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.
The Heist in Sicily
Ken Sakata: There are two ways to enjoy James Sicily. The first is obvious. Sicily is raw and uncomplicated. He draws from an emotional well bubbling under tenuous control. This is exhilarating to me. I live a comparatively neutered life. I don’t worry about my temper. I worry about the type of pet insurance to buy my dog. Watching Sicily’s rage is almost aspirational.
The second pleasure is witnessing Sicily’s implosion when all this turbulent energy boils over. It invariably does. Playing on the edge of pure emotion is exhausting and unsustainable. The highs may be exhilarating, but the humbling is frequently seismic. It’s usually at this point I feel blessed for my repressed, dog-insurance buying life. The second pleasure is schadenfreude.
Minutes into the first quarter of Blues-Hawks, Sicily gave away a free kick for incorrect disposal. The tackler, Carlton’s Jed Lamb, swiftly wrestled Sicily onto the ground to twist the knife into his error. Lamb isn’t usually the instigating type, but he was executing the start of a calculated plan. Carlton were planning a heist of Sicily’s mind.
It didn’t take long to gain access to Sicily’s vault of emotions, trapping him in a cycle of bleeding free-kicks, mostly for retaliatory actions to Lamb. This prompted more abuse. By the third quarter, Lamb was inviting guests to his ample estate in Sicily’s head. First-year players were boldly crashing into Sicily, some even affectionately tousling his hair. By then, no retaliation could be afforded. The vault was dry.
Sicily would end the game relinquishing seven free-kicks in what was widely reported as the first Carlton win over Hawthorn in nearly ten thousand millennia. It would be a highlight for Lamb and Carlton coaching, the heist in Sicily a roaring success.
Lance Franklin on the left centre wing is football’s most iconic play
Ryan Buckland: The list of regularly occurring sports plays that are objectively better and more exciting than Lance Franklin gathering possession of a football the left centre wing of a football ground is short. It reads something like this (in no particular order):
- LeBron James on a 2 v 1 fast break (attacking or defending)
- The All Blacks getting up a head of steam across midfield
- The pre-game anthems/haka of rugby tests when the Springboks play the All Blacks
- Jake Carlisle standing under a high ball
- A Major League Baseball outfielder running towards the safety track, knowing he’s going to have to jump over the fence to fetch an otherwise home run
- Probably something in soccer but fuck that shit is boring otherwise
- The first ball of the first test match of an Ashes series
- A Steph Curry pull up from well beyond the three point line
That’s about it honestly. Franklin’s ability to create goals from an otherwise dead zone on the ground is other worldly. Every time he gathers the ball on the wing the crowd and audience at home rise as one in anticipation. On Friday night, Franklin schooled the green ex-cricketer Alex Keath in the first quarter, manipulating his matter like a scientist splitting an atom. By the time Adelaide coach Don Pyke shifted Daniel Talia to the Sydney superstar, Franklin was feeling it. We know this because in the third quarter he gathered the ball on the left centre wing of the Adelaide Oval and did this.
Everything about it is amazing. Hitting the ball at full pace. His first bounce so forceful that the ball recoiled up to his eye level. Talia trying so hard to keep pace that he trips over himself. Franklin’s second bounce being even more forceful than the first and almost breaking up the play. Franklin slowing down when he hits the 50 metre arc to look in board, Talia gaining. Franklin deciding to go himself and kicking it between the goal umpire’s legs (if he hadn’t moved).
Franklin excels at making the remarkable look regular. His Friday night special is the most iconic play in Australian football.
The Wizarding Adventures of Young Snape
AFL Reddit Call of the Week
This week is half sympathy vote, half laugh out loud reaction. RIP u/Ektojinx’s TV; treat yourself to an OLED on the old man.
Our Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Buckland: Everyone in the AFL diaspora has fantasised about physically harming* umpire Ray ‘Razor Ray’ Chamberlain at one point another in his 262 game, 14 year AFL umpiring career. Port Adelaide’s Hamish Hartlett – unwittingly (we think) – got to live it this weekend. Given the force of the impact and that it took place in the open field, Harlett will be donating his match fee to AFL House. Totally worth it.
*we’re joking around of course. Don’t hurt umpires, ever.
Why aren’t the Demons better?
Jay Croucher: The Demons have all the ingredients to be this year’s Bulldogs fairy-tale, except for the fact that they don’t appear to be very good.
All the pieces are in place. They are loaded at key positions at both ends, with elite small forwards and elite small backs to complement. They have a top three ruckman in the game and a deep, talented midfield full of class and brawn. When they’re on, they look unstoppable, with pristine handball chains, Jayden Hunt dashing into infinity, and Jesse Hogan at the end of a speared Dom Tyson pass.
And yet, so much is uninspiring. With their season on the line, they let the Lions close to within 7 points at the death. They couldn’t properly put away Carlton in two feeble attempts and didn’t show up at all against the Giants in what should have been a blockbuster. They lost to fucking North Melbourne twice.
It’s been a bizarre season, perhaps best highlighted by the fact that Melbourne’s only two 40+ wins this year have come against the reigning premiers and the Crows in Adelaide.
But for all the weirdness, they find themselves in the eight with a round to go, a game clear of the chasing pack. Only a conspiracy of fate, something that would never happen to a club with as rich a recent history as Melbourne, could thwart them making it now.
Once they make it, assuming they do, maybe it will all click. But ‘further strangeness’ is beginning to feel much more likely than a heart-warming run.