surgery. Next week then looms as a natural A|B experiment. Beyond that, the Cats will be without their avatar when the heat is on for the first time in his career. And as the game slipped well beyond the home team’s grasp, Geelong devolved into a rabblous mess with “jumper” “punches” flying freely.
Think of the worst possible night your football club could have. Geelong fans got to live it on Friday.
Eddie and Levi and Chaos and Control
Ken Sakata: We have Levi Casboult. His set-shots are typically in front of goal. These golden opportunities aren’t given. He has to wrestle two, three defenders to get his chance. Once he lines up at goal, he is subject to the endless variables of a kicking action, a motion practised tirelessly in private. He cannot understand why the magic isn’t always there. It is the same ball. He has the same foot.
We have Eddie Betts. His shots are taken from all over and usually under duress. We choose to appreciate Betts not as a technician, but as some sort of trickster deity. Maybe it’s because he stands six feet on horseback, or because he eternally looks thirty-five years old. We prefer to appreciate his abilities as fantastical and surreal.
One man struggles to condense chaos into simplicity. The other has mastered kicking so fully, that he is able to conjure perfect mechanics from utter chaos. Betts is seemingly at his best when pushed off-balance at full sprint, under a falling blanket of defence.
Eddie is certainly the more aspirational of the two, a technical master who has made science look like wizardry. But surely most will identify with Casboult, a man who lives in a world of hard work and limited reward, where success is as elusive as magic. They are on opposite ends of chaos and order. They are both equally beautiful.
AFL Reddit Call of the Week
The Dockers are excelling at not being horrible
Jay Croucher: There is much to be said for not becoming grotesque. That’s the domain the Dockers appeared headed for when Michael Walters, for much of the season their best player, went down for the year. With Aaron Sandilands already gone, and seven losses in eight games, the final five weeks of Fremantle’s season seemed sentenced for the football equivalent of root canal.
But then the Dockers decided not to suck. They almost stole a victory as 50-point underdogs away to the Giants, and then they dominated the Suns en route to a regulation victory – the type of victory that one might have thought was beyond these Dockers.
Both performances were based on the same principle – don’t do stupid shit. Don’t be selfish, don’t kick the ball to contests in the corridor, don’t blaze away – just don’t fuck shit up. Don’t be the Suns.
The Dockers, to their credit, have become experts in not fucking shit up. They play the percentages, usually make sound decisions, run hard, and maintain a defensive shape. In Nat Fyfe, they have their superstar, their regular beacon of hope, transcendence and all that, and he is surrounded by competence and a surprising amount of pedigree.
Fremantle has nothing left to play for this year. But the past fortnight, and really, most of their year before that, suggests that insignificance doesn’t have to hurt so bad.
Rain, hail or shine
Buckland: Yesterday’s Showdown did not live up to the hype. It did however confirm the Adelaide Crows are the best team in football, and for a reason that you need to squint a little to see. Everyone knows the Crows have the league’s best attack right? They’re booting 113 points per game, more than two goals ahead of second place, and have one of the most threatening and multi-faceted forward lines in the league. I mean shit this is the third piece in this column talking about Adelaide.
For it all though, there are two numbers that demonstrate just how scared the rest of the league should be come finals time: 143 and 130. Those are the scores Adelaide has put up in the wet. And not just some drizzly showers, we’re talking Noah’s ark level liquid falling from the sky.
They say defence wins premierships. They’re about to have their theory tested.