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.
Nobody Told Jaeger It Was An Exhibition Game
Ryan Buckland: Jaeger O’Meara’s first year as a Hawthorn Hawk will not be remembered for anything more than the fact it was his first year as a Hawthorn Hawk. After an interrupted season owing to knee injury management, O’Meara, the Hawks’ stack of chips at the World Series of Poker Main Event, played half a dozen games for just one win – Friday night’s loose interpretation of a competitive match of professional football.
One assumes there was a tacit agreement between coaches Beveridge and Clarkson pre-match that the evening should be carried with the levity it deserved; the game of the weekend with the faintest finals influence, a chance to send off four decorated and much-loved figures in the game. Both sides played at fractions of the usual intensity, with slipped tackles and uncontested link up the order of the evening.
That was unless you were matched up against O’Meara, whom no one seemed to have informed that the game was being played under slightly different than usual circumstances.
O’Meara was influential across the ground, with 22 possessions (25 disposals), four centre clearances and 11 tackles in just 71% game time. He was only the only player to reach double digits by way of effective stops; he laid an extraordinary 10% of tackles on the ground. If he was playing for the Dogs, it would have been just shy of a quarter of their total teamwide tally.
Jaeger played as the centre ground facilitator, linking up through the middle with deft handballs and short kicks. He turned the ball over just once. It was a sign of what Hawthorn fans have to look forward to from O’Meara next season, with a Hawthorn preseason under his belt and a better run at making it work.
Can We Get Much Higher?
The Liam Jones In My Mind Would’ve Destroyed Buddy
Ken Sakata: It appears that the universe does not fucking care about my narratives. To paraphrase German filmmaker Werner Herzog, the universe is about chaos, hostility and murder. Buddy Franklin eviscerated Liam Jones early Saturday afternoon in a ten-course degustation of violence. At one point, Franklin was so preoccupied with tossing the carcass around he kicked a goal seemingly by accident.
The Liam Jones migration to defence accepted harsh realities about who he was. Jones was never an innovative forward with creative leading patterns. Jones was (and is) primarily an explosive athlete, one frequently accused of ball-watching. In defence, Jones could afford to play reactively. He ceded the read of play to his man but caught up with sheer athleticism. Against Hawthorn, a game-saving spoil highlighted all of these natural abilities. It was the apex of the surreal Liam Jones dream we were having collectively.
Depending on the year of reporting, Liam Jones represented failures in recruiting, list management or player development. This year’s resurrection to competence was jarring. When re-evaluating reality, we are always presented with a sensible option. Sam Powell-Pepper couldn’t possibly kill with a fend-off. Harry Taylor probably doesn’t keep ham in his socks. Liam Jones isn’t a faster version of Jesus. But I always choose the heightened truth, because I choose to live in a world with narrative.
Unfortunately, the Liam Jones of our creation couldn’t play on Saturday. The job was left to a talented but inexperienced key defender who lost five litres of blood in Sydney. One of the Liam Joneses, real or imagined, earned a two-year contract. Next season, our expectations will undeniably adjust to a more accurate, less exciting reality. Which is a shame. There was no better footballer than the Liam Jones we made up this year.
Editor’s note: Franklin kicked ten goals on Jones, in a performance that ultimately put him over West Coast’s Josh Kennedy to win his fourth Coleman medal. That is worth a mention.
Jack Darling Has Never Done a Better Thing
The Audacity of Hopelessness
Rebecca Hayne: One of the things that struck me during the many tributes to Drew Morphett was the discussion that in commentary, he wasn’t afraid to leave pauses, the left the roar of the crowd or the vision speak for itself. It’s a lost art as commentators babble and talk over each other. I thought about that a lot as St Kilda’s season died – the pauses in each season. The gaps between games, the moments between matches. The anxiety over Supercoach, the regret over bad tips, the membership card thrown in the drawer…ultimately each season ebbs and flows in moments, in pauses, in stops, in starts…it’s been that kind of season at St Kilda, fitful, restless, sometimes high, sometimes low, but even the emotional punch of Nick Riewoldt’s retirement had died out.
I wasn’t in the mood for post season “marks out of 10” from Damien Barrett yet, it was the kind of season that didn’t need reflection. It needed a Drew Morphett to be more succinct, say we weren’t good enough, and move on to play of the day…
Our season died quietly, at the MCG, on a personal level for me officially ending in a Sydney pub over a glass of wine once my phone buzzed and confirmed Essendon had beaten Fremantle. The pub lacked atmosphere, a Sarah McLachlan song half-crackled in the background, people huddling to avoid the rain and the Conor McGregor fight chattered in staccato non-sequiturs about nothing in particular.
This was how I viewed Nick Riewoldt’s last game, in a restless, moody silence, no commentary, no sound, poor grainy television, and the occasional drinker pushing past me to get to the TAB. It felt a particularly Australian way to pass a season that descended in disappointment, without anger, without fury, just soundless disappointment and glasses clinking. The last act of my 2017 season with St Kilda was a television being turned over to some joyless race seconds after the final siren, some race on a dirt rack somewhere, from a grunting barman. Not a pause, but a full stop…
What a Beast
r/AFL Call of the Week
Two counts of savage assault.
So Long, Subiaco Oval, We Knew Ye Far Too Well
Buckland: The Western Australian Government has all but bankrupted itself to fund a shiny, opulent, supposedly multi-use sports stadium which is set to open in a few month’s time. Like a mayor of a fictitious Sim City town, the State has spared no expense. It boasts the largest screen in the southern hemisphere, has the widest seats of any stadium in Australia, and an LCD in every toilet in case the caviar being served to you by your personal butler happens to be past its prime. It is in stark contrast to the concrete hellscape known as Domain Stadium, which hosted its last game of AFL football this weekend.
I have memories of Subiaco Oval. They are somewhat fond but are mostly tarred with the same, worn out brush that was used to paint the creaky wooden benches that made up a chunk of the seating on the western side of the ground. I will miss the $10 microwaved Chicken Treat chicken roll and the 20 minute queues for the gents, the afternoons spent staring into the eye of Sauron himself seated at the city end of the ground, and the impossibly difficult task of exiting the ground and getting home after a game. Actually, no I won’t.
The joint past its used by date a decade ago. A taskforce convened by the previous State Government recommended a new stadium be built within four years. That was in 2007. Some tweaks were made to Subiaco to prolong its life, but honestly I’m surprised the three tier stand didn’t fold in the strong easterly which hit Perth prior to yesterday’s game. Far be it from me to complain too much though. I made it to one game at the ground last season, and gave it a miss all together in 2017. I feel more for the poor suckers who’d trudged to the tired surrounds of Subiaco for the better part of two decades to cheer on their team. Maybe the extravagance of the New Perth Stadium is their reward?
No matter. With a user agreement locked in, live football will be seriously upgraded out west from next season onward. Despite my uneasiness with the price tag, I can’t wait. It’ll be revolutionary. There is one feature of the new surrounds that’s unlikely to change too much, however.