At the start of each football season, there are a number of big questions we can’t wait to answer.
This year’s pose is whether we will see Round 1 and how long it will take before the coronavirus situation puts the season on hold.
More importantly, football is secondary to the health problems of people around the world. It is essential to respect the decisions made by those who have the task of keeping us all safe, even in the face of such uncertainty for fans and players.
I have seen the landscape change dramatically and have joined a football club in these never-before-seen times.
I’ve taken a look at the impact of the coronavirus on competition and a couple of other burning questions as we approach the start of the most bizarre AFL season in history.
How does the coronavirus affect the season?
At present, nothing is certain in the world, let alone the world of footy. It looks like we will have football this week. Any delay at the start of the AFL season would certainly have an impact on players and teams.
The clubs employ an army of fitness staff and medical experts to ensure players arrive in Round 1 ready to play. Moving that starting line would be very difficult to manage, but it could still happen as things change every hour.
Footy is secondary to the health concerns of people around the world. If we were to waste time, however, and adjust the season to 17 games, then it would be an interesting study on the night of the competition draw. At the moment, a draw is the most unfair advantage or disadvantage a team can get. We really need to play 17 games or 34 games per season to balance.
A late start to the season would likely hurt those lower tier teams more than last year because players like Gold Coast and Melbourne are ready to play now. Teams that played deeper in the finals may have some time to regain fitness and start on a level playing field.
At the moment, we expect things to start without fans. I watched the NBL finals series without the audience getting in and thought it had no impact on the quality or motivation of the players on the pitch. They, like the AFL players, were ready to go and did their job. It was a tough and intense series and they worked very professionally on it.
You know there are fans, media and coaches watching you, so you will get maximum commitment from the players. I think the biggest impact would be for teams like Melbourne going to play on the West Coast in Perth. Usually that crowd is very influential for the home team, so it will be an advantage for the visiting teams, you would think.
Will the real goddesses please get up?
Last year for Melbourne it was unacceptable. If they had won 11 games and lost the finals, I think with all their injuries it would have been a disappointment, but a pass. How they collapsed is why so many questions have been asked and why they are probably the team most under pressure for the new season.
They have the talent and the slate to be that preliminary final team they were in 2018, so there’s really no excuse this year. They have a manager in his fourth year at Simon Goodwin who, if he doesn’t make it to the final this year, will be under enormous pressure.
I haven’t talked to Goody over the summer, but you can see the structure around him this season is different. Alan Richardson has arrived and will be a fantastic person to have in the football club. Richo is a firm hand and I think Goody himself would have learned a lot last year, so I’m fascinated to see how they play in 2020.
I will support Goody and the team to bounce back in 2020.
The best player is …
It is very difficult to settle for just one. Each team has extraordinary players and they are elevated by their team’s ability to not allow individual weaknesses to be exposed.
Dustin Martin is an exceptional talent and being on the Richmond team allowed him to play in his own destructive and offensive way. We have a large batch of superstars scattered throughout the competition in 2020 and that has always been the case.
I’d love to see the impact and numbers of Robert Harvey, Nathan Buckley or Greg Williams if they weren’t tagged.
T.The fact that some of these modern elite midfielders manage to play on their own terms baffles me. It’s ridiculous coaching.
Ben Jacobs in North Melbourne was doing an amazing job cracking down on the top opposition player every week, George Hewett started doing it for Sydney to great effect last year and every team should do it.
We are lucky to have so many brilliant players throughout the game, but they are also lucky to have so much time and space to showcase their stuff.
Do we have to find more goals in the game?
This is always interesting that we focus on. What I do know is that talent can kick goals, but discipline makes you win big games and big finals.
Last year, at the beginning, the Hawks could not score because their talent, or the best players, were not available. Clarko didn’t panic and stick to his style and suddenly they’re scoring again in the second half of the year.
Sydney was in the same boat. They have lost 10 games by 22 points or less. Now, that was on the back of their system. If they get Lance Franklin back and play well, they’ll probably win half of those 10 and have a really competitive season again.
The game is, and will always evolve. The coaches who at the moment manage to score their team 12-16 goals with a strong defensive mentality will be the most successful. And fans want success more than scores.