The AFL’s China syndrome
Sir Les Patterson once told the National Press Club that a successful sporting fact-finding mission was when a failed party hack returned from a mostly drunken junket overseas, consulted the polaroids and recommended gondolas be put on Lake Wendouree for the Olympics.
The AFL seems to have similarly high standards in justifying the football industry’s seemingly ever-growing need to make the Australian game International and bring back every conceivable ‘innovation’ from overseas competitions.
Of all the AFL conceits that involves expensive fact-finding missions around the world to bring home cutting-edge sports practices, surely the game for premiership points in Shanghai is the biggest and most ludicrous.
Ok, maybe apart from AFLX.
Sure, the American-inspired, two-day televised draft was a yawn fest, but there’s no doubt the trade period has become one of the league’s biggest news generators.
Fans do lap up the debate and the future possibilities for their club – and, if you squint, Gillon McLachlan does look a little like Kevin Costner in that Draft Day NFL movie.
There’s digital advertising so glitzy that you could well be a Bladerunner replicant and decrying our colourfully attired umpires is a punishable offence that ensures they are no longer referred to as baby flies.
And mostly the fans agree, the use of new technology and instant replays of dubious goal-line decisions are not a bad way to ensure that games are decided within the rules –oh, wait … well, more on that one later.
But is Shanghai really crying out for AFL footy?
Port Adelaide has been keen on this fixture for some time and with China big business for South Australian resource companies there’s probably some business sense for the whole shebang.
Sponsorship probably gets a tick up, but you do wonder why spruik a sellout crowd when the likelihood was always a half-empty stadium – and a final tally of 9412.
St Kilda clearly likes the money it gets from selling its home game, although after having to fly in extra players before the match and still get flogged by 70 points you’d have to wonder whether the Saints will be so keen again next year.
Not only did illness worries (cough, ahem, bad dumplings, cough) cruel any chance the Saints have of taking the game up to Port Adelaide, but skipper Jarryn Geary went down with another shocking leg injury.
Still, coach Alan Richardson remains a fan of the initiative.
“The guys really embraced the trip, our footy club has embraced the whole opportunity that China gives,” he said.
“There was a real want and drive to make it succeed (in the football department) and we know we haven’t lived up to our end of the bargain. We will be embracing this opportunity for the years to come.”
At least there’s a bye now for the Saints to rest, recover and try and right their season having slipped to a 5-6 win loss ratio after such a bright start to 2019.
Reviewing the score review
Back to that controversial score review blunder in Fremantle’s four-point win over Collingwood, with the AFL conceding a mistake was made and there’ll be a review into the review.
Michael Walters’ snap at goal was clearly touched by Chris Mayne in the third quarter, but the score reviewer did not have access to that footage.
Instead, the goal was allowed based on footage from the goal line.
“The score review officer reviewed the vision available at the time and based on this vision supported the umpire’s decision that a goal had been scored,” the league said in the statement.
“Due to technical reasons, the subsequent vision shown by the broadcaster was unavailable to the score review officer at the time of review.
“The AFL acknowledges that based on the additional broadcast vision the ball was touched by Collingwood player Chris Mayne.
“The AFL will continue to improve the score review process to ensure that all vision captured by the broadcaster is available to score review officers at the time of the review.”
Surely it requires a high-level trip to the US, or somewhere warm at least, to ensure this sort of thing doesn’t happen in future.
No doubting Thomas
After his disciplinary demotion Carlton veteran Dale Thomas put in a big VFL game for the Northern Blues at Windy Hill on Sunday, but he’s no shoo-in for an immediate return.
Thomas was stood down from Sunday’s AFL encounter with Essendon at the MCG after he drank several glasses of wine at a charity function two days before last week’s loss to St Kilda.
The 31-year-old, out of contract at the end of the season, appeared to take his demotion in the right spirit in an eye-catching display across half-back.
He had a game-high 32 disposals, took nine marks, laid five tackles, went inside 50 five times and had seven rebound 50s.
But Blues coach Brendon Bolton said he’d be carefully weighing if and when Thomas would be back in the seniors.
“There’s lots of layers now … form will be one of them but it won’t be the only one,” Bolton said.
“It’ll be also about what balance we need in the team. There’s lots of variables, but I’m not going to sit here and say yes or no based on just one criteria.”
Bolton certainly has bigger fish to fry as he tries to find a way forward for his young team that again was thereabouts, but not good enough against the Bombers.
A depleted Essendon defeated Carlton by 41 points in a wet-weather grind at the MCG, with the Blues held goalless after quarter-time in another dire showing.
Bolton insisted his players hadn’t lost belief and were building resilience.
“The biggest worry is when you aren’t getting effort and, by and large, we’re getting effort,” he said. “But we’re hurting ourselves – today in particular.”
Bombers coach John Worsfold was pleased with his side’s depth.
“If you’ve got injuries, you’ve got to make sure players are ready to come in that are in good form,” he said.
“Most of those players have been in really good form … it’s always nice to see them come in and get the reward.”